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Engaging Employees with Work From Home and Lockdown

Isaiah Chng, Founder and Director of Proage

· Going digital,Engagement

Amidst COVID-19 situation employees are working from home. Many clients of ours and business associates are already shouting “Help! We need to engage!" However many are caught off guard at the rapid progress of the developments to kick-start new plans.

The big question is “how do we give that human touch to keep engagement going”?

In this short article, I hope to give 4 keys to guide employee engagement online.

1. Keep it easy, simple

When designing digital programs, keep it dummy-proof. There should be as little friction as possible in the employee engagement experience and on-boarding is to be kept simple.

We often fall into the “information overload” trap to ensure that we cover all bases with fanciful long forms and elaborate steps that users would to hop through. Simplicity is our best friend and this is where design thinking could help. Check out what is design thinking and tools you could use at our friends at world renown IDEO.

Try enlisting a few individuals that are representative of the tech savviness of your target audience to give you relevant feedback. At ProAge, we tap on our in-house senior coaches (ages 64-80 y.o.) to ascertain that the platforms and technology we use are relatively frictionless and easy to pick up (if it is new).

2. Reach is all that matters

Reach is key. There has to be two different approaches: targeted and broad.

Last year we had a client who wanted to engage a very specific group of employees that had never attended to a wellness program. We took a targeted approach by doing having HR invite them through specially designed “invitation cards” signed off by HR Director and the messaging crafted by our psychologist. This pushed the boundaries of how we engage and increased HR’s reach to those whom are usually disengaged.

In another one of our recent campaign projects, the company decided to adopt a broad approach to reach employees instead. They opted to use SMS over their existing corporate communications platform. Why? The uptake was only 30% and regular usage was dead low. You may be thinking, why not email then? Well, not every worker has easy access to emails and there were concerns that employees were getting email fatigue. With SMS, employees were able to get access to content with ease and with it a high level of reach for HR. However as a guideline, we recommend sending a maximum of 1 to 2 SMS a week during a campaign that would last 2 to 3 months. Beyond that we have found that it annoys the recipients.

If you have a corporate inclusivity or PDPA policy that does not allow you to target individuals, a broad approach with a specific callout to your target audience action might be a good workaround. Consider launching a wellness campaign that broadly appeals to the masses but having callouts on your marketing collateral that empowers specific groups of employees. For example, your overall, broader campaign message could be something as encompassing as “Making our Workplace a Happy Place”, but the callout could be an invitation for employees experiencing burnout or depression to call a specific helpline. This strategy works best if the messaging is pervasive by utilising omni-channel platforms (, SMS, lift landing, restrooms, etc ).

3. Show that you care

Who is not moved by some care and concern? Being relevant and authentic pushes engagement off the charts. Content messaging, graphic design and what you offer must be relevant and relatable to what people are feeling.

In regards to relevance, think along the lines of the current context. Amidst a broad based crisis like what we are experiencing, people are more open to engagement at a personal, emotional level and this is your chance to touch their hearts.

Your audience is not homogenous and you could frame your messaging and outreach efforts with the “5 love languages” that makes people feel most valued. Can we have gratitude Tuesdays for those that appreciate quality time? Or send out “thank you” notes to employees telling them how much the company appreciates their contributions and support to face adversities together.

Another way to show that you care is to allow others to care for others. Psychologists believe that people are motivated by opportunities to receive love from others and to love others. Throw out a challenge to show kindness to 1 person daily.

Many companies are sending little packages of tarts, healthy cake, and even vouchers to show that they care. Here’s what one staff of ours posted on her Instagram for the coffee that was sent. She loves coffee!

The possibilities are endless.

4. Call to action

It may sound very sales orientated, but in this time starved and information overloaded economy, it's important that we learn to "seal the deal" and get our employees commitment! Oftentimes we share ideas, knowledge, list the benefits then stop short of recruiting for participation. There has to be action, action, action. Without action, it isn’t engagement it is simply education. Incorporate a 1-step “call to action” to your messages and start seeing engagement go up. As engagement goes up, gather testimonies and reshape it for broad engagement. Then repeat your call to action.

Employee engagement is a journey and not a destination. Keep at it, be authentic and follow these steps to bring your engagement to the next level. All the best.

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