Companies need to connect with exhausted, worn-out workers

In the last 18 months, employees have navigated a challenging environment, and they are tired. We’ve gone from a pandemic-induced recession to a growth period, to what now looks like pandemic with growth at the same time. It’s no wonder employees are burned out.

Companies need to connect exhaustedLower employee engagement can have a negative impact on all stakeholders, including customers and prospective new hires.

The good news is that communicators can play an important role in partnering with colleagues in HR to help reverse some of these trends, while leveraging communications skills to strengthen their organization’s brand reputation and spur employee referrals and new hire interest.

Energage research underscores a meaningful shift in the employee experience in contrast to the early pandemic time period. Survey data collected from employees at more than 4,000 companies show that employee engagement sharply increased in April 2020 as companies scrambled to ensure employees that they were prioritizing employee’s health and well-being during the pandemic.

However, after this initial spike, engagement has plummeted. In more recent surveys, employees reported feeling increasingly uninformed about what’s going on in the company, and that leaders are less visible. At the same time, employees feel that the “all-hands-on-deck” mission that defined the early pandemic and created such strong engagement has dissipated, replaced perhaps by growth and hiring concerns.

As a result, signs are pointing toward a “Great Resignation,” as employee dissatisfaction causes them to leave for other opportunities. This couldn’t come at a worse time, as many industries are struggling to find employees to fill current openings, and customer service has been hit hard.

What can help? Teaming up with HR counterparts, comms pros can apply their creativity to assist in the effort to get employee engagement back on track.

The intelligence learned through employee survey programs can be tapped to fuel strategic communications efforts targeted to employees, customers, prospective hires, and others, working with HR and employee relations counterparts to identify storylines focusing on the culture that makes a company unique.

As company culture becomes a differentiator, think about how organizations can include it in every communication, on all channels, and with every influencer. Culture can add richness and purpose to advertising, social media, recruiting, analyst and shareholder relations, community outreach, philanthropy, and media relations.

In the early days of the pandemic, employees saw a different version of communication and information sharing. During a time of great unknowns, confusion and fear, companies answered the call by increasing the quality and quantity of their communication.

The message from employees is clear: Companies must get back to this approach.

Greg Barnett is chief people scientist at Energage, a Philadelphia-based employee survey firm. Energage is The Washington Post’s survey partner for Top Workplaces.

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