We’re all living in a difficult time. Covid-19 has changed virtually every aspect of our lives, from our ability to go out for dinner to where and how we perform our jobs. Many retail organizations remain closed, restaurants are serving take-out meals only, and businesses have pushed millions of employees out of their usual work environment and mandate that they work remotely.
Many of us are trying to do our jobs while managing our children, as schools and universities adapt to online classes. Some companies are hiring to meet unprecedented demand for their services, while sadly, others are contemplating layoffs. Manufacturers of essential goods are working at full tilt, despite employees’ concerns that coming to work can increase their risk of exposure to the virus. It’s anyone’s guess which organizations will weather this change, and how this experience will change the way we work and live going forward.
It sounds to me like this is the perfect time to do an employee survey.
Face it. There is no ‘normal’ anymore, no more business as usual. Organizations may never go back to the way things used to be. Employees are grappling with vast changes. They’re insecure about the future of their job and their company. They’re struggling to manage everything on their plates, both personally and professionally. They want to understand how this will impact their ability to meet their objectives and serve their customers, both internal and external. They may not have access to the tools and resources they need to get their jobs done. How will we help them if we don’t ask them how they are managing? And how will we lead our organizations through this difficult time if we don’t demonstrate that we need to hear the unembellished truth from them?
Let’s survey our employees, but let’s make sure we ask questions that are relevant to their current challenges. Yes, we want to measure current levels of engagement, and we need to recognize and accept that these could be less favourable than scores from previous surveys.
We need to include a mix of questions that allow us to track important trends that are central to the employee experience. It will be extremely valuable to understand if the current environment has shifted their perceptions of leadership, the future of the company, and their potential to grow and develop in the company.
We should also include some new questions that get at the core of their current situation. Do they have the tools and resources needed to work remotely? Do they understand the company’s strategy and/or actions regarding the current business environment? Do they feel safer and more secure working at home than in their usual work environment? Are they concerned about their jobs?
Explore the manager and team dynamic. This is the time when great managers can make all the difference. How often are employees connecting with their manager? What do they need most from their manager to be successful during these extraordinary times? Are actions being taken to hold employees close virtually, or do they feel isolated and alone? What concessions do employees need us to make given their challenge to manage both their jobs and their children?
I can assure you that it is not inevitable that survey scores will be less favourable during difficult times. If your company has a track record of investing in employees, of listening to honest feedback with an open mind and acting on that feedback, you may very well see improvements in confidence in leadership and the future success of the organization. But honestly, that doesn’t matter. We need the insights that will enable all of us to weather this storm. The willingness to ask questions during turbulent times will send a strong, positive signal to employees.
Now is the best time to do a survey.
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