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07 Mar 2023
by Liz Walker

Top tips for engaging employees during tough economic times

Better-engaged employees are better for business and providing support during the cost-of-living crisis is a great way to boost engagement

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Right now, money is on most people’s minds. Unum’s recent research into the impact of the cost-of-living crisis revealed nearly two-thirds of employees (60%) say managing financially is their biggest concern this year.

Disappointingly though, while many people are struggling to pay their bills, more than a third (35%) said their current employer has not provided any cost-of-living support. Against this background, employee engagement is a tough task, but it’s important that businesses strive to achieve it if they are to navigate these tricky times and come out the other side with a loyal and productive workforce.

It’s widely accepted that more engaged employees produce better business outcomes, including increased productivity, profitability and customer ratings, and a reduction in absenteeism. Ensuring everyone in your company feels included, acknowledged and supported can therefore go a long way towards mitigating significant business risks during an economic crisis.

Here are four tips for maintaining and even boosting employee engagement during an economic downturn

1. Lead from the top

Turbulent times bring uncertainty and confusion. Effective communication, particularly by senior leaders, is a great first step in helping employees feel engaged. Make sure you stay visible to your workforce during difficult times and be open and honest. Candour and authenticity go a long way towards building trust and engagement. Effective leaders who provide clear direction and engender a sense of purpose among their staff help to build morale and promote trust in the business.

2. Gather feedback

How are you supposed to know how your employees are doing if you don’t ask them? An employee survey can be a highly effective tool, enabling businesses leaders to get to the bottom of how employees really feel. When you know more about what your employees think and how satisfied they are with your company’s culture, policies and working environment, you can make the changes needed to bolster engagement and productivity.

3. Create a culture with employee wellbeing at its heart

The current economic climate is already having a detrimental effect on employees’ wellbeing. Unum’s ‘Big Quit’ research found that a fifth of surveyed employees felt their employers failed to look after their mental (21%) and physical health (22%) during the pandemic. GRiD’s latest insights from research conducted in January 2023 revealed that four in five employers have increased their health and wellbeing support or employee benefits to adapt to the changing circumstances of their staff.

The research also found that, over the past 12 months, employees felt that their health and wellbeing had declined mentally, physically, financially and socially, with financial wellbeing impacted the most. A disturbing 40% of employees felt that their financial health had deteriorated during this time.

4. Get involved in corporate social responsibility

We all have a particular cause about which we feel passionate. Encouraging staff to volunteer for worthy causes enables them to contribute to society, bolster their CVs and feel good about themselves.

Employees and employers who are committed to activities that do good for communities and the environment ensure a joined-up approach, engaging employees in the company’s responsible business commitments. This will help attract and retain staff who are fully invested in corporate values, while doing good for society.

In these economically turbulent times, businesses that make a genuine commitment to engage employees and establish enduring partnerships cemented in resilience and health will be better positioned to weather the fiercest economic storm.

In partnership with Unum

Putting people at the heart of employee benefits

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