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Has COVID-19 really ‘disrupted’ Employee Engagement?

Nab explores recent articles from McKinsey and Willis Towers Watson and asks whether or not Covid-19 has really disrupted Employee Engagement?

Has COVID-19 really ‘disrupted’ Employee Engagement?

Uber, Air B&B, Tesla, Netflix, Apple –  the disruptive brands that have changed the way we travel, communicate, watch films and how we interact with the world around us. ‘Disruptive Innovation’ has been the major driver for change across the world creating new global giants and forcing existing companies to change or fail. 

Eric Schmidt says in a recent interview with McKinsey ‘it’s the people behind the technology who make the difference, a sentiment which is oft repeated yet still somehow underestimated’. So, despite all this ‘tech’ disruption – employee engagement, the bit about the ‘people’ has stayed stubbornly static for the past 15 years.  That is until the current new ‘disruptor on the block’ – COVID-19 arrived. 

COVID-19 seems to be provoking many of the earlier sweeping societal changes linked to pandemics right back to the Black Death. We are seeing dramatic and positive changes in employee engagement in companies around the world as reported in a new Willis Towers Watson study. 

As a next-generation employee engagement agency, that’s music to our ears – if somewhat overdue!  What are the best companies doing to create genuine employee engagement right now?  In short, they are doing what they always should have done in a pre-COVID world – they are paying attention to, and enhancing, what really matters to employees across 6 key areas:


Leaders have learnt that the real skills that drive engagement of teams, whether remote or not, are empathy, transparency, resilience and ensuring that employees feel safe and secure during a time that can be psychologically overwhelming. In short – delivering leadership employees can rely upon and trust. Leadership teams have learnt to fail fast, learn quickly and adapt to rapidly changing conditions whilst communicating openly and regularly with their teams – saying it ‘how it is’, ‘when it is’ and ‘fessing up’ when they get it wrong.


Clarity, structure, openness and transparency have been the hallmarks of great communicators. Leaders are learning that this still applies today by utilising the right tools at the right time whether it is MS Teams, Zoom, What’s App, Email etc. and ensuring that the ‘red thread’ of strategy help align these communications and connect them to organisational culture and purpose.  They are managing to be realistic about the current situation whilst at the same time projecting hope for an optimistic future in a ‘recovered’ world.


Companies are finding that keeping their people and teams connected to the ‘essence’ of their organisation – the bigger purpose of why the company exists and the good that it does – is mobilising the hearts and minds of their people. It’s helping organisations stay focused on working together to achieve the right outcomes for each other and customers. 

Learning & Development

In this time of ‘short’ weeks and uncertain futures,  people are rushing to fill their time with online content in the L&D space. Employees are devouring online learning that L&D teams could not fill a few short weeks ago as they find they have not only the time but the desire to equip themselves with new skills for whatever the ‘new normal’ becomes. Leaders too are using L&D to build both organisational and personal resilience for the future. 

Performance Management

Leaders and supervisors are helping their people to thrive at home by having powerful performance conversations that are supportive, inspiring and focused on results that matter now.  The result? – employees feel connected, involved and accountable whilst being recognised for their achievements. What a difference a few weeks makes to re-engaging people!


Organisations have had to create new virtual onboarding programmes for new hires to help them engage with not only the culture and purpose of the organisation but with the teams within which they work. At NKD our newest Consulting Director Rebecca has been onboard ‘virtually’ for 4 weeks though she has not met the team face to face, she feels ‘that everyone has gone the extra mile to ensure she’s part of the team/family and is connected; from the delivery of her equipment, the small personalised gifts, the welcome team quiz to the regular weekly opportunities to touch in with the wider team and clients have all been so valuable.’

As the discussion shifts to getting back to work, we need to understand how to ‘re- onboard’ our people and teams and make sure these amazing results are translated into our ‘next’ normal.

But for now, people are talking to each other, trusting each other, supporting and depending on each other.  At NKD we want to ‘make the work of work better’ – so thank you COVID-19 for showing organisations and leaders that they can do this!  As we read strategic research resulting from COVID-19 it’s great to  see NKD’s core belief in action across the world – emotionally intelligent leaders, engaging their employees to deliver amazing customer and community experiences to build sustainable, secure and successful futures for everyone.

Want to read more about how we’re getting on working from home? Check out this blog.

Or, if you want to chat about how to engage your employees from home – hit the connect button, we’d love to talk with you.