Following the news that seven in ten UK firms have now furloughed employees, Tobin Murphy-Coles, Head of Commercial at leading underrepresented talent specialist, MyKindaFuture, explores the risks of allowing these employees to become disengaged and offers his advice on ensuring they continue to feel valued during the COVID-19 crisis.
Why is it so important to engage furloughed employees?
With around a quarter of British employees currently on furlough, equating to around 6.3 million people, businesses are facing an unprecedented challenge when it comes to keeping their workforces motivated and engaged.
Whilst, in an ideal world, furloughed employees would return to work in several weeks’ time exactly how they left, without having lost any drive or commitment to the company, this is unlikely unless businesses work hard to instil a strong sense of belonging in employees during their time away from the business.
After all, these team members have stepped away from their work lives and all that they entail, often not by choice, for several months – the impact of which should not be underestimated. Their situation, in many ways, can be likened to that of those returning from a period of parental leave, only with added concerns around the long-term security of the company and their role within it. With the majority of businesses continuing to operate in some capacity, it is likely that the company has continued to run during their absence, and this can lead to insecurities around their value to the company.
This presents a huge challenge for employers who have had to make the painful decision to furlough members of staff, and it is vital that they work hard to keep employees engaged now. Failing to do so could risk members of staff becoming so disengaged with the business that they seek opportunities elsewhere. For those who do return, the impact could be longer lasting, with employees becoming less motivated and less productive.
How can businesses keep employees engaged?
Communication is Key
Clearly, communication is crucial to preventing issues with staff retention and productivity when employees return to the workplace, but it must be done in the right way.
Business must carefully consider the most appropriate channels for communication with furloughed employees. For example, whilst sending an email to a furloughed colleague’s work account to ask how they are doing might come from a good place, this could result in them seeing other work-related correspondence which could lead to stress, or for them to break the terms of furlough. Similarly, contacting employees via social media can be potentially damaging by mixing employees’ work and personal narratives at an already unsettling time.
For companies unsure of which channel to use to support their furloughed employees, third party technology that allows them to demonstrate to employees that they are still valued as part of the team offers an excellent solution. The voluntary nature of these platforms avoids furloughed members of staff feeling as though using the platform is mandatory, but the content, if well positioned, will ensure that employees want to engage and find value in doing so.
For example, MyKindaFuture has launched a version of its employee engagement platform Connectr, devised specifically to help businesses support furloughed employees. The platform offers employees access to tailored content designed specifically to support their individual needs, including learning modules, company updates, well-being tips and advice on how to prepare for going back to work.
Third party platforms like Connectr can also be used to offer access to virtual one-on-one mentoring schemes, allowing employees to seek advice on any issues that might be troubling them, from legal advice to loyalty, helping to maintain a vital sense of belonging amongst all employees during furlough.
Redefine Your Employee Value Proposition
Employee value propositions (EVPs) are crucial to attracting talent and retaining employees and should run through all aspects of business’s internal and external communications.
However, it is likely that when furloughed employees return, things will have changed. So, employers must consider what the new EVP will look like when people come back and communicate this clearly and openly throughout all of their correspondence with furloughed employees. This will make their transition back into the company as smooth as possible when the time comes.
Begin Preparations for Reintegration Now
Finally, businesses must also start preparations for reintegration now, even if it is unclear when exactly employees will be returning to the workforce.
Even for businesses which are successful in keeping employees engaged, it would be naïve to assume that the whole team will return to full productivity immediately. Instead, employers should prepare for a gradual reintegration process which ensures employees feel valued and supported on their return. It is those businesses that plan ahead and support furloughed employees’ return to work sensitively and compassionately that will be rewarded with productive, motivated and loyal workforces in the long-term.
For more information about supporting furloughed employees via third party platforms, visit www.connectr.co.uk
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