How HR can remotivate workforces after Covid

When the pandemic eventually recedes, business leaders will need to work even harder to win, motivate and engage their best talent, says Richard Kershaw

Across the UK, employers are facing major challenges. The emergence of a new hybrid workplace means that HR will face major long-term challenges around employee motivation among a tired and disparate workforce.

The need for improved communication with employees is already well understood in HR. The intention is certainly there: People Management magazine reported earlier this year that 86 per cent of UK businesses see communication as a higher priority since the pandemic began. But great communication on its own is only the first step on the path to motivation: how it translates into best practice engagement will be crucial.

This will mean a bigger push towards personalisation of the employee experience, with new ideas and imagination to the fore if employees are to be reinvigorated after such a difficult period. I work for Konica Minolta, a data and IT services company operating in 50 countries. We have now completed our fourth year of certification with the Top Employers Institute. We know that their global benchmarking survey – involving around 1,700 participants and conducted mid-pandemic towards the end of 2020 – showed a positive step change in best practice.

In addition to the commonplace annual engagement survey, the survey revealed the introduction of more pulse surveys by 69 per cent of its survey participants in the UK (up from 52 per cent a year earlier), employee involvement in action plans for business improvement by 89 per cent (up from 78 per cent), and the regular use of employee focus groups in decision making by 86 per cent of participants (up from 73 per cent).

At Konica Minolta, we have set up these sorts of pulse surveys to check at that moment in time to say: “Well, how are we feeling about this?” and to help us to be flexible in our approach when we get a clear steer from feedback. All these activities have helped to underpin employee motivation and engagement during the recent period of adversity.

Top Employers Institute data, however, sounds a warning in other respects. When participants were asked to name the chief areas for improvement listed by employees in engagement surveys, the need for more “development opportunities” came out top, with collaboration across the enterprise.

Career development can effectively begin even before the employee starts work. About half of Top Employers (49 per cent) get access to virtual pre-boarding platforms, while 3 in 5 (60 per cent) have specific internal social media groups for new hires. For our part, we have automated our onboarding process so that the new joiner coming into the business has an option of self-service when it comes to induction and onboarding and a process that is standardised, easy to follow and in keeping with our own digital transformation.

Once on board, there is considerable scope for improvement using career development opportunities to motivate employees. The pandemic has not helped here. Among the HR priorities for Top Employers in the UK, career management of employees fell to 15th from 6th in a single year. To some extent, this is understandable, given that many businesses faced existential crises and major issues around establishing remote working and safeguarding health and mental wellbeing. 

At Konica Minolta, we have had our talent strategy in place since 2019, based around the need for digital transformation and skills for the future. For us, it is about how we help our people who have been here for one to two years and enable them to acquire the skills they need.

As businesses recover from the Covid-19 pandemic, they will need to work extra hard to retain the interest, engagement, and loyalty of their employees. It is a tough challenge but with innovation, enthusiasm and imagination, anything is possible.

Richard Kershaw is workforce planning partner at Konica Minolta Business Solutions UK