December 10, 2020

HR Stepping Up: Employee Engagement Practices Amidst The Pandemic

Drake Editorial Team



It has been almost a year since the pandemic hit us and made the previous business challenges look like babies. Even the most mature organizations were undeniably caught off guard after countries, 1st world or not were placed in lock-down to protect the lives of people. Companies had to immediately and strategically create new measures of managing their operations, if it could still be run, to adapt to the VUCA situation the pandemic suddenly brought. All had to quickly adapt to Industrial Revolution 4.0 and minimize their manual processes, including employee engagement.


For HRs and business leaders who have always thought of employee engagement as highly important yet a constant challenge, throw in the pandemic and it just became all the more effortful. A lot became psychologically distressed and many craved human contact more than ever due to the situation. We had to make things light and fun for everyone to relieve them of their stresses albeit only for a short time.


But, what is employee engagement? Why is it important and how is it challenging? Employee engagement is that HR function that targets the "engagement" of employees, regardless of level, to the company, their job, and their colleagues. It is more than organizing employee events such as Christmas parties and outings, but the overall and short-term and long-term effects that these events and other efforts (communication, learning, fulfillment, and more) bring. It involves more than HR but the rest of the leadership. According to several studies, the level of employee engagement impacts productivity, retention, and workplace culture. 


So how did we make employee engagement work during these tough times? Here are a few things we learned:

  1. We need to remind everyone of the purpose of the business and why it is important that we keep it running despite this huge boulder blocking the road.
  2. We need to remind everyone of the value each other's work brings in achieving #1. Build trust and emphasize accountability.
  3. Leaders have to step up and be better communicators and manage the emotions of others whilst managing their own. Ensure that there is constant and healthy interaction within their departments and teams by being more focused, "visible" and patient.
  4. We need to be reminded that employees need to be engaged with each other even if they can no longer physically enjoy as many social interactions as before. These are more than just watercooler conversations but also work-related yet casual conversations such as asking for ideas on a project, giving healthy advice on various things, assisting colleagues having difficulties, and more. Continue to develop and support opportunities for these.



Here are our recommendations on how to accomplish the above:


Empathic leadership


This is a sensitive period that requires a humane approach to managing people. Since we are working remotely, there is a tendency to assume what is happening which leads to miscommunication and incorrect judgment.


Instead of assuming, consider a 3 party perspective; your perspective, that of the other person, and that of an observer. It will give you a clearer insight of the situation. Could the other person be experiencing some serious troubles that might be affecting his or her output? How did I sound like in the other line; was I putting too much pressure when I only meant encouragement?


Also, consider that the line between work and personal life has been blurred significantly since we all started working from home and this alone may have been causing significant stress over your team members. Develop a stronger understanding of each other's situation, revisit your dynamics and adapt to the new situation.






Constant and open communication between team members is undeniable of the utmost importance when working remotely. There is that possibility of a message being misinterpreted, of lack of pertinent information shared across the team, or even of silence in emails or communication applications as absence from work.


Create a sense of community to allow and encourage open communication. Mind your tone and re-read your emails or messages before sending them to avoid misinterpretations. Have weekly, bi-weekly or daily meetings so everyone is updated. Include personal catch-ups in your regular meetings so you are not sending the message that you only talk to them about work and nothing else. Turn-on your video cameras and use communication applications that are convenient for everyone.





There are numerous team collaboration and communication platforms available, free and paid, and more are being developed. Take advantage of these and use it for any engagement initiatives.


Apart from project collaborations, we use MS Teams for engagement events. Group conferencing for enterprise-wide townhalls and virtual programs, training sessions with smaller group conferencing as breakout rooms, with add-on tools for virtual games and surveys. For immediate communications such as announcements, birthday posts, and more fun activities, we created a private Facebook group intended for employees.




Reconceptualize your normal office activities and explore new options. Involve your millennial and gen Z members and let them creatively come up with numerous fun ideas. This gives them a new sense of purpose and lets you enhance their thinking and collaborative skills as well.  


Instead of the usual "decorate your workstation," film scary videos and hold a competition where all departments can participate. This will not only give them an out of routine activity but will also boost their creativity. Convert traditional games to virtual ones such as online charades, name that tune, online roulettes, and more. Deliver food to them while holding a team lunch or have happy hours while on a call. Hold a virtual family or pet day where everyone can get the chance to introduce or showcase their families, or have live cooking sessions on weekends just for the fun of it. There are loads of options; the sky is the limit!


We at Drake International Philippines can transform your business with exceptional talent. Our expert consultants are always here ready to help you. Follow our Linkedin and Facebook accounts at Drake International Philippines!


Our expert consultants are always here ready to help you.

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