Upgrade your employee listening for the new normal
The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the importance of listening to staff and focusing on the employee experience in order to keep businesses operational. As we inch out of the crisis, HR teams will need to upgrade their listening strategies to make them fit for purpose for the new world we’re entering.
In the midst of the lockdown, listening to employees was vital to ensuring the workforce could adapt to the working from home experience. Most organisations did all they could to support their staff and Questback’s research reveals the overwhelming majority of employees (88%) believed their leaders cared about their health and well-being. Given the scale of the disruption to people’s normal working lives and the speed at which organisations had to react, however, there were clear areas for improvement. Feedback from employees was crucial to identifying and addressing these.
Going forward as the restrictions are gradually lifted and people return to offices while observing new rules and safety protocols, organisations must focus on four key areas:
- Maintaining trust in senior management
For many organisations who have been hit hard, job losses will be inevitable as they reshape to cope with the new world they find themselves in. Some businesses will go under or be acquired by rivals and employees will be anxious about their own futures. People will look to their company’s leaders to do the right thing by the organisation and its workforce. Trust in senior management will be critical. Listening to employees, acknowledging their concerns and creating a crystal clear and honest dialogue about future plans will be vital to dissipating anxiety and allaying unfounded fears.
- Making employee safety, health and wellbeing a priority
With social distancing likely to remain for the foreseeable future both at work and in the home, staff will demand reassurance that the working environment is safe for themselves and others, particularly in industries that involve face-to-face contact, such as transport, education, tourism and hospitality. There is also a growing awareness of the importance of supporting the mental, as well as physical, health of employees, which have already been impacted during the strict lockdown period.
- Embracing diverse ways of working
While working home from home was obligatory for many companies during lockdown, there’s no doubt that some employees will now have a preference for it. Many will not want to return to full-time office-based working, either because of health concerns or other commitments or because they now realise it suits their lifestyle. Meeting the needs of employees who are embracing multiple different ways of working is a challenge and can only be met through listening and understanding their requirements in order to create an inclusive experience for all.
- Having a clear purpose
An existing trend that has been accelerated by the pandemic is the desire to work for organisations that have a clear purpose, operate ethically and display social responsibility. Many businesses have demonstrated the importance of this during the crisis, by trying to give back and help their communities and people. This in turn has generated greater staff loyalty from those who’ve seen their employers adopting more responsible behaviours and who place a high value on caring for their workforce and for the wider community.
New ways of listening for a new world of work
The new normal we are entering and the new ways of working it brings demand new ways of listening. This is accelerating the pre-existing trend away from a single, annual employee engagement survey to more continuous listening and engagement. The importance of feedback, two-way communication and a positive employee experience are now front of mind for everyone, whether employees, managers or HR teams.
Any organisation that wants to successfully negotiate the changes that are coming has to start with its most valuable asset – its people. In order to ensure a happy, motivated and productive workforce, HR teams need to drive improvements in how they operate - and this starts with collecting and acting on more regular, flexible feedback, with surveys focused on employees’ evolving concerns.
It is time to implement (or extend) continuous listening programmes so that they identify and present employee insights in a way that makes it easy for managers to take action - as well as to measure the impact of any changes they make and continually improve the employee experience.
It is impossible to predict what will happen over the next few years. In times of such great uncertainty and instability, businesses will need to rely more than ever on timely employee insights. Ongoing feedback from the workforce will be key to helping organisations stay flexible, agile and responsive to the changes that are coming.