June 2, 2021
I hesitate to write the word pandemic. I realize that it brings up complex emotions within all of us, and we are tired. I am tired, but in our collective attempt to keep pushing forward, forgive me for looking back. I did it to help you truly understand the incredible feats and new skills that were discovered during such dramatic change and adversity. Skills that can’t be forgotten or left behind as you crave to return to what you once knew.
This new working environment has in large part received positive reviews from employees. Employee engagement in many organizations has improved from the levels in the pre-pandemic period. My colleague Jack Zenger and I compared 360 feedback data from 509,097 employees before the pandemic to 16,566 in the pandemic to verify this improvement in engagement. Engagement data was gathered from leaders in hundreds of different organizations across the globe. Employee engagement was assessed using a five-item index which assessed employee satisfaction, discretionary effort, desire to quit, willingness to recommend the organization to others, and confidence that the organization will be successful. We found a three percentile point improvement on engagement in the pandemic results comparing the two different datasets. (This difference is statistically significant.) (T-Value 5.094, Sig. 0.000). A random sample of 50% of the cases also revealed a statistically significant difference.
This result is especially meaningful because most people assumed with all the frustrations and complications associated with the pandemic, engagement would be less positive rather than more positive.
While employees are generally more satisfied working from home, some managers appear to be doing a better job than others at managing a remote workforce. We identified the top 20 leadership behaviors correlated with increasing employee engagement before and during the pandemic. We discovered that while 15 of the leadership behaviors were consistent before and after, five new leadership behaviors appeared to make a substantial difference in the pandemic. Leaders who performed these five leadership behaviors well had significantly higher employee engagement. In the graph below, we created an index based on managers’ effectiveness ratings on the five leadership behaviors. The impact of these five leadership behaviors on employee engagement is dramatic.
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Several other skills can help leaders build engagement and discretionary effort, but these five new skills make a big difference in today’s work environment. As problems from the pandemic ease, it appears that many employees want to continue to work remotely for organizations. Embracing these five new skills will continue to be a valuable asset for leaders at every level, both now and in the future.
— Joe Folkman
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(This article originally appeared on Forbes.)
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