For many organizations in financial services, the last several weeks have been centered around transitioning the workforce from a predominantly centralized, office-based work environment to a predominantly remote workforce. There are some exceptions to this –certain customer-facing banking positions can’t be performed remotely. However, as many organizations settle into the new reality of a work-from-home environment, it is essential to not lose focus of the fundamentals that companies have invested in. Chief among these is the focus on employee engagement. 

Employee engagement has been a significant area of focus for organizations of all sizes for the past several years, with good reason. Research shows that positive employee engagement can increase productivity and profitability, as well as help engender loyalty by forging deeper connections between employer and employee. Organizations with highly engaged employees experience 22 percent greater productivity, and have shown operating margins three times higher than those of companies with the lowest levels of engagement. 

There is a second benefit to focusing on employee engagement. Engaged employees are more likely to go “above and beyond” the duties in their job description to satisfy customer needs. They are less likely to say “not my job” when confronted with a difficult customer situation, and instead work more diligently to solve problems and keep customers satisfied.  Whether this means helping a client with filing an insurance claim, or assisting a customer at a banking branch, what is important to remember is that not only are your employees stressed, but your customers are too.  And having employees that go the extra mile for them can help engender deeper loyalty.  

Maintaining a culture of employee engagement is difficult amid the COVID-19 crisis, but it is perhaps more critical than ever to invest time and effort to drive engagement. Some of the methods that organizations can use to drive engagement include: 

  • Regularly checking in with employees. These check-ins should not necessarily be focused on the work that they are responsible for, but instead should focus on their well-being. This is a frightening time for many. Communicating that you care about them as people, as well as employees, can help drive engagement.  While checking on the physical health and safety of customer-facing employees like banking tellers is standard operating procedure by now, making those same health and safety checks for remote workers is just as important in times of crisis.  
  • Encouraging web-camera use during team meetings. By now many of us have seen the parodies of webcam meetings gone bad. And there is a certain humor to that. However, there is real value to encouraging webcams during meetings. It can help employees feel connected to their colleagues more powerfully than with just a phone call. This connectedness can help drive engagement and can also help your staff become more comfortable with the technology.  Perhaps this encourages employees like insurance relationship managers to utilize the technology with their clients, fostering deeper customer engagement 
  • Accepting that work-life balance is indeed a balancing act. For many individuals, working from home during COVID-19 means trying to get everything done with the entire family around, being interrupted by children, needing to help children with school assignments, checking on older family members, etc. Others may have several roommates in a small apartment all trying to work in their bedrooms. It is hard. But it is a shared experience among many of us. Letting employees know that you understand the work-life challenges they are going through and that it’s ok that they are trying to get all this figured out in real time, can help them to feel closer to the organization. 

These are challenging times for everyone, and the message that we hear over and over is that “we’re going to get through this.”  And we will. However, it is important that we get through this with an engaged workforce – one that can drive results today; one that goes above and beyond for your customers; one that is passionate about the success of your business, and one that wants to stick around for years to come. By continuing to focus on engagement, you can help to ensure that you not only “get through this,” but that you get through this stronger as an organization and more dedicated to your customers than ever before. Focusing on employee engagement is one way to accomplish this very important goal.  You can learn more about managing through uncertain times here.

Published: Monday, April 27, 2020