As workplace and face-to-face interactions have diminished during the pandemic, employees have become all but ‘invisible’ to their employers. There are no longer any ‘water cooler’ moments, or the subtle insights into colleagues’ lives we’re usually drip-fed without even realising it. Throw in Zoom fatigue and the general cessation of video calls for any purpose other than the bare minimum required within the boundaries of the job, and employees’ lives – both personal and professional – are more hidden from employers than they have ever been. So how do you even begin to go about improving the experience of an employee you can’t see?
Maintaining communication is key
The hardest part of working remotely is maintaining communication. Every communication, whether it’s via email, instant message or video call, feels like a bigger deal than a passing comment in the office, and anything unrelated to work may feel irrelevant or unprofessional, which means a lot of issues that employees are having that managers and HR leaders might normally have been aware of are being missed. Employers and HR leaders need to zone in on collecting as many signals from their employees as possible in order to accurately track their sentiment, and then using these findings to decide which areas of the employee experience to prioritise and target.
For example, one employee might be struggling with burnout, and need support directly from their manager, while another employee may have a personal issue they need to share because it’s affecting their work, but at the same time may feel uncomfortable sharing with someone they haven’t seen in months. Nevertheless, it’s still very important for HR leaders to know all of this information, as any issues employees are having are likely to be affecting how effectively they are doing their job. Even just scheduling regular, more social calls or ‘coffee breaks’ with employees where work isn’t the primary topic of conversation can encourage them to communicate more openly.
Use technology to your advantage
One of the most effective ways in which to gather signals is through using technology to its full advantage and establishing two-way communication with employees. In their attempts to maintain a connection with employees, companies are often very focused on sending communication out, but perhaps think less about, or struggle to find an easy way, to listen to and understand what employees have to say themselves.
One way in which to do this is by using video. As well as check-in calls, the CEO or team manager could send out a regular short video. This doesn’t have to be a high-tech operation, just a short message recorded on a phone or a laptop in whatever space that person works from in their home. In fact, if a bit of the commotion we have all become used to over the past year – whether that’s a dog barking, or children vying for attention, or the latest package arriving on a doorstep – makes a guest appearance, so much the better. Even just this shared experience can help employees feel less isolated from those they work with.
The key with a video like this is including an option for employees to respond. This could be in whatever form they feel most comfortable with, such as a traditional written comment or even recording their own short video in response. As soon as they respond, a more personal, two-way connection has been initiated. The employee responses can then all be run through a simple technology system that intelligently digests it into content, emotion and sentiment for the company leaders, enriching the insights gained from employee signals. This can help employees to speak up about something they might otherwise have not previously communicated that is having an impact on the work they’re doing. Using video or text analysis on top of this also means HR leaders have a much greater insight into the employee sentiment behind the response.
Give yourself the best chance of receiving all employee signals
As the issues that employees will need to raise can range widely – in topic and severity of situation – challenges arise as to how to best manage the way that they are reported and acted on. The way in which each of these problems are reported will be different, as well as needing to be addressed by different people. A broken laptop, for example, will need a direct response from the appropriate manager, while an employee might want to let peers know about an illness or problem at home while being uncomfortable sharing it with their manager.
On top of this, the company’s response to each issue needs to be different too, whether it’s a fast and efficient response, or one that handles the matter delicately and with compassion. Or, in the case of something that is potentially affecting employees company-wide, such as unhappiness with corporate benefits, managers might want a way of gathering additional input from others in the company before responding.
Once again, we can use technology to fill the gap in operations and gain meaningful signals in a subtle enough way to encourage employees to share, as well as to funnel these varied signals to the people who can interpret the data correctly and are best placed to respond. An anonymous, intelligent employee experience tool can handle all these variations, listening to and interpreting a wide range of employee signals, enabling triggered alerts and incorporating analytics to enrich insights for HR leaders.
Every employee continues to seek wellbeing as well as support from their employers right now. While employee needs are concealed from HR leaders during lockdown, the voice of the employee is the most important signal that can be leveraged in deciphering how to keep meeting these needs. Investing in solutions that provide a system of response means we can listen faster, respond appropriately and make the invisible employee feel seen.