Written by Dorothee El-Khoury, HR Practice Leader EMEA – The Hackett Group

For the foreseeable future, businesses and their workforces will be subject to significant strain as we continue to suffer the impact of the global pandemic. It is important that organizations be vigilant about maintaining workforce well-being and productivity. HR should lead the charge by identifying and proactively monitoring key indicators of the physical and emotional state of employees and staying on top of issues that could impact their well-being at work.

While there is no standard set of measures that can be used by all organizations, this article will lay out five categories that can be applied by most HR teams. Many businesses are likely to be tracking some of these already, but others will need to be created. Some metrics will be easy to capture, while others might only be gauged via proxies. The goal is to be able to flag potential problems early to respond early and therefore prevent long-lasting damage.

Employee trust in leaders

Employees are able to endure job stress better if they believe leaders are being truthful, empathetic and doing everything they can to help in this difficult period. HR needs to be on the lookout for any indications that policies, communications or behaviors may be undermining employees’ trust – especially since it’s almost impossible to truly quantify.

Employees should believe that leadership has the right priorities, communicates clearly and honestly, and truly listens and have empathy for to employees.  Employees must also have confidence in their leader’s ability to steer the company through a crisis.

Employee concerns

Employees’ anxiety about their jobs and personal lives is sure to remain high in the coming months. Especially as the new wave has now arrived. Tracking their concerns will help HR get a handle on how well programs are working and identify areas in need of improvement. Where possible, pulse surveys and focus groups must be used to gather this data directly, as well as monitoring help-line queries, internal communications and social media.

The major concerns to look out for are family, job-related, company-related, health and financial. The company must maintain awareness of all 5 categories and work to reassure employees, with a particular focus regarding job- and company-related concerns.

Employee wellness

HR should monitor employee wellness closely with the goal of ensuring programs and assistance are being put to good use. It is essential to identify emerging issues and gaps in support that need to be addressed. At a minimum, businesses must measure the overall health of the workforce by tracking metrics such as sick time taken, benefits usage and help lines inquiries

Beyond the basic metrics, HR must also develop an awareness of the degree to which stress management, mental health, counseling, alcohol- and substance-abuse programs are being used. HR should also encourage self-reporting of how people are feeling and what causes stress. Meanwhile, the company should continue to promote healthy behaviors and participation of employee to wellness programs.

Employee engagement

While the crisis endures, companies can expect employee engagement levels to take a hit. HR needs to closely monitor overall engagement as well as the factors that increase or decrease it. Any significant changes in perceptions about these are warning signs that engagement may be slipping in ways that will hurt organizational resilience.

HR should gauge employees’ feelings about the organization as a whole and its leaders, as well as their individual job, immediate supervisor, and team, since perceptions of these areas significantly affect job satisfaction and stress levels.

Employee productivity

Ultimately, the performance of employees – work conducted, outputs produced, objectives reached, results achieved – will depend on how well the other factors discussed previously are managed. The better workers are supported, the more likely performance levels can be sustained.

HR organizations with experience tracking drivers of performance will have already identified those that correlate most strongly to performance. These performance-driving metrics warrant especially close monitoring, since they are leading indicators for the staff’s overall performance. Core metrics to monitor include hours worked and objectives at the individual, team, business, and enterprise level.

Many companies have responded swiftly and effectively to the impacts of the coronavirus pandemic as it has played out so far. But the crisis remains ongoing, and a longer and potentially difficult period is now unfolding.

To make it through, organizational leaders, guided by HR, must make workforce resilience a top priority. This will require closely tracking the drivers of employee well-being and acting decisively to further support the workforce as long as needed, so it can emerge from the crisis in as healthy and productive a state as possible.


About the author:

Dorothee El-Khoury, HR Practice Leader EMEA – The Hackett Group, is passionate about new ways of working in the digital age. She specializes in new & high performing organization models and how to support transformation through cultural changes.

By Lisa Baker, Senior Editor

Senior Editor Lisa Baker is the owner of Need to See it Publishing Group, providing contract news for business and news sites across the UK. Lisa is an experienced HR writer and commentator, editing HR publications for more than 5 years.