Keeping your people engaged and productive through the crisis

As more companies shut their office doors and ask their employees to work virtually, maintaining high levels of engagement and productivity won’t be easy. But with a proven approach to remote connections and team management, it can be done well and set up employees for a seamless return to regular ways of working.

Donna Lehman

And now I would like to introduce you to your host Melissa Swift, leader digital advisory North America and global accounts.

Melissa Swift

Hi there, very excited to be joining everybody today and very excited to be joined by a couple of my wonderful colleague

Mark Royal who specializes in employee engagement and is an absolute guru on the topic will be talking about today.

Doug Charles, who's going to bring some wonderful insights from a leadership perspective as our leader for North America.

So, you know, we'll be talking about some of our insights regarding this exciting topic.

Will be talking also very practically about what you can do. I think that's the nitty gritty that we all, we all want to get to pretty quickly.

I'm finally will be providing some resources where you can find out more. So, you know, without further ado, let's jump into the topic of how to keep employees in a really engaged and productive during what is a difficult moment. I think for us all.

Alright. As, as we're, you know, what are the things we've been talking a lot about is technological disruption and I think mine right now is just some slow moving slide. There we go. All right.

Okay, so you don't start off with, you know, kind of what's what's eroding motivation right now. You know, I think we all feel it. But let's let's talk about kind of what is the mechanics.

So, you know, Mark, maybe start off by just helping us understand kind of these ideas of of engagement and enablement I think these are very core to kind of how Korn ferry thinks about keeping employees motivated at any time crisis or not.

Mark Royal

Yeah, we can consider that as a foundation for today's discussion, the long standing Korn Ferry perspective is that engagement and enablement are key components of high performing work environments.

You can think of engagement as the want to behind work and performance our players committed to the organization, are they willing to put in extra effort for the good of the organization.

And difficult times leaders clearly need engaged employees motivated to do and deliver more able to navigate new situations, based on their alignment with organizational objectives.

But engagement alone is not enough to get the most from employees leaders also need to enable them.

To channel their extra efforts productively and you can think of enablement, by contrast, is the can do behind working performance as the organizational environment give people what they need to get things done on the one hand, and does it minimize barriers that may stand in their way.


Excellent. So you know if that's kind of foundational Lee, how, how we think about the topic of keeping people motivated

What are the challenges look like right now. You know this. This is obviously a difficult moment. How are you thinking about what's actually kind of jamming employees off at the moment?


Yeah, well, I mean, challenging situations make engagement enablement all the more important for organizations, but unfortunately also more difficult to sustain and as we see it in the current environment. The primary

Obstacles to engaging and enabling people are distraction and frustration spend a moment on both. There are many factors, as I'm sure we're all aware right now.

Pulling employees attention away from their work these distraction factors include personal challenges, many employees responding to unexpected child care needs or scrambling to find groceries or certain household supplies.

Worry is another one. How many employees are struggling with personal or family health concerns or

Anxious about job or financial situations and finally uncertainty. Today's employers are hit with a crush of ever changing news about governmental and organizational actions which may impact company team and

Personal plans and each of these sources of distraction can lead to leakages if you will of work related energy, energy, that might be devoted to work related tasks instead being devoted to distractions.

If that's happening. The result is an erosion of the benefits of employee engagement and motivation when when an organization to really need it most. And likewise,

There are ample sources of frustration that can complement compromise the feeling of enablement and positioning for success on the part of employees many employees today, of course, faced with

Concerns about access to needed input information and resources on familiar challenging work environments disrupted connections with coworkers or customers or even stalled projects and initiatives.


Fantastic. And I think this is a wonderful way of kind of, you know, describing the situation here I will definitely you know vouch for the compromise.

Compromise the enablement of I've got a five year old doing online kindergarten at home, and I've currently my desk is about 14 inches by 16 inches tucked in the corner of the bedroom. So everything you're saying really resonates

But I think, you know, let's start to get to kind of the practical okay if this is what's going on. What, what do we do so.

