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Employee Engagement; Emerging From COVID
By Matthew W. Hurtienne, Ph.D
Associate Dean – Batterman and Haab School of Business
Director of Doctorate of Business Administration 

Thankfully we have entered a stage in the current pandemic where we are rounding the corner.  We have additional information on how to treat the virus and the vaccines are being delivered. As we are figuring out COVID’s health effects, we still have not fully understood the long-term impact on our organizations and work climate; yet, employee engagement needs to be a key topic to addressing our workforce needs. Now is the time to allow archaic and old traditions to go by the wayside and allow for real innovation to occur.

So why is talk about employee engagement so important in our organizations? It is because we know that employee engagement tends to be the amount in which an employee is willing to invest in the success of an organization. We also know that, pre-COVID, higher levels of employee engagement led to more productivity. In addition, more productivity led to innovation and economic growth. All of this means that employee engagement and productivity are vital for our organizations.

Successful leaders will find a way to transition to the “new” normal in employee engagement, but it may not be an easy transition. As I work with companies in this transition, I suggest falling back to the core foundation of human resource development to help guide the future. HRD is defined as “the process of developing and unleashing human expertise through organizational development and training and development for the purpose of improving performance” (Swanson and Holton III, 2009, p. 4). The core beliefs of HRD are (Swanson and Holton III, 2009, p. 10-11):
  •  Organizations are human-made entities that rely on human expertise in order to establish and achieve their goals.
  •  Human expertise developed and maximized through HRD processes and should be done for the mutual long-term and/or short-term benefits of the sponsoring organization and the individuals involved
  •  HRD professionals are advocates of individual/group, work processes, and organizational integrity.
 Understanding the importance of how human expertise can help you meet your goals is the easy part of the transformational process, but developing a new culture and operational standards will be much more difficult. Our employees have been through their own transformation over the past year, and all of our ideas regarding how the workplace should look have changed. What has not changed is that employees are a vital resource to our organizations, and that our employees are not replaceable; we need to learn and grow to help our employees transition post-COVID.

In closing, we may not fully know how to position our workforce for the future, but we do have core beliefs to help guide our planning. We know that sustainable innovation will occur when the organizational members are prepared, poised, and focused on a common vision. As employee engagement is addressed, our organizations will see more employees working towards the mission, vision, and KPI’s of the organization, leading to a higher level of our three P’s, in employee engagement: Passion, Productivity, and Performance.

 
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