Whilst recognising the devastating multiple effects of the pandemic on so many people, in many businesses there’s been an unexpected dividend. Bosses and workers are actually talking more. Forced together to seek solutions to daily issues they’ve never faced before.
We’re busy conducting employee engagement surveys, helping prudent leaders to check the pulse of the workforce more frequently than ever before. For some companies, investing in clever and capable employee engagement apps like www.staffbase.com prior to the current crisis have made this easier. These have really come into their own now. When you’re ‘always on’ with your workforce you build a dynamic internal discussion – conditioning people to respond more openly to specific enquiries when you need them to.
Engagement apps certainly provide a better solution to employee communications than having WhatsApp groups – which tend to be breeding grounds for miscommunication and indeed unrest. With an app the messaging is primarily one-way, but you can then decide how best to solicit responses. Single questions, quizzes, mini-surveys and compliance checking (where the employee has to confirm they have read and understood the message).
Another unexpected dividend comes in the nature of the responses we are seeing. Staff and unions are genuinely appreciative of employers who have taken steps to protect their health and income during these difficult times. But we must be pragmatic about just how well and how long businesses in distress can cushion their staff. We are seeing some sensible, open feedback on this.
We’re also gathering ideas for creating more productive workplaces in future. There’s a great deal of candour about how unproductive traditional workplaces and their habits can be. We’ve noted the wonderful term ‘presenteeism’ being used to describe cultures where the primary expectation is for staff to just be around, regardless of contribution.
When you ask the three golden questions – what should we do more of, less of, or stop doing – you garner a wealth of actionable information. Ten years ago, employee research (often foolishly named staff satisfaction surveys) usually produced a long list of complaints about wages, benefits and allowances. These were reviewed at senior executive level – often with much eye rolling and snorting – before being returned to the poor old HR department for (in)action.
These days, many employees are helping to change the discussion by prioritising the need for recognition over reward. The importance of being able to speak up and make a contribution to the business, rather than mutely carrying out the stream of directives issued from above. Employees are also more open about the ability and impartiality of the supervisors and managers placed over them.
Staff today are also far less willing to put up with discrimination of any kind. So expect some forthright conversations in the coming months and years – organisations will be all the better for it.