Mark, you've got some from our research some really interesting learning. It's not the first time organizations have dealt with a crisis. What, what have we learned in in prior research and prior client work that might be helpful right now.


Yeah, we can definitely learn some lessons from past crises.

The fourth turning there I'll say, I think the coronavirus situation is definitely unique distinctive in that it impacts each and every one of us in a direct and personal way.

Perhaps more directly than past crises have the, the impact is that much broader but going back to 2008 global financial crisis.

We could draw on some research from our long standing partnership with Fortune Magazine in support of the world's most admired companies rankings. We for over 20 years help Fortune magazine.

Compile those rankings and also conduct research to understand the business practices that contribute to the performance and reputation of the world's most admired companies.

And following the global financial crisis, we asked leaders in participating companies.

What the associated challenges and taught them and among the primary themes was the value of an engaged workforce in coping with difficult times, I'll give me just one quote

From a leader. We spoke to at the time. He said, the biggest lesson has been where we have high engagement employees are more willing to accept and embrace organizational changes.

Needed to address customer concerns and cost issues. And as we dug further into the experience of most admired companies.

Before amid and following the global financial crisis, we found that many of the world's most admired companies were actually emerging from the recession in a better place than they had entered it nearly 70% of the executives we surveyed, for instance, indicated that

Employee loyalty to the organization had increased as they compared post recession to pre recession states.

And many also reported decreases in employee frustration over work conditions not conducive to success. So one of the key takeaways for us here in 2020

Well, you may be hesitant to look at your financial statements at the present moment. But, but now is really the perfect time during the lesson to the world's most admired companies to see the return on your investments in engaging and enabling people

A second is that while with the wrong responses, there's a risk that organizations can quickly a road.

Compromise commitment productivity with the right responses. There are opportunities for organizations to

Not only weather the storm, but come up better on the other side. And I think that's a key consideration.

As we look past the, the current crisis to the likely uptake in demand and activity will hopefully see on the backside and engaging enable workforce helpful and important for navigating what we're dealing with now but also preparing us to to respond to increase in activity going forward.


Great. So I think the message, really, is it this time feels very daunting, but it really focusing in on these issues and handling them in the right way, you know they're there is a payoff, you know, kind of at the end of the rainbow. Is that a fair characterization. Exactly, exactly.


A careful attention to motivation and support for success are key, but there are definitely opportunities for organizations based on past experience to navigate successfully.


Great, great. Alright, well let's let's start to get into a little bit more about kind of practical or, you know what, what do we do see

There we go. Alright. So in a way, we try to think about this in very practical terms, right. So let's start with kind of what should people be doing more of what should people be doing less of, and then we'll talk about a few kind of watch out for, for leaders.

As you're thinking about the population that you're leading as well as you know, but a lot of the work that we're doing for our clients are you thinking of what people need to do more right now.

Doug Charles

And as we all know, I mean, we're learning from this market pointed out, and you know there's a lot of different phases that people are going through right now.

Everyone on today's call is going through those similar phases different variations

So what we're learning is, you know, you can go from everything from the early stages of the fear and I'm certainly to really adapting to the

New World Environment to really start to forecast your way out of this process and then ultimately to recovery and parts of the different parts of the globe are different stages.

So you know what's really critical right now is the understanding that says like you did before may not work in the future so

Anybody out there on it's really in a command and control structure and that leadership style is very much, you know, on the monetary mechanism and really kind of overseeing

Everybody's work delivery. That's going to be difficult. You're gonna have to trust your employees more

But we also need to do, obviously, is prioritize and focus their, their work. So clearly the most important focus was going to be the work delivery that is expected of them.

So really making sure that you just transition. The work that wasn't an office and getting it into your work environment and your home life now and making sure that you're delivering that work is going to be the most important for those of you

Many people are in business development halls. This is the time truly to stay focused on your clients.

