To say 2020 was a difficult year would be an understatement. Since last March, thousands of businesses have had to rationalise their operations, cut their budgets, change their forecasts for profitability and trim their headcounts. The economy has shrunk to some of its lowest levels and left many businesses in a state of distress. The road has not been easy for any business and although for many, there is finally light at the end of the tunnel, employee mental health and wellbeing will rightfully still reign supreme as the number one priority for many business owners going forward. 

Putting time and money into initiatives that improve employee engagement may seem like a luxury during these unprecedented times, but in fact, it is anything but. Rather, organisations that are maintaining, improving and investing in these improvements for better employee engagement and reaping the rewards far more than those that are not. In fact, the returns on these investments do not only show for a brighter future for the business as a whole, but they are cultivating a positive company culture that produces stronger results. 

Here are three reasons why you should be recognising and engaging with your employees during these hard times:

1. You're asking more of them

Extraordinary times call for extraordinary measures. The crisis has seen many workforces rise to the occasion, doing whatever necessary to keep the business functioning and growing. For some that has resulted in extra hours being worked and less holidays, whilst for others, a reduced headcount means the slack must be picked up by a smaller team. Those team members have stood up to the plate and helped in times of need and desperation. They have done this from willingness and goodwill. They're more than likely to continue having both of these traits if they perceive themselves to be for working for a business or someone who acknowledges their efforts and rewards them for that. 

2. You'll need them when new opportunities emerge

Even when the job markets are depressed and seem a little quieter than normal, there are always opportunities available for your best staff members. And if they feel disengaged or underappreciated, those options become a lot more viable to them. As the economy reopens and opportunities begin to reemerge, businesses will find it harder to capitalise on those gaps in the market if they have lost the core of their team. Racing to add reinforcements to your team when your competitors are doing exactly the same may prove time consuming and futile, especially when looking for the A Grade talent you once had but let go. Show appreciation to your team and engage with them consistently so they feel appreciated and loyal to your business. 

3. Your reputation will precede you

This exercise will prove to be even more challenging if your company doesn't have a stellar reputation for treating its employees right, especially during a current crisis and in more usual times. 

With technology improving constantly, organisations are becoming far more culturally visible than they once were and it only takes a few minutes on sites such as Glassdoor and LinkedIn for job applicants to access a wealth of evidence about how you treat your staff. If reviews are more bad than good, many will think twice about coming on board, especially the Superstar candidates you're looking to hire. Conversely, positive accounts about your workplace culture and the way you engage with your team may help to make you an employer of choice, attracting higher caliber candidates who options are numerous.