The COVID-19 crisis has changed the way company owners and executives across the globe think, especially with regards to internal communications with employees, said Mohamed El-Kholi, a member of the Egyptian Junior Business Association (EJB) and the founder of employee engagement consultancy firm DOTMENT.
He added that the pandemic has simultaneously revealed much of what is related to the best ways to practice employee engagement, and to leverage skills and talents at work.
“Since the onset of the pandemic in Egypt — in March 2020 — companies have let a large number of non-essential employees go, while there were fewer institutions that set different plans and alternative scenarios to manage the crisis. Additionally, many business owners found themselves in a crucial need to change the concept of internal communications, as well as the functional connection with which they manage their business,” El-Kholi told Ahram Online.
He pointed to a survey conducted in this regard, which found that about 95 percent of organisations began to learn the lesson and lean towards change in order to better handle the situation during 2021, as new organisational concepts rise on the list of priorities for employers.
“As an example, up to 43 percent of business owners are ready to assess their behaviours in the coming year, while on the other hand, it is expected that 40 percent of companies will search for advanced business management mechanisms, followed by up to 37 percent of those trying to utilise the communication and collaboration mechanisms and tools that have become available. Furthermore, 2020 has tipped the scales and has pushed the concept of ‘employee experiences’ to the forefront of priorities for business decisionmakers,” El-Kholi explained.
As a result, business owners need to follow the best methods of employee engagement, with 70 percent of them resorting to focusing on the mental health of employees and achieving their wellbeing, according to El-Kholi.
On the other hand, 55 percent gives more attention to motivational initiatives, 60 percent showed that they have clear plans regarding their vision of employee engagement and organisational culture for the year 2021, while two-thirds of organisations discussed the topic at the level of senior officials, and 50 percent of business owners formalised the matter and set strategies to put it in play, he illustrated.
El-Kholi also noted that digital experiences took the business world by storm, and this was a direct result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Moreover, many opinion polls found that one in every four institutions did not have clear strategies for experimenting with workplace locations, he said.
“As executives and business owners restricted and prohibited personal interactions in the workplace, digital and virtual solutions have become the main area on which these companies depend as work-from-home policies were enforced”, he asserted.
The opinion poll revealed that, during 2020, employees began to bear more workloads as one person became responsible for the work that was normally performed by two or more, according to El-Kholi.
According to the survey, one employee out of every three felt that internal communications with the company's human resources is missing, while two out of five employees felt pressured when providing assistance, and one in every five employees felt an increase in work stress, demanding that employers change and redirect internal communication strategies in order to reduce operational expenses and simultaneously be able to get the highest performance and productivity levels possible by focusing on their wellbeing.
El-Kholi also said that although Microsoft is the pioneer and owner of the largest percentage of digital channels for businesses, the pandemic has prompted many other companies to introduce newer and faster technologies and solutions.
“This includes web calls, mobile applications, messaging applications, and collaboration platforms the likes of Yammer and Zoom. 35 percent of decision makers emphasised the increased use of digital communication solutions. This shift is transforming communications into a more personal tone that will be the norm in the future, thus making the vision for future internal communication strategies somewhat blurred,” said El-Kholi.
He added that remote and work-from-home trends are highly likely to continue in the post-pandemic time, thus dictating a necessary shift in internal communication and employee engagement understandings and approaches.
Accordingly, if business owners and leadership teams previously relied on rewards to engage employees, the situation now obliges them to develop different strategies in order to maintain employee productivity through supportive concepts of internal communications, and by monitoring the situation closely, El-Kholi mentioned.
He stressed that internal communications and employee engagement are unquestionably the way forward for businesses amid the ongoing challenges and as a response of the rising digital transformation wave.