• Departure, 
  • Retention

  April 16, 2020

Fostering Employee Engagement During a Time of Crisis

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, many tourism and hospitality employers have suddenly been faced with making tough business and financial decisions in order to comply with government legislated restrictions (e.g. physical distancing measures) as well as maintaining the viability of their business.

4 min read

Fostering Employee Engagement During a Time of Crisis

This has meant temporarily having to close their doors and/or scaling back their workforces through lay-offs and in many cases terminations. Employers have had to say good-bye to workers who are not just employees, but also friends and family.

Eventually this crisis will pass and when it does, businesses will want to be prepared to bring their employees back and return to operations as quickly as possible. As we look ahead, the world of recruitment will likely be very different post-crisis as impacted employers across the entire country will be challenged to recall and re-establish their workforces.  The competition for skilled talent will eventually return. Studies also show that the longer people are off work, the less likely they are to return in any capacity.  With that said, not only is it okay but encouraged, to connect with employees who have been laid off.

The question is, what can and should employers be doing now to remain connected and foster engagement with employees during this time of crisis (so that they want to come back), even while they are not on the payroll?

Below are 4 tips to help employers stay in contact and maintain relationships with employees who are on a temporary layoff:

1. Remain connected, as individuals and a team

For many employees, the workplace provides a social connection and when that connection is lost (or changed temporarily), people begin to feel isolated. Encourage employees to reach out and remain in contact with you and their fellow colleagues. Where possible, offer assistance, share local resources and information that may be of help to employees (and encourage others to do the same). Consider setting up a schedule for regular communication and invite employees to attend and contribute.


  • Create a closed group Facebook page or Instagram account just for your employees. Allow employees to create posts, share funny jokes, photos/videos
  • Run a contest and encourage employees to create a fun hashtag for everyone to use and share on social media
  • Send out weekly newsletters, emails – encourage contributions (Employees at True Key Hotels & Resorts are encouraged to submit stories and photos for weekly Pet Profiles in their newsletter)
  • Offer a weekly video drop-in call – set up groups on Zoom, Facetime, WhatsApp or Skype
  • Host a weekly Houseparty and encourage employees to join and play online trivia and other games
  • Share/post inspirational videos or podcast. The Conference Board of Canada offers a video series focused on Mental Health and COVID-19, that addresses a range of topics including: Physical activity, Emotional fragility, Play with happiness, GET gratitude and others.

2. Recognize personal celebrations (birthdays, work anniversaries, personal accomplishments)

Show employees how much they mean to you and your business by taking time to recognize and celebrate special occasions with employees. A celebration, particularly during this challenging time may also provide a welcome, and likely much needed, positive distraction for you and your team.


  • Start an e-card and encourage employees to add a personalized note, photo or other image (Check out Kudoboard)
  • Arrange a surprise video call with the rest of the team
  • Coordinate employees to decorate their vehicles with balloons and signs for a drive-by celebration
  • Coordinate a surprise delivery to the employee’s home (flowers, pizza or other meal)
  • Take photos of video chats and share on social media (use the hashtag from tip #1 above)

3. Provide business updates

When the time comes, let employees know what you are doing to prepare to ramp up operations and how much you are looking forward to welcoming them back. Generate excitement around the return of employees and invite them to participate and contribute ideas to help rebuild the business.


  • Plan a welcome back/thanks for sticking with us event for employees
  • Post/share photos via emails or social media – “We are getting ready to open… all we need is you!” (Check out the Daily Greeting videos on Predator Ridge Resort’s Facebook page. Employees and their families record short videos for their guests both from the resort and home.  Employers could do similar and send brief videos for employees)
  • Crowdsource input by sending out online Doodle polls for employees to “vote” on new menu items or events. Encourage idea submissions during online meetings using collaboration tools such as Slido
  • Host video calls and invite employees to contribute ideas for reopening activities or events

4. Provide or share opportunities for training and/or personal development

Being laid off can be a very difficult time for employees; mentally, emotionally and financially. Encouraging and providing employees with opportunities to learn and develop their skills while they are off work will show that you are still interested and invested in them. Provide training opportunities that align with employee personal interests and/or development goals, help set them up for success when they return to work.

Ongoing training or personal development during a lay off may also help some individual cope within a difficult situation, where much is outside of their control. It can provide a distraction, something to look forward to and work towards, and provide a sense of accomplishment (and another reason to celebrate) when completed.


While many of these tips involve little to no financial cost, they will require time, creativity and meaningful intent to make them happen. The effort that employers make now to remain connected to their teams will be rewarded as engaged employees will be more likely to return and contribute when the business is able to return to normal functions.  The return of engaged employees will not only mean reduced recruitment and training costs, it will also mean a speedier return to productivity and revenue generation as employees will be well positioned to welcome guests back and deliver a high-quality service experience that they will be craving.

go2HR is BC’s tourism & hospitality, human resources and health & safety association driving strong workforces and safe workplaces that deliver world class tourism and hospitality experiences in BC. Follow us on LinkedIn or reach out to our team.