Maintaining communication with remote employees
Many of us have had to get used to working remotely, and ‘normal’ daily life has been uprooted as people juggle work and family needs such as childcare. As much as we all try to maintain some semblance of structure at the moment, there is no longer such a thing as a normal working day.
On top of that, people are feeling varying degrees of pressure not to ‘waste’ their time in lockdown and to use the time productively. This, along with people both working in their living space and living in their workspace, means that we are seeing the issue of employee burnout morphing and coming to the fore during this pandemic. Individuals are struggling to keep the two spheres of home and work life separate and so never truly switch off.
This is an issue that HR departments need to investigate and address. However, there is now a bigger gap than ever between HR and employees that needs to be bridged, at a time when capturing employee sentiment is more valuable than ever.
In today’s hyper-connected world, the way in which companies engage with people on a daily basis is extremely important. And now, with no clear resolution for remote working in sight, the way in which you communicate now with your employees will not only be important for their engagement and experience, but will dictate the way in which your business is run in the coming months.
As such, below are our three key suggestions on what HR leaders can be doing at this time to ensure open communication with employees in order to maintain a positive EX.
- Always on feedback
The key idea in improving EX is ensuring employees feel heard. This will not only help them feel valued and help you understand how to help them work effectively from home, it also encourages a more open environment of communication overall, enabling you to collect more accurate and actionable insights now and in the future.
Traditional surveys are not the answer here. Employee sentiment can change from one day to the next, and feedback received by HR from a survey taken last week might not accurately reflect what their employees are feeling this week. Not only is the majority of feedback thus unactionable, employees also recognise the inability of surveys to accurately capture their sentiment and action real change, and so do not take the time to say exactly how they feel.
Our recommendation would be to found an ‘always on’ new way of working. Right now, employees want to hear from these senior leaders and know that thoughtful decisions are being made to support their customers and themselves. For leaders that means this is a time for listening above all.
The key idea is to empower employees to provide feedback and ideas easily throughout the course of the day, rather than assailing them with a list of questions. An always on, therefore, should be short, consisting of just two or three questions, including an open-ended question, all focused on how the company is supporting employees. Then, having regular, virtual team “huddles” to discuss this feedback can be hugely effective. These not only give employees some sense of routine and structure while working from home, they also demonstrate that their feelings and ideas are valued and taken seriously.
- Act on your employees’ best ideas
Listening to your employees is the first part of great EX. Taking action is the second part, and equally as important – you have to act on employee ideas to demonstrate that you have listened, and understand and value what they have to say. This is important for two reasons. It shows employees that the communication really is working both ways, giving them confidence in the process. It also means you can pinpoint any employee issues including burnout and begin to put measures in place to help.
For example, during huddles, particular focus can be given to “Elevations” (ideas for action). Once an Elevation is proposed during a huddle, its implementation can then be tracked transparently by everyone. While Elevations are often low-tech, simple fixes, these minor adjustments can have major benefits not only for employees but also for customers.
- Deploy technology to your advantage
In managing a remote workforce, both promoting an employee-centric EX and using technology to do so are crucial. With virtual contact the only method of communication, we need to employ technology to help us make the EX more human, not less.
The best way to ensure you are acting on employee ideas whilst remote from your workforce is to implement a culture of decentralised collaboration; to encourage creativity and innovation during this time, you might consider establishing an internal digital community among employees using a crowdsourcing platform. Such a system can blur the lines between hierarchies, actively encouraging employees, who may only be regularly in contact with their distinct team or department, to break away from silos and collaborate, and can bridge the physical distance we are experiencing at the moment, all of which will be a powerful driver of employee happiness.
Plus, setting up a cohesive digital community now means that an atmosphere of open communication and internal collaboration will persist long after we’re all back in the office. And companies that are serious about maintaining a positive employee experience in the long term should look at this period of lockdown as a unique opportunity to instil a legacy of community and communication throughout their organisation.