And it's more listening. There's a lot of people out there that are assuming what clients need to their customers me

Rather than really, it's talking to their clients and really figuring out where they are what stage of the game of my clients and they have a high growth position right now and they're just trying to provide all the demand, they have

That, that, you know, their clients are expecting, but what that that that challenges. So really listening probing asking questions, finding out where your clients.

Or your customers or spending their money, how they're read budgeting their, their positions is critical. Numerous time to allow you to make good decisions about how you were finishing your investment.

Now listen, one of the things of course to improvisation focus is

Is this is a time to do things sometimes that you're not able to do in the past, which is a lot of personal, professional development.

So often that training, if you will, kind of takes a backseat to just the the rigor of getting the job done on a daily occurrence.

So kind of really making sure you know if we have access to project management capabilities as far as expanding our project management.

If there's client management activity that we're saying business development leadership development all the light

You're seeing a boom right now in China, actually in their virtual learning environment. So there's a lot of attention. That's really being spent.

On making sure that people are really embracing this this time to really professionally develop and getting that access to those kinds of courses and curriculums or HR related courses on life.

support innovation focus, get the work done. And you're expected to do realize that you have to do that from home, realizing, in some cases,

That work is impossible to do from home. So how do you continue as Mark said to engage your employees and through training and reaching out and furthering their career development is one way to do that.

Now, what's more up to as the informal connection and mentor and listen. If you have a mentor program that's huge to leverage those mentors right now in this stage, listen, no one

Wants to feel alone. I mean, that's a big challenge for everybody. We're social animals. We like the interaction we like building

You know that that type of activity and and work environment. And yet, now we're very much isolated.

Technology can help that I know there's a lot of applications out there and I'm sure people are using and webinars and video updates of the life

To really make sure that we are informally connecting with individuals and and that you have to occur.

What we're seeing a lot of is people are sharing more to

A lot of pictures. Did you know Did you know you can use that, you know, this is the case, one of the things I've put here is how can lead is best to enable and more

And less of a situation. I'm finding myself that possibly one of the greatest values I have right now in my role, besides strong to be an inspirational leader.

But it's also make sure people are share I'm talking to so many people right now and learning so much about loan officers doing what industry is doing what a client's doing and making sure that people realize that

You really know that Sally over here is doing this. And this is really helping her someone use this app year to really help them in a group chat.

When someone's doing this with clients and people are still spending money because some people kind of, you know, they watched the TV set. So lots of

They consider themselves so gloom and doom. If they get the lesson in everybody that really, there's a lot of activities. Go going on out there. How do we continue to capture and look forward to that future

You'll be amazed at the people who encourage and generated ideas. This is an opportunity for folks to really kind of have those moments of that really get them on their career trajectory

In a great and fantastic way because you're going to see a lot of

Opportunities for people to come up with great ideas and they're going to come at all different angles of the organization.

So really making sure that people understand that they have a voice that we're asking them to participate.

That we as leaders don't have all the answers. We need people who are in the field new people who are touching clients. Oh, that they're interacting with with their employees and the new and exciting way.

That they can really share that information. We could disseminate that out. But like I said, Anybody that's really trying to generate a a

You know, a command and control aspect of things is going to have a difficulty because you really want to develop that collaborative ecosystem.

Now listen on planning. This is an opportunity. One of the things I've seen some people do is to create small groups.

You know, because we are going to get out of this. We all know there's going to be a recovery phase coming so really making sure that we're planning and forecasting position ourselves right well

But I've heard of the number of people where they create small groups. And sometimes those small boutique and competed against each other.

Here's something we always wanted to fix. We always wanted to improve this process. Let's get to a three teams of four or five people working

You know together and their teams. Are they all going to present their ideas and let's try to vote a pick and choose from the

Best ones to get more people engaged, more people involved in this process. One other thing, and I know I'm talking fast and spirit of time. But one thing is

Is this is the time to really know your high potentials really making sure in your organization that you're leveraging and engaging your high potentials to the fullest degree.

