For the last few months, the focus for many businesses has been on survival during these difficult times, but now that the initial shock has subsided, it’s time to plan for the future.
Your people are the lifeblood of your business, which is why you should invest in them.
Your business goals and objectives may have changed due to the pandemic and, while it’s great that you have adapted, have you stopped to consider how your employees are feeling? Their goals and objectives, work location, and ways of working may have also changed, and it could be affecting them in ways you do not realise.
In order to make your organisation a great place to work, it’s essential to understand how they are feeling about the situation, their roles and their future career.
The H.A.P.P.Y method
H.A.P.P.Y is my approach to creating a team that will help you reach your goals this year, meaning you will have a Happy And Productive Profitable Year. The system covers:
- Hearing from your employees.
- Achieving the balance.
- People: development, training, career maps, succession planning.
- Processes: getting everything in order including recruitment and performance systems.
- Your own learning and development strategy.
Hearing from your employees
As we move forward together into new ways of working, now is the time to seek your employees’ feedback, whether that’s through a survey, focus group, or over a coffee (or perhaps a virtual one).
Open questions are the best as they give you the best chance of collecting valuable information and insights. Questions you could ask include:
1. How have you found working during the lockdown period?
This will give a sense straight away of whether it has been a positive or negative experience.
2. What if anything, have you done differently and why?
Seeking this kind of feedback will allow employees to discuss whether processes or systems have had to be changed and you can then lead on to ask if there has been reduced/increased working time, and how this has impacted on the service provided. Not only is now the time to be focussing on your employee experience, it’s great time to be reviewing your systems and processes that serve your customers. It also empowers your employees to recognise if they have made changes for the better and think about how they can continue to work this way.
3. Is there anything you don’t think has worked well?/ Is there anything that you think has worked well?
Asking this helps you to get an idea about engagement levels and the current state of the workplace culture. From this you may get feedback on the communication channels and frequency, and whether it has been sufficient. Workload, work location and support may be brought up, but it is good to hear the negative and positive. What you as leaders might think has worked well may have been perceived differently by your staff, so take it all onboard.
Achieving the balance
Once you know how your people are feeling you can look at how this sits with your plans for the business. Is there anything that you can change based on feedback that will still align with your goals and objectives? If their feedback is around current working arrangements, for example, how could those arrangements be changed – e.g. could you explore different locations or ways of working as an alternative? Is there additional support that you can provide to help people through this time?
This is about creating a workplace where your employees feel valued and recognised for the work they are doing in a stressful situation. It also goes a long way for your reputation as an employer when it shows that you have listened and reacted to feedback. If there are some points raised that you cannot change for whatever reason, be transparent and provide the reasons why you can’t make the changes.
Your people are the lifeblood of your business, which is why you should invest in them. Are there any development opportunities you could offer them, such as training, job shadowing, cross-skilling or secondment? Is now the time to look at the business and ensure that succession planning is there and there are career maps for those who want to progress within the company?
For those of you who have had to reduce your headcount, has this created skills gaps? A great way to strengthen the skills of your employees is to create a skills matrix that shows all of the tasks completed within the company and who can complete them. This provides a great picture of weaker and stronger areas that you can address to ensure business runs smoothly should there be any absences etc. You don’t even need to have reduced your headcount to implement a skills matrix – it’s a great tool to strengthen your workforce in any case.
In this context, when we refer to processes we’re talking about that centre on your people, such as recruitment, onboarding, probationary periods, performance management, reward and recognition. Based on the feedback you have received at the beginning of the H.A.P.P.Y process, this may be where you need to make some changes.
If you are looking to improve the workplace culture, a good place to start is looking at how you recruit and whether you are recruiting the right people. Analyse recent campaigns and look if you attracted the right candidates to apply in the first place. It’s also a good idea to speak to new starters and get their feedback. Do you have a high turnover? If so, what is the feedback you are getting when people leave? Do you have a probationary period because there is nothing worse than having an employee that doesn’t fit with the culture? Making changes to your recruitment process may help you in the long term.
Employees love to be recognised for what they do. If they go the extra mile for your customers without any commission or target incentives, a recognition scheme could motivate them even further. Lockdown has been hard for everyone. Some of your employees might be parents trying to work with chaos surrounding them, or people living on their own craving the office environment. You may have staff with mental and physical health issues for whom this has been an especially challenging time. These are the people that have kept the business alive, kept serving your customers and upholding your reputation as a great company. These people need to feel recognised and rewarded for their efforts – going forward that is what will set your organisation apart as a great place to work.
Your own learning and development strategy
Everything discussed so far links to a learning and development strategy, and this should fit with your overall business strategy. Listening to your employees alongside your leadership team will help create a vision of what the business should look like. In order to drive the business forward, you need to invest in developing the people who work within it.
Succession and career development planning will help with your overall business planning. Having some kind of performance framework, whether it is an appraisal system or something less formal, will show that you are committed to investing and developing your people, and also ensure you have the skills your business needs in house.
Getting processes in place that are streamlined and in line with the strategy may be a lot of work, but will make things easier and cost effective in the long run. All of this will create a happy, loyal and committed workforce, which will impact on your productivity and profits.
As we emerge from what has been a challenging year for everyone, it’s time to embrace the opportunities that this new start brings. Coming back with a renewed focus on employee experience can only be a good thing, and will position your organisation for success in the future.
Interested in this topic? Read Mental wellbeing at work: how organisations can DOSE employees happy.