How do Furlough and Lockdown Change

the Employee Engagement Landscape?

Even in that dim and distant age BC (Before Coronavirus) 61% of the UK working population admitted being unengaged at work. The remote working, furloughing and widescale disruption of working life as we know it brought about by global pandemic could be the recipe for increasing this even further. Whilst many leadership teams will be starting to think about how their organisations might look in the new age AD (After Disease) there is a risk that not effectively managing the current situation with our people may reduce the choices we have when the new ‘normal’ begins.

Now, more than ever, employee engagement is key if we are to have the teams we will need to rebuild our organisations and our economy.

The rules of the employment game remain largely unchanged – maximum effect will be achieved by having the right people, in the right place at the right time. Maximum productivity will be achieved by ensuring our people are engaged with the organisation.

What remains to be considered is how our preparation for this new world AD might be affected by Furlough & Lockdown, what tools are at our disposal as employers to maintain engagement and how will we deploy them to put ourselves in the best possible position?


Gallup research shows that employee engagement is 70% down to the direct manager. Of course, the challenge many organisations are seeing is that with multiple layers of management furloughed or working remotely from their teams the ‘rules of engagement’ need to be considered in a different light. Furloughed managers are unable to do any revenue generating work for the company, so who does this activity fall to in their absence, or does it fall through the cracks as we try to stabilise our organisations?

As business owners we may feel like ‘last man standing’ right now – with employee engagement being yet another thing which falls to us.  Now is the time to consider carefully how we rise to this challenge, to look at the tools and options available to us and consider the work already done by thought leaders and specialists in this area.  Now is not the time for panic or reticence, but to fully understand what impact the current situation has on our approaches to employee engagement and what opportunities may arise from it.

When thinking about employee engagement the basics haven’t changed. Engage for Success have a clear framework for employee engagement built on four pillars – Strategic Narrative, Engaging Managers, Employee Voice and Integrity, but what are the practical steps we can take to use this in the current situation? With many of our employees experiencing bereavement, fear for their health and finances and loss of routine and control it’s certainly not an easy time to be talking about employee engagement. Luckily, this is the time where effective leaders can achieve much more by taking action on the four pillars and not talking about them.

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