November 3, 2020 Laura Morgan

Redefining Employee Engagement in a Post-Pandemic World

As 2020 winds down, many of us are hoping the old adage about finding strength in adversity is true. To say it’s been a whirlwind would be putting it mildly. The personal, professional, and financial impact of COVID and socioeconomic upheaval will reverberate into 2021 and beyond. From my vantage point, it’s a critical moment for business and HR leaders to reevaluate employee benefits and engagement strategies. Here are a few suggestions of places to start.

Going Back to the Basics

In times of uncertainty and stress, healthcare emerges as the essential element in the benefits package. As is expected—and as it should be—our research into employee benefits (request your copy below) confirms the most commonly promoted are medical insurance, dental insurance, vision insurance, paid time off, and 401(k) plans. As the personal and economic fallout of COVID continues, job security and medical benefits take precedence over salary increases and cultural considerations.

Even tech-savvy younger generations who “… hold a dissatisfaction with corporate systems and traditional hierarchies” (according to a LinkedIn article by Anita Lettink) are absorbing the lessons of their parents’ decimated retirement plans and inadequate savings accounts. Where fun and quirky perks were all the rage a few years ago, now we expect more emphasis on core health offerings.

A New Definition of Wellness

Additionally, we anticipate job candidates will increasingly seek out firms who offer life insurance, long-term disability, and mental health support. As the Kaiser Family Foundation reports, “the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic downturn have taken a toll on mental health for many people, with over 30% of adults in the U.S. now reporting symptoms consistent with anxiety or depressive disorder.”

This reality coincides with a shift towards a more holistic view of employees, who may be struggling with remote learning, Zoom fatigue, and job dissatisfaction. Rebalancing the benefits portfolio in this context is more than just virtue signaling, it could have a very real positive impact on the livelihood of your employees and their entire families. It could also keep them from jumping ship.

Redefining Employee Engagement

According to a survey from careers website iHire, 62% of job seekers are considering a major career change in the coming year, and many of those predict a change is very likely. Although it may seem counterintuitive during a slowdown, investing in meaningful employee engagement may be the difference between strong retention and mass exodus when business picks back up.

What do I mean by meaningful employee engagement? It goes well beyond sponsored memberships to development platforms like Lynda or MasterClass. It requires an individualized approach to explore what makes someone tick, and what’s going to take them from a clock-watcher to a hungry chicken, as I like to call them.

Managers don’t have time or energy—or I would even argue, the responsibility—to ensure every direct report feels that they are in the right job at the right time. That’s why at Auxin Group we’ve developed an engagement model that provides on demand access to a curated team of outside experts. These vetted professionals provide targeted experiential learning and coaching to establish needed personal connections to guide a rewarding career path. I hear complaints from leaders that their employees are entitled, but what if they’re just bored and searching for an opportunity to channel their passions into their work?

The Advantage of a TCO Approach

In IT, total cost of ownership (TCO) includes the purchase price of a particular asset, plus operating costs over the asset’s lifespan. Looking at the total cost of ownership is a way of assessing the long-term value of an investment. A similar approach to employee benefits and engagement would serve businesses well in the post-pandemic world. 

The time is right to revisit the ROI on the considerable benefits expense—representing on average more than $20,000 annually per employee, according to BenefitsPro research. The time is also right to commit to full transparency of the employer’s cost of benefits over an employee’s tenure. If your core medical benefits don’t measure up, you’re creating churn and hampering future growth. Unless and until your employees can validate that you have their best interests in mind, they’re likely to be on the lookout for another job that will.

Let’s continue the conversation! Connect with us to explore next-generation employee engagement and HR strategies.

Now available: MorganHR’s comprehensive benefits report! MorganHR takes a look at how total talent and rewards strategies are evolving in light of unprecedented diversity initiatives, COVID-19, shifting demographics, and more. Download the report.