Those are the people that are going to drive the recovery for you. They're going to accelerate the recovery. It's absolutely critical. You know who you can rely on and they're going to be the leaders.

In this recovery phase. Staying engaged with those individuals, Melissa, is going to be critical during when the recovery comes around.


Excellent. Excellent, Thank you Doug, I think there's a lot. There's a lot of good stuff there. And I'm going to actually just pick up on.

A few questions, actually, that that have come in and I think it hit some bar employees need less point. So I'll just quickly kind of move through that and then would love your take on some of these laptops for leader.

So we've we've had to ask kind of very specific position prices and what can organizations really do. That's not just kind of generic, you know, crisis management, but really kind of covert specific. We've also had some questions about, you know, talk about, you know, kind of, how do you figure out what cannot do etc etc. And we, you know, we've got some interesting

They're all point to the, the second one kind of the first and the second and then asked us to talk a bit about the third. But what we've really seen is what's helpful to employees is a kind of pulling extraneous meetings, out of the calendar. I think when there's

Kind of, given the array of personal demands on people right now is really different than a 2008 looks like.

That anything that any of us to come out in service of kind of that other point around prioritization and first

And second of all, strategy that we've seen people employing really successfully right now it's kind of less that we're pulling scattered scheduling.

And the idea there is to be sort of on in blocks during the day and often during the day, understanding that a lot of us again we're, you know, let's say, parents, right.

Have to do some, you know, virtually enabled cooling with our kids.

So, you know, don't have little 30 minute meeting started throughout the day. I have my

Three hours I'm on on doing calls. I'm doing work I'm fully available to my colleagues and then maybe you know two hours. Okay, as a team. We're going to agree. You're all off.

Right. And we're going to do our distance learning with our kids etc etc and tried to be really thoughtful and actually losing climb during the day, very differently.

And then also without this kind of other point about you know a little bit about this idea of

What leaders need to do about what communication, they need from their people. And I can also how people can drive better communication with their managers and leaders right now, when there's so much right


So, one thing I even heard as early as this one is that there's a couple of clients of ours and customers that are actually asking, no one has 60 minute call the logic is what the 15 minute call

And the thought processes because you're working from home, things are coming up and sometimes you need that 10 minutes so don't have that back to that call and schedule is an hour.

And that's good. So, how we always did it that way. And we always went around the Warren, what are you doing, what are you doing, what are you doing, and again, I go back to the command and control.

So, Melissa, as you're pointing out that says, Listen, there's a lot of almost every call starts off with, you know, 15 minutes of people sharing about some of these activities and

At this point in time that may be appropriate, but as as evolves as this continues on as we begin adapting to this new work environment. We're going to have to adapt.

Our communication styles to be more about it. What do we need to know what how do we share that information. Accordingly, how do we make decisions based on that information and less about some of the other extraneous ways that maybe we've interacted in the past as well.

So, you know, some creative aspects of that needs to be having it is Melissa, you asked me that said your local leaders not do and kind of be more of

Like listen. Some of this is obvious, but some of it. Maybe I think people should kind of think about a little bit and I'll zero in on that second bullet in the spirit of time.

You know, a lot of organizations that I've got to rethink what success means during this time.

For those of you who is fabulous goals on January 1 and said this is what success look like. By the end of the year. And this is what you know how we do our sales commission, but this is probably we plan, a quarter way. And this is what we expect for listen

We're in for a different year there's going to be, you know, a two cycle approach this year when success.

In one part of the year where we really need to work together, we, we can't rely on just individuals, you know, and really that may be something for your organization that you sit back and say, during this time we're going to define success as an organization, as a team goal.

