Nationwide Study of 1.3 Million Employees Shows Significant Increase in Engagement During COVID-19

Key Findings Reveal Growth in Employee Engagement Driven by Economic and Labor Market Conditions as well as Employer Responsiveness to the Crisis

Quantum Workplace

Quantum Workplace, a leading provider of comprehensive employee engagement and performance software, announced today the release of its benchmark report and analysis entitled, The Impact of COVID-19 on Employee Engagement. The primary purpose of the Company’s research was to understand how periods of crisis impact the employee experience.

Employee Engagement Correlation with both the Dow Jones Industrial Average as well as Unemployment (Graphic: Business Wire)

The in-depth white paper studied the impact of COVID-19 on employee engagement across thousands of companies nationwide, based on data Quantum Workplace collected between 2019 and 2020 to date, via its nationally recognized Best Places to Work survey platform.

Leveraging results from nearly 1.3 million benchmarkable employee engagement survey results (700,000+ responses across more than 8,500 organizations in 2019 and 470,000 responses across 6,000 organizations in the first five months of 2020), Quantum Workplace investigated the impact of the COVID-19 global pandemic and subsequent economic fallout on trends in employee engagement and workplace perceptions. More specifically, the Company studied how these employee engagement trends correlated with economic factors to assess which areas were most impacted and to ascertain the types of workers most affected by the pandemic.

Studies revealed that employee engagement amongst workforces slightly dipped initially as the COVID-19 crisis hit the U.S. in full force, causing detriment to people’s lifestyles, businesses, employment and the economy. However, contrary to what many might believe, employee engagement then considerably increased during the pandemic and subsequent social distancing and lockdown restrictions.

To this end, Quantum Workplace researchers found when the COVID-19 virus initially hit the U.S., employee engagement slightly declined, where just 70 percent were feeling “highly engaged” but then increased to 83% being “highly engaged” after the restrictions became effective. This 13 percent employee engagement peak in 2020 represented an 11 percent increase when compared with 2019 engagement levels.

Quantum Workplace’s data suggests this change in employee engagement is likely the result of several key factors, including economic and labor market downturns that coincided with these trends as well as increased favorability from respondents across areas of leadership, communication, flexibility and wellbeing. These findings support the notion that employees surveyed during the COVID-19 lockdown may have re-evaluated their work experiences and grew a deeper affinity for the jobs they currently held along with their leaders, who were better at communicating and accommodating flexibility.

Other findings of interest include:

  • Economic indicators, such as initial unemployment claims and stock market performance, appeared to coincide with changes in employee engagement, i.e.,
    1. Stock market indicators, such as the Dow Jones Industrial average, appeared to correlate with dips and rises in employee engagement; and,
    2. Initial weekly unemployment claims skyrocketed in March 2020, concurrent with rises in employee engagement.
  • Economic indicators do not explain the full trends of engagement growth during the COVID-19 crisis, as favorability in items related to leadership, communication and wellbeing increased, i.e.,
    1. The largest year-over-year item-level differences were related to communication and leadership with seven and eight percent growth in favorability, respectively;
    2. Increased favorability in health, wellbeing, and work-life balance also drove increases in employee engagement; and,
    3. Favorability regarding compensation and benefits also grew by seven and five percent, respectively.

“Quantum Workplace’s in-depth research provides a distinct look at how the employee experience and engagement shifted during the COVID-19 crisis. It is likely due to a shift in perceptions amongst employees fortunate enough to continue working throughout the pandemic. It appears they reassessed the benefits and value of their roles and employers as they watched colleagues, friends and family sadly lose their jobs. Concurrently, many companies were highly responsive to employees’ needs and addressing high anxieties by communicating more frequently and welcoming more work-life flexibility. These factors contributed to the positive engagement trends we saw emerge during the crisis,” stated Shane McFeely, organizational psychologist and Lead Researcher at Quantum Workplace.

Greg Harris, Quantum Workplace co-founder and chief executive officer, added: “Our proprietary research revealed that the pandemic created considerably greater job value, as organizations became more mindful about enhancing communication and implementing well-being initiatives. Those employees who believed their employers genuinely care about them — especially during this pandemic — significantly increased their sentiments about their employers and the value of their positions. This global pandemic forced businesses to make many drastic changes to their workplaces and culture, and as a result, the employee experience was completely disrupted. It’s refreshing to see, however, how engagement improved as employees found a deeper appreciation for the positions they hold.”

For the past two decades, Quantum Workplace’s Best Places to Work program has been evaluating ways in which employee experiences make organizations successful. More information about Best Places to Work’s methodology and survey from the report can be found here.

Quantum Workplace has secured a leadership position as the data provider for nearly 50 regional Best Places to Work programs in the U.S.

Quantum Workplace, a human resources technology provider, delivers modern tools for employee success that high-performance organizations have come to rely upon. Nearly 20 years ago, the Company pioneered some of the earliest employee engagement and performance software, and has since partnered with thousands of organizations to elevate employee, team, and business success.

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