Returning To The Office: Re-engaging Employees

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Firms need to use the technology they have at their disposal to boost engagement wisely.

Since the start of the month the message to employers from the UK government has been unequivocal: now is the time to bring staff safely back to the office; now is the time to get Britain back to work, now is the time to return to some sort of normality. 

Working from home has proven to be successful for many companies (with some of the tech giants requiring working from home for the next year at least).  However, some firms have not been successful in  increasing productivity and keeping employees truly engaged. ONS data suggests that around a third of workers worked more hours while in lockdown, this extra toil has not translated to productivity gains. New data finds output per hour fell 1.1% in Q1 of 2020 compared to the same quarter a year earlier. Meanwhile, according to another measure, gross value added (or GVA) – this also fell, by 1.6%.

The key to solving this won’t be about just getting staff physically back into the building. They need to be mentally re-engaged with what work is all about – including being brought back up to speed, with employees needing to be re-motivated and challenged again with the sorts of deadlines and goals that they were once used to. In essence, company goals and expectations on employees needs a rethink.

It’s vital organisations communicate clearly with staff what their new reality is (many firms’ markets or USPs have disappeared overnight), and also what role employees now play. Incorporated into this this must be conversations about what employees’ futures may look like. And while some firms have announced the suspension of performance reviews – we believe providing structure and a semblance of normality is actually vital . For businesses needing to potentially reshape their business models, it’s clear that new corporate objectives will need translating into functional and departmental goals. Follow this through, and employers will even need to reassess whether staff need re-training or up-skilling. 

In this scenario we believe goal setting, performance reviews and appropriate performance management has never been so vital for re-engagement and peace of mind. Firms will need to quickly pivot into new markets or adapt their service provision accordingly. Technology to underpin this and keep track of the changes needed will be vital. Objective and Key Results (OKR)-based goal-setting modeling will be essential – and we believe that by employing it, it has the potential to play a dual role of setting standards, but also creating a return to a sense of structure to people’s working lives. Research consistently shows that predictability, accountability and stretch-goals are what employees want to feel involved and engaged, and in times of (still) great uncertainty, the sense of realignment it gives staff with the business will least some form of security. Using goal setting software staff can see where they fit into the bigger picture, and the platform makes it easy for managers to see how every goal (objective) is performing through a series of key result metrics.

The fact is, staff are in a brittle place right now. New EY research actually divides them into the survivors, adapters, and thrivers – and people will be at different stages along this continuum. Staff have encountered varying degrees of stress, and in any new goal-setting exercise there needs to be a period of transition which involves their opinions and thoughts too. Any new goals need to be communicated as transparently, and with as much employee involvement, as possible. 

So, yes, let’s get back to work, and yes, let’s get productivity up again – it’s good for employers and it’s good for employees’ own sense of how they can reconnect. But use the technology appropriately. We’ve all been in this pandemic together, as we come out the other side, it’s important employers and employees stay together too.

To help support you in returning your employees to the office, Appogee HR offers several features such as advanced performance management and company goal setting, which can help you re-engage your employees returning to the office. Why not request a demo today to see how we can help you? Alternatively, try us for yourself for 14 days absolutely free.

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