As a team structure, the bottom and then we'll get back to normal say maybe as this as we get into recovery phase and maybe focus back to where we were with a QPR

So those of you are trying to just sit back and say, Listen, when we establish on January one is probably going to find me on December 31

That's a surefire way of losing a lot of your hypos during the transition back where you need them so importantly staying engaged in in recovery. So something

To think about. And of course, you know, there's a lot of communications going out in some of those communications apply to everybody, but much of the communications apply the specific individual groups.

So some groups are in high growth mode. Some groups are total fear mode. Some groups are, you know, concerned about, you know, the next week. Hmm. Some other groups within certain how they create development on and on and off.

So really try to understand those different groups and best way to get to them. I think this is absolutely critical for people to realize and leaders to realize it's not all on their shoulders.

They've got to create their own kind of, for lack of a better word, inner circles for them to be able to help those leaders and really sit back saying okay, This group, I need this kind of support to get this message messaging out to engage that group. So I think it's going to be really important that leaders don't look at it, it's all on their shoulders.

They rely they they segment the organization based on various criteria and make sure there's circles of leaders that are helping them in the acceleration of the recovery phase.


Great, great. And, and I think the point that you're making about the you know the organization is not one homogeneous Cole, right.

It's interesting because a lot of the questions that have come through about, you know, okay, well, this is all great folks who can work from home, but

You know there are millions of workers out there who can't. So we're going to make sure as we walk through this slide that we kind of acknowledge the needs of both groups because I think it's a fantastic

Fantastic call out it doesn't do want to maybe, you know, kind of kick us off on points one into really quick right here and then we'll, we'll get to a whole bunch of our

Very practical practical tips here.


Yeah. And for those people who are struggling with, you know, manufacturing and toys that literally cannot work from home to your point, I mean with those people need to understand in a truthful and authentic way.

What's the future look like at what point in time. Does that future become reality. So the real challenge there is a statement of reality, it's not havoc not invoking panic.

But it's really establishing what's unique about about our situation we're in his others have been through it and they have, they are now in the recovery model.

So this is something that while none of us know the exact time frame we recognize that this is not forevermore. This is something that we're going to go through as

The United States and Amelia and UK, France and other parts of the globe together and we have to you know invoked that hope.

You know, so my own personal situation. I will tell you even last night, I found myself getting very anxious, which I'm that's not me.

But I found my anxiety heightened because there's just an inundation of what you're reading in the in social media and the TV in your own personal walls beyond work into your family life.

And sometimes it can get overwhelming. So really making sure that you know this self awareness that says when you're realizing that

You know, you need to take time to get your own self back in order. And that's what I had to do last night.

And kind of really reestablish yourself because you are the beacon of hope. It's so for so many people

Setting that expectation that in some cases there's no real easy solutions. We don't necessarily have all the answers, which you got to be the exhaustive authentic evangelist. That is reminding people about what the future entail.

In the organization and what that's coming now listen for the personal communications that everybody has read. I mean 1000 times. I'm sure it's free quit.

It's consistent. It's personal. It's keep it simple. I think all those are relevant. I don't hear anybody right now saying you know what my managers.

Communicating would be too much, you know, or I'm so offended because my manager reached out to me on a one on one basis.

I think people appreciate the understanding, but there's got to be a purpose to the communication purposes fact finding so we can make better decision.

Or some silly inspiration hope or educating, if you will, that somehow figured out how to, you know, use those communications to continue that working continue educating to do new and aspiring or courses or critical


Great. Great. Excellent. Alright, so I'm going to quickly cover point three and seven here and then hand it back to Mark to cover the balance of this slide.

I think one piece of that communication picture and you know this really resonates for me for all the work I do. You know, helping

Companies transform digitally, which is suddenly become a real pain point right now.

Is it just leaders need to be realistic about kind of both the promise and the reality of technology that

You know, we have made all these wonderful tools available to you and you know there are times when they're gonna work plus minus I know we're having audio issues on this call.

But actually if Mark and Doug could please mute during the time on speaking that that seems to be the major glitch.

