Over the past several months, workers have been hit with a myriad of significant life challenges.
Some employees have been adjusting to working from home, and even having to become distance-learning facilitators due to the widespread closure of schools (while still trying to work.).
At the same time, others who have been deemed essential are continuing to come in to work under these highly stressful circumstances.
For businesses, the COVID-19 crisis has meant rapidly implementing new ways of working, or being forced to close entirely. Unfortunately, this means reductions in force through furloughs and layoffs for many companies.
You and your employees have almost certainly faced some –if not all – of these challenges.
Knowing this, it’s important to ask: how are you feeling now? And equally important: how are your employees feeling right now?
Have you remembered to check in on them?
Why it’s important to check in
Isn’t that the word that describes how we’re all feeling right now?
As an employer, though, you don’t want to be in the business of making assumptions on how your employees are feeling. Instead, you should be asking them directly.
It’s more important than ever now to find out: how they are feeling; what they need to excel; and how you can help provide that for them.
Even before COVID-19, employees had ranked empathy as a key characteristic they were seeking in their employers, as revealed in the Mercer Global Talent Trends report.
The current situation we are all experiencing is certainly no exception.
In fact, you as an HR professional should be ramping up your efforts to connect with employees in meaningful ways. As a result, you’ll be able to better identify specific actions you can take to support them and improve their experience.
Your employees are key for keeping your organization afloat in these challenging times, so it’s important they feel confident that leadership is invested in their own wellbeing.
Two-way communication is the key for making that happen. Let’s take a look at some suggestions for facilitating the conversation.
Craft an efficient and effective listening plan
It’s a good idea to connect with your employees in a variety of ways, typically beginning with the most direct connection: your employees’ managers.
The conversation should span beyond the expected work-related talking points – the manager can demonstrate empathy by asking a variety of questions that touch on all aspects of employees’ lives.
Starting with general questions such as, “How are you doing?” is a good way to establish a natural flow to the conversation.
After that, the manager can facilitate a meaningful two-way exchange by getting into questions that are more specific. These could include:
By asking these types of questions, the manager is able to find out how your organization can support the employee, as well as identify any possible challenges or risk factors.
At the same time, engaging this way allows the manager to demonstrate empathy and forge a stronger relationship with the employee.
In some cases, it might be worth considering if your organization should advance straight to administering pulse surveys after initiating manager-employee dialogue.
Your budget, perceived level of disruption, and the phase your organization is in relative to the crisis/disruption (e.g., responding to the disruption, returning to work, reinventing your organization) will all help you decide which steps to take and in which order.
Because of the social distancing situation, digital focus group tools can be excellent resources for virtually facilitating dynamic discussions among groups of employees to gain insight on a variety of topics in real-time.
However, a major key to ensuring success is making sure the questions will lead to meaningful insight and actionable outcomes.
Another alternative is to deploy evaluative pulse surveys online.
Pulse surveys tend to be short, easy to complete, and focused on one specific topic. They allow employers to quickly and frequently engage employees on a variety of topics, therefore enhancing communication.
Mercer has developed several pulse surveys that cover some of the most common topics relevant to a crisis. Moreover, they can be deployed easily. Topics include remote work, senior leader effectiveness, employee wellness, and confidence in the future.
Gaining employee insights on the topics listed above can be of great value to your organization, but the process doesn’t end with your pulse survey. You’ll see the real benefits after you share the results with employees and management has developed its results-driven action plan.
To reinforce just how important employee feedback is to your organization and to show that you value employees’ time, it’s key to deliver survey results and implement your action plan expediently.
In times of crisis, it’s all the more important to consider fast-tracking your response planning and implementation process to gain trust and inspire confidence from your employees.
In a matter of weeks, you need to collect feedback, identify priorities, implement solutions, and evaluate the impact (maybe even by deploying follow-up pulse surveys or digital focus groups).
Depending on the situation your organization is facing, you may even choose to deploy a response even more aggressively by turning the auctioning process on its head.
If there are clear issues that need to be addressed, perhaps you implement a solution first and then begin gathering feedback. This will allow you to demonstrate your willingness to act and then adjust the solution based on real-time feedback from employees.
However you do it, just engage
During times of crisis, silence from your organization is beyond deafening to your employees; your workforce needs to know that you care about their needs and are managing with confidence.
However you do it, you need to engage with employees – now more than ever.
COVID-19 is certainly creating some challenges, but it’s nothing that should stand in the way of deploying a robust employee listening and engagement plan.
Mercer is here to help as you navigate through this change and others as they come up. You can select from a variety of ready-to-go tools that will help you efficiently and effectively design a listening plan to meet your needs, address the topics of most concern, and provide your workforce with actionable results – all within your budget.
When you’re ready, we’re here to help.