This is a time of great uncertainty and anxiety for organizations and their employees. The lockdowns are changing the way we have worked for so many decades. Suddenly it has become normal to work from home for 90% plus workforce for weeks altogether with no clear end in sight before normal sets in. People are not travelling and social distancing is the new normal. Since we do not have a memory of something similar in the past few decades, it's causing immense stress and anxieties to the employees. What is adding to the concern is the financial impact and their health and wellbeing; it is far more personal and far less predictable.
During these times of uncertainty and challenge, it is important than ever to understand what your employees are going through every day. If you haven't asked them how they are feeling, what emotional or infrastructural support they need, what is concerning them, you are missing on critical insights about the most important pillars of your organization. While lockdowns and remote working are forcing everyone to be socially distant, having the right emotional support can let the employees feel more engaged, productive and resilient.
One of the best ways to do this is by listening to your employees to provide support. Investing in employee listening is not only critical to employee and team success-it's also beneficial to the entire organization. To get back on track to a path of success, it's important more than ever to listen to your employees and take action on their feedback to help them succeed.
Employee listening gives your employees a voice and surveys are all about listening. Surveys can demonstrate to the employees that organizations care for them, gain real-time feedback to take action or make an adjustment, provide feedback to managers to mentor their teams 1-on-1, and gain insights on how to move your business forward.
Would the traditional survey or methods work during this time? The overwhelming answer is NO. If your next engagement survey or quarterly pulse doesn't convey a sense of compassion and concern for the issues created by the lockdown -they may perceive it as uncaring. Asking wrong questions, too many questions, or taking no action or taking the wrong action at the wrong time could jeopardize the organization's efforts in providing much-needed support and comfort sought by the employees.
So what are a couple of things an organization should keep in mind while designing and getting the most value out of employee surveys. Based on our experience, here is our shortlist of things to keep in mind.
1. Never lose an opportunity to listen. In good times and bad. Focus on listening when the times are not good.
2. Show that you care. Your tone of the surveys and topics selected should be such that they show that you care. The choice of questions should be centred around employees, their challenges, and resources to make them successful
3. Focus on their most pressing concerns. It is important to focus on employees most-pressing concerns. Focus on areas that focus on your employee's safety, support requirements, productivity, well-being, and change management.
4. Survey Design. Survey design should be such that you don't burden your employees with too many questions. Roll-out surveys with limited questions frequently. Please keep the option open to ask open-ended questions so that employees do not get driven by your perspectives but can voice their independent opinions.
5. Type of Survey. There is no single survey that can meet the needs of the employees and the organizations in these unprecedented times. The best way is to use a combination of methods for best results. Listening should be an organization-wide responsibility and all people managers in their 1-on-1 or team meetings should ask employees about their concerns, use a mix of focus-groups, pulse or spot surveys to find out what employees feel and what support they need.
6. Transparently share what you have learned. The single most important thing that's keeping employees anxious is the uncertainty. Be transparent with them in terms of what you have learned and what are you going to do with it with a timeline.
7. Follow Up. After a couple of weeks follow up to find out that the concern is resolved.
In conclusion, now is the time to listen more than ever. In a couple of months, when things have somewhat returned to normal, the aim should be that the only memory that employees retain of these times is that their organization supported them emotionally and responded well during the time of crisis.