Should I stay or should I go? That’s the question many employees have asked themselves in recent weeks as the advice around working from home continues to evolve. Just as many settled in to remote working, they were told they should return to the office. A little over a month into this policy, however, government advice once more shifted to ‘work from home if you can’. Alongside the broader social impact of Covid-19, this flip-flopping communications strategy has had a profound impact on employees, their wellbeing, and their performance.
Whilst it is not possible to give employees the autonomy that they were used to in the pre-pandemic era, it is still possible to help them feel valued by taking their feedback, and allowing them input into the creation of a positive working culture.
For businesses, having a comprehensive understanding of how staff are coping is critical. It radically affects employee performance, team cohesiveness, and ultimately the bottom line. Establishing a strong feedback loop between HR and the wider workforce will help HR keep its finger on the pulse of employee sentiment, and inform the employee experience at every step.
How employee feedback shapes the workplace
Feedback can and should shape the employee workplace experience. Currently, both within the workplace and outside of it people are being forced to accept the guidelines issued by the government, irrespective of their personal views. This is in stark contrast to the environment forward-thinking HR leaders have tried to create within the workplace, giving employees a voice in large decisions and making them feel heard.
Whilst it is not possible to give employees the autonomy that they were used to in the pre-pandemic era, it is still possible to help them feel valued by taking their feedback, and allowing them input into the creation of a positive working culture, whilst working from home. Employee experience still exists even when the office does not.
This could be as simple as giving employees a mechanism to flag when they are experiencing Zoom fatigue or conversely, if they want more virtual social experiences. It could also involve giving workers a safe way to let you know they feel comfortable meeting colleagues, or if they are anxious about using public transport. Feedback can be instrumental in protecting the workplace experience by catching and addressing negative feedback early on. In a physical office environment, it is easier to spot when an individual is feeling negative or struggling with a certain aspect of their role. Conversations can quickly be initiated to offer support or resolve any issues before they spiral out of control and start impacting the wider team.
When working remotely, those social cues aren’t as obvious, and problems become much harder to identify. This is where implementing a standardised structure to facilitate regular check-in meetings that cover all bases, really pays dividends. Having a solution in place to listen and act on this type of feedback prevents any individuals from feeling disenfranchised. Reporting this back into HR, or inputting it into an automated system means there is an additional layer of expertise to notice behaviour patterns or trends that imply an individual is displaying negative sentiment.
When negative experiences can be addressed before they spiral or impact engagement, resolution will typically be easier – and more engaged employees means there’s decreased risk of the customer experience suffering.
Leveraging digital workforce survey data
Whether employees return to the office or have to stop coming in altogether, HR can anticipate a lot of questions over the coming months, some easier to respond to than others. As government policies change, queries will continue to crop up. An influx of questions doesn’t have to result in delayed responses and an overstretched service desk, which could do further damage to employee sentiment.
A self-service employee portal or workforce experience layer that empowers employees to find answers themselves or source from their peers will help them get what they need faster whilst taking the pressure off HR, and can be built with a number of elements designed to gauge employee feeling, including:
- Chatbots that are pre-programmed to answer common questions.
- Short pulse surveys to gauge employee sentiment regularly.
- Pop-up surveys that ask one question per day to maintain a constant flow of information.
- Employee engagement surveys to provide a holistic view.
- FAQ documents and articles that are easy to navigate to.
- Encouraging engagement with fellow employees through the ability to post a comment or respond to each other’s questions.
- Clear communications for employees on what to do if they feel they cannot return to the workplace.
It’s more important today than ever before to move away from the comfort blanket of annual surveys. Generic, long-winded and infrequent, they fail to capture accurate data that truly reflects employee views about what is working versus what isn’t. We need to move away from this archaic model towards a more agile approach that asks the right questions, to the right person, at the right time. Only then will HR get the insight it needs to make changes and improvements that the workforce will actually value.
Information gathered from real-time, relevant feedback can be incorporated into any re-entry strategy, and should continue to be used to capture how employees are feeling post re-entry. When people strategy is genuinely informed by people, positive results naturally follow.
With a range of personalisation features and the ability to integrate with a wide variety of external HR tools, workforce experience layers make it easy to survey staff and ensure the employee experience addresses current needs and challenges. Now that hybrid working (part office-based, part remote) is likely to be a key part of most businesses’ long-term future, people won’t always be able to quickly ask a question in-person. After all, there’s no telling what the future holds with regards to Covid-19 and the workplace – but with the right feedback tools in place and an agile approach, businesses can have the confidence that employee experiences can remain positive.
Interested in this topic? Read Employee experience 2020: a shift from ping-pong tables to respect.