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How Companies Can Foster Employee Engagement and Learning in The New Normal

By James Micklethwait

The sudden shift to work-from-home due to COVID-19 has been a steep learning curve for companies and corporate leaders around the world. Arguably, in no area has this been felt so acutely as employee engagement and development. Whether it is awkward silences on Zoom calls or wondering if anyone is still listening to your virtual presentation, connection and motivation at work have been tested.

In the last few years, many companies have been implementing remote work arrangements on a per need basis. To leverage on this trend, Singapore's Ministry of Manpower (MOM) issued an employer's guide as a resource for companies implementing home-based work. As the pandemic underscored the benefits of remote working, businesses will shift to remote and hybrid work arrangements even when offices are able to safely reopen. This is evident in a recent memo from the country's Ministry of Health (MOH), which encourages businesses and organisations to adopt a more flexible and hybrid model for working moving forward.
Going beyond remote work, as more Gen Zs – a generation of digital natives join the workforce, it is clear that virtual learning and online collaboration are here to stay, regardless of whether the employees are in the office or working from home. Under the new normal, keeping teams engaged and creating an environment conducive to learning may be more challenging, but fostering employee engagement is also more crucial now than ever to ensure long-term success for the company.
So, how can businesses get it right? Here are some ways to level up the company's employee engagement game:

1. Take full advantage of technology
Nowadays, technology plays a significant role in our lives, but many companies are not taking full advantage of the existing technologies to encourage employee engagement and learning. It is now easier to connect individuals, teams and departments across locations and time zones. Businesses can leverage various applications that enable dynamic knowledge sharing and collaboration, as well as enhance social connections and company culture. With platforms that support employee engagement and interaction, not only does technology help people work smarter and faster; it can also help boost overall well-being.

2. Strengthen company culture through play
Play is one of the first ways humans learn and create connections. By leveraging play at work, companies make learning and connecting a natural process and intrinsically motivate employees to participate. With games, every employee is encouraged to join and contribute, even the reserved and quiet ones. It can also help boost performance by harnessing the power of friendly competition amongst teams. So whether it is gamifying the onboarding program or having a team race to achieve a goal, engaging employees through games will help people collaborate more and get to know each other better.

3. Understand your team and tailor your strategy
No two companies have the same workforce, so there is no one-size-fits-all approach to employee engagement. A successful employee engagement plan starts with understanding your team—both their needs and their strengths. When mapping out employee engagement strategies, businesses need to pay attention to how comfortable the team members are with technology, how and when they prefer to communicate, and what skills each employee needs to develop to flourish within the company. While this may feel like a daunting task, especially for larger companies, the return on investment is clear. Every great achievement a company makes is a result of collaborative efforts across the organisation. Thus, attracting and keeping talented professionals within the team is critical to the company's success.
4. Measure your progress and remain flexible
A company's workforce is fluid and constantly changing. For instance, with the current demographics, more of Gen Zs will enter the workforce, Gen Xers will move up the corporate ladder, and senior employees will retire. As the needs and abilities of the workforce evolve, businesses must develop strategies that match the needs of the employees, allow them to develop their skills and help them stay engaged. Business and HR leaders must keep in mind that employee engagement and learning plans are ongoing processes. Companies should be open to try new things and be able to leverage available data such as attendance, participation, and training completion rates to track what is working and what is not to achieve the intended results.

For many business leaders, building an effective engagement strategy can be challenging. The shift to remote work has upended many conventional workflows, but there has never been a better time to rethink the way we connect and learn at work. Employees are the backbone of every organisation, and the companies that will thrive and win tomorrow are the ones that invested in their employees today.

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