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COVID Learning #2: Employees Want To Be Heard

Prior to the COVID-19 pandemic, planning for a workplace listening survey began months in advance. Leaders dissected the corporate calendar for just the right time, trying to avoid the busy times, the performance management cycle, popular summer vacation times, potential organizational changes, and the rollout of new initiatives. Looking for the “ideal” time to ask for employee feedback was a careful balancing act that would inevitably come crashing down when change happened anyway – despite the best laid plans.

In 2020, there was no luxury of time to search the calendar. Leaders needed insights now, so they could make hard decisions about how to keep employees safe and help them succeed in their changing work environment. At Perceptyx, we rolled out a series of surveys to all of our clients related to COVID-19 and remote work. These employee surveys allowed leaders to get relevant insights about how to manage the pandemic and support their workforce at the precise moment when the information was needed. Companies that historically had planned months in advance for a survey were suddenly launching them within hours.

The crisis pushed leaders to act with urgency. It forced organizations to try a different approach, and proved that listening on demand can be done. This experience showed that a time of crisis or uncertainty isn’t an excuse to push off the employee survey, it’s a reason to do one. It essentially proved why listening to your employees is important: When things are challenging, changing, or falling apart – that’s the most important time to ask for feedback. This is when employees want to be heard, and when leaders most need to hear from them.

What we learned about listening to employees in the workplace:

1. Not listening can make leaders seem distant and disconnected.

Not asking for feedback during a turbulent time can speak volumes to employees, sending the message that leaders don’t care or don’t want to know. By asking timely and relevant questions during times of uncertainty, it shows that leaders are in touch and care about the experience employees are having. A targeted approach with survey content that is relevant to the current situation is critical. There are many different approaches and strategies organizations can take to listