Companies of all sizes have had to step up employee communications to keep their newly remote workforces engaged and informed during the COVID-19 pandemic. Employers are tasked with getting the right information to the right employees without overloading their inboxes. But that’s only half the work. Listening to employee feedback during a crisis is an equally important part of employee care.
Employees want to hear from their organizations about concerns like the coronavirus, racial equality and return to work, but they also want to be heard.
Why employee feedback during a crisis is important
Employees who feel a sense of open and honest communication are subsequently more engaged at work, perform better and have more trust in their organization.
When employees feel their voice is heard, they’re nearly five times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. And employee empowerment in the workplace is a key predictor of engagement and other outcomes.
A responsive employee listening strategy can foster team performance and engagement as well as instill a sense of trust, support and inclusion. And when organizations provide the support necessary for effective and positive communication, it signals to employees that they are valued, cared for and respected.
How an employee listening strategy helps managers
Times of crisis can present an opportunity to strengthen communication among managers and employees. With new working arrangements, it’s time to take a look at the communication tools your organization is using to give and receive employee feedback.
Using two-way communication channels enables employees to ask and respond to questions, express concerns and get answers.
For example, one question to ask employees is whether working in an office is best: Do they want office or remote jobs? Even if you can’t create a custom work plan for each employee, you can learn which aspects of the office matter most. And you’ll learn some valuable lessons about how your employees work best.
An employee listening strategy also empowers managers to be proactive and ask their teams what else they may need.
5 Employee feedback tools to help create conversation
Seeking employee feedback during a crisis not only improves performance and engagement, but it also helps individuals navigate stressful situations and adapt to change. Use these five employee feedback tools to help connect your team in conversation.
1. Pulse surveys
An annual employee survey is still a popular engagement tool, but more organizations are using the shorter, more frequent pulse survey to get real-time employee feedback. Surveys can be administered via newsletters, chatbots, mobile apps, email and the intranet. But before you’ve collected the data, make sure to have a plan to act on your insights. Determine how results will be communicated, and know who will be responsible for implementing changes.
2. Online Q&As
Use your company’s videoconferencing software to host an online “Ask HR” company meeting or a virtual town hall to build trust and community. Use an agenda to limit the number of topics and keep employees engaged. Make sure to leave time for questions, and proactively ask for input from people who typically don’t speak up.
3. A truly mobile intranet
Many companies are now trying to reach a remote workforce in addition to a deskless workforce. Your intranet needs to do more than fit on a phone screen, it needs to function as a two-way communications tool. Consider using a mobile app that’s less cluttered than most company intranets, easier to access and offers push notifications, among other features.
4. Communication with a call to action
Organizational leaders play an influential role in how organizational communication is received by employees. Leaders not only set norms around how to communicate but can also directly motivate or inhibit employee voice behaviors.
Employees expect to hear from leadership, but there’s no denying that email bogs down workflow. Make sure to cut through the clutter with relevant and useful information. Include a call to action for employee feedback — such as a link to a pulse survey or form.
5. An employee engagement platform
Invest in an employee engagement platform that connects employees, managers and leaders in a real, culturally significant way — in stable times as well as uncertain times. Look for a solution that breaks the cycle of surveys without action, managers without direction and employees without updates.
Climates where employees feel psychological safety in sharing their authentic selves and taking interpersonal risks increase feelings of trust and inclusion. In order for employees to experience a climate where positive exchange and communication is ‘what we do’, begins with a focus on cultural beliefs. Organizations can do this by creating norms for these types of behaviors and developing practices and policies that encourage interpersonal risks, information sharing and voice behaviors (e.g., providing time for employee input during company meetings, providing formal processes in which employee are a part of organizational decision making).
With the myriad recommendations being proposed to help organizations return to work — legal policies, safety protocols, HR policies — it’s important to establish or re-evaluate your employee feedback tools. Employees are managing enough uncertainty in the world. Make sure your organization doesn’t contribute to it with the right employee listening strategy. When organizations approach communication with a lens of care, it has the ability to powerfully impact the overall employee experience.