Can employee engagement rise in tough times?

Why do we assume that employee engagement will suffer when an organisation goes through tough times? Is this necessarily the case?

A student on the current Internal Communication Diploma is conducting research for her assignment to explore the notion that employee engagement can actually go up in times of major change. I think she is on to something really exciting and look forward to seeing the results.

At the LGComms Academy in Nottingham last week I ran a short workshop on “Engaging and Supporting Teams in Difficult Times”. There were 22 communication practitioners in the room and when I asked where their leaders were at the moment, it soon became apparent that some were taking refuge behind closed doors. In many ways this is a natural, defensive, human response to managing change. However, it is not the way to engage people.

What are leaders afraid of? Often it is not having all the answers to difficult questions. But employees don’t expect leaders to be all-knowing “gods”, they are just looking for credible information and an opportunity to have a say.

It seems to me that we know what to do to engage people:

- Provide relevant, timely information
- Provide opportunities for people to have a say and take what is said seriously
- Ensure that line managers interact with people as people, with empathy.

It’s simply that the basics go out of the window when the going gets tough.

There’s more on this topic at the LGComms Academy blog and the slides for the workshop can be downloaded here.

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