How to unlock post-pandemic people performance

As the UK's COVID-19 vaccination roll-out continues to accelerate, it seems that, finally, employers can start to contemplate a return to something which resembles a normal working environment.

How to unlock post-pandemic people performance

As the UK’s COVID-19 vaccination roll-out continues to accelerate, it seems that, finally, employers can start to contemplate a return to something which resembles a normal working environment.

The ability to focus on what we can do to ensure our organisations grow and thrive will come as a breath of fresh air, having been locked in what seems like an endless holding pattern with no exit in sight.

After the great disruption of the past year, a pressing question for every organisation regardless of their size is what they need to do to support their people in the year ahead. 

The people performance challenge

When it comes to shaping those plans, there is no doubt that employers will have a challenge on their hands.

According to Edenred’s research into 2,000 employees, a year of working through the pandemic has left a third of people unhappy in their jobs, a similar number concerned with job security (31%) and a quarter dissatisfied with their work-life balance.

A disengaged workforce isn’t the only impact of the pandemic that employers will need to deal with.

Twelve months of uncertainty and accompanying stress means that support for mental wellbeing tops the list of areas where employees would like help from their employers ‘ one in four say this is their biggest concern – as well as for financial wellbeing.

New rules of engagement

From a practical perspective, employees say they need help in reintegrating back into the post-pandemic working patterns.

After a year when home and remote working more than doubled to two thirds of employees, the majority people say HR policy and benefits in the organisation aren’t fit for purpose when it comes to supporting the new ways of working which they expect to continue to a lesser or greater extent as restrictions lift.

For organisations who baulk at committing time and resources to these needs and wants when there are so many other priorities , there is one further important insight from our research to consider. Employees who have been well-supported through the uncertainty of pandemic are not only more likely to feel positive about,  but say they will go the extra mile in their work: goodwill which could make all the difference in the tough economic times which lie ahead.

With only the slowest unwinding of restrictions on the cards in the coming months, the good news is there is plenty of time to put in place new plans to support your people. What’s more, there’s a simple four-point blueprint which will can get you there. 

Listen up 

You can’t support your employees effectively if you don’t know what help they need. It’s important to spend time taking the temperature of your organisation and the welfare of your employees as a first step.

To plan ahead, you need to understand how employees are feeling and what the blocks are to productivity, motivation and satisfaction at work. You also need to find out what expectations and concerns do they have about the year ahead. Also ask what support would make a difference to them.

One key area which needs attention, according to our research is the blurring of the lines between home and working life. Employees are putting in longer hours or have to attend to work outside of normal hours ‘ something which is a key driver of stress.

Your overall aim is to establish any potential changes you could make to policy, performance management, employee benefits and tools required to work effectively. 

The key here is not to make assumptions as so much has changed in the past twelve months.

Learn from past performance

After a year of shifted working patterns, every organisation should have data around productivity, hours worked, absence levels and other patterns of performance.

You’ll also have an idea of the measures you put in place that have been a success and those which need to change.

By using data to underpin the business case for change in your people strategy you will be able to measure progress as it is made.

Look beyond your organisation

Your employees won’t just judge you on what you do to support them, they will look at how that compares to your competitors and other organisations.

Looking beyond your organisation will provide you with insight about what a realistic level of support looks like and ideas about how you can provide it.

Firms in other sectors who are further ahead with their policies or plans for a return to more normal ways of working can help you in your planning.

Understanding what is realistic elsewhere by way of mandated office working, flexible working patterns, benefits and policy will help ensure you meet employee expectations.

Take the lead

In times of uncertainty, clear proactive communication about the support you will provide to your people allows them to focus on work and reduce anxiety about the year ahead.

Employees want and expect good communication, so a key part of your planning will be to ensure they know the steps you are taking to support them in the year ahead and for their return to more normal working practices.

A recipe for success

In the early months of the pandemic, one of the most regularly heard phrases was that organisations would be judged for how well they supported people through an incredibly challenging time.

Our research suggests that for this, businesses can hold their heads high, with the overwhelming majority ‘ 81% – of employees saying their employer did a good job of supporting them through the pandemic.

The task now is to rise to the new challenge which lies in the months ahead by ensuring that the return to business as usual is managed in a way which ensures your people are stronger, fitter and better placed to help you compete effectively.

Alisdair Seenan
Alisdair Seenan

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