But, you know, really being candid about technology is not always going to work. Right. And we're going to have a sense of humor about it. I think it's critical, critical

You know, there's also this piece around kind of a water cooler gap right that a lot of the best informal problem solving and organizations comes from connections.

In person. Right. And again, where you've got sometimes within a lot of organizations two disparate groups, right, one that is still in person.

With a lot of fear and anxiety. There's they're still coming into work and then a group working from home, you know, feeling that full set of issues.

You know, I think, to Doug's point earlier about, you know, you've got to have those strategies to bring people together. Informally, you can't just kind of

You know, pretend it doesn't exist or or it's been erased by the aforementioned technology. So let me, let me hand it over to Mark to kind of talk through some of the other

You know points on this slide and to, you know, kind of quickly wrap us up. I think with point number eight, which is particularly critical


Yeah, will very quickly.

Take employees personal challenges seriously provide to resources. It's part of showing care and concern for employees, but it's also part of mitigating the distractions that they face. So, now is the time to highlight

Benefits and resources that organizations can make available to help employees navigate personal challenges.

Medical options to health insurance Tele health programs, for instance, which many large employers offer getting a real moment in the spotlight employee assistance programs.

Company support for child care needs target the retailer said this week and it's extending backup family care benefits to all employees and plan previously only offer to some e learning options which Doug highlighted.

Also Americans iteration helping people navigate newer work requirements as well as make productive use of slack time in terms of their development.

Health and Safety now's the time to emphasize again. Karen concerned for employees of prioritization of health of our work and I think it's especially important.

In different populations where perhaps self quarantine and a home offices is not an option.

There plenty of examples of adjusted work routines companies are employing to protect employees and customers FedEx just announced

That there's no need to physically sign for packages delivered in the US at the present time to protect customers and employees alike. But there are also some headline examples of companies.

Criticized by employees and others for doing too little. So definitely a key focus area for employers and then rewards and performance metrics.

Employee engagement as an exchange relationship. People need to feel that their extra efforts are recognized and appreciated that they're rewarded for what they contribute to the organization. Unfortunately, in challenging times when organizations are forced to ask

They also tend to be constrained by their ability to reward them, so clarifying how rewarding performance management approaches can be managed and made these disruptions can both help create a sense of equity for employees and minimize and other potential source of distraction. Doug reference that earlier.

In a court very survey of our clients in China where of course the effects of the crisis of the strongest

One in four firms, so they're going to make special salary adjustments better than a third 36% so they're considering performance target adjustments.

You can sign up for a session on March 24 employing agile rewards strategies for a bottle world to get the latest Korn ferry thinking there. And I think finally

The last point, give employees a voice. This is a time when

Employees carry around a lot of uncertainty. And I think in addition to communications and benefits and strategies to connect people with organization or resources. Equally important is giving employees opportunities to connect and share

And express concerns and anxieties that they have their various ways that organizations can do that.

But especially frequent personal in person connections with leaders can be critical to help reinforce that connection between employees and co workers in the organization and difficult time.


Great. Thank you, Mark. Good. Good. Fast talking and coming from a New Yorker. That's, that's a big compliment

I just want to quickly go to our final slide here, which a lot of you have asked, How can I learn more and we've had something like 70 questions. Yeah.

We've just hit 70 questions. So one of the things will commit to is we're actually going to put out a little white paper after this, and we're going to send it out kind of today, tomorrow and we're going to take a little bit of a pause and make sure all of your questions get incorporated and answered, because I think that's a phenomenal, phenomenal response. But if you see the QR code on your screen you take, you know, get your phone out open up the camera.

You can use that code QR code by taking a photo of it or clicking on the link in the chat box to visit our insights page where we've got a wealth of information.

About handling this crisis. And as we said, you know, our commitment to you is I know a lot of questions came out.

That we didn't get time to answer, but we're going to answer them in writing. So thank you very much and we really appreciate everyone, everyone joining us. It's a crisis that we're all working on together. So thank you very much.

Contact Korn Ferry today