The COVID-19 pandemic is testing businesses worldwide. Uncertainty makes planning difficult, and the rapid rate of change the crisis is imposing on many businesses is pressuring employees and making it difficult for leaders to maintain alignment and focus. One company that’s keeping it together and innovating is Kolbe Corp., a Phoenix-based talent assessment company and creator of the Kolbe A (™) Index.

Kolbe, a long-time Engagement Multiplier client, recently achieved its highest-ever engagement score on their quarterly Benchmark Assessment – the employee engagement survey designed to enable leaders to gauge engagement across the organization – in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Crisis is a common enemy that pulls us together,” says Amy Bruske, Kolbe’s president. “But if you’re already in it together, it gives you something to feel purposeful about.”

When that employee survey closed in mid-March, the pandemic crisis was worsening across the land, and Kolbe’s lead pipeline all but dried up. However, leadership was armed with insight from prior surveys, knew what their employees needed, and were ready to act. The ability to communicate proactively, combined with the company’s strong culture and commitment to their purpose created clarity and confidence for the whole company, and as the March assessment showed, the team was fully aligned and engaged.

“Business units are at an increased advantage and more resilient than their peers if employee engagement is strong. And they are at an increased disadvantage and less resilient if employee engagement is weak during a recession.” according to Gallup’s Jim Harter in a webinar earlier this year entitled, “Building Resilience: How Managers Lead Post-Crisis Performance.” “Having an engaged organization will help your organization emerge stronger post COVID19.”

Communication proves to be key 

“We’re trying to over-communicate, which isn’t our thing,” said Bruske. “We ramped up communication big-time and increased the number of meetings, and really talked openly about what’s happening, and where we’re going. That was validated in the most recent survey, and in the comments. We appreciated the feedback we received about confidence in leadership.”

Building confidence and trust in leadership pays extra dividends during a crisis. When employees have trust in leadership, they will willingly drive and support change, even when the situation is ambiguous and planning is fluid.

“Because there is trust we can move more quickly,” noted Bruske. “We can say ‘We can’t stop right now to tell you what’s going on but please come with us,’ and people trust that there’s a reason behind it. That level of commitment allows us to move quickly.”

And move quickly Kolbe did, pivoting swiftly away from talent assessment tools to strengthening personal relationships.

The pivot to innovation 

“We started innovating immediately, even though it was tempting to curl up in a ball,” said Bruske. “Our mission is to help people, teams and organizations thrive by better understanding themselves. We started to experiment a lot, looking at how we could help improve peoples’ lives.”

The company stepped out of its comfort zone and began to focus on its Takes Two relationship assessment for couples. More than 400 people registered for their first webinar. “We’ve had an enormous response,” reflected Bruske. “We started pushing the envelope and innovating, but everything we do is tied to the mission.”

“We are not giving up on our culture.”

Commitment to culture 

That culture is hard-won and intentionally developed and is central to Kolbe’s ability to build an engaged organization around a clear central purpose.

“We’ve figured out what kind of culture we want to build, and who wants to be here,” noted Bruske. “It matters to them what we do.”

Staying true to the company’s mission is also proving instrumental to keeping the team resilient and connected during the pandemic.

“We keep focusing on our mission,” Bruske noted. “We’re doing some of our most important work right now, and people feel connected to doing something that is important.

employee engagement survey

How resilient is your team?

You can start to measure your own team’s resilience a few different ways. Gauging their level of engagement is an important step, and getting a baseline understanding of where your organization stands is something you should do sooner rather than later. Why? Simple. Establishing the baseline gives you a starting point from which to build, and the employee engagement survey will generate a short list of improvements you can start work upon immediately.

To help build resilience, it’s also wise to ask employees about their learnings during the Covid crisis. What processes did they invent to support changes in their work? What insights do they have about your customers? What should the company start doing, stop doing, and continue doing as the new normal unfolds? Gathering their feedback will do more than simply provide you with important insights – in giving your employees a voice, you increase their sense of ownership and personal investment in the future of the business. Do it often enough, and you’ll find the team becomes more nimble and embodies a “can-do” spirit. This is improved resilience.

Assess your team – fast and for free

We’ve created the “Emerge Stronger” question set to gather the sorts of insights described above, and are adding it to our Benchmark Assessment – our core employee engagement survey – and making both available free to business owners, to support the business community. For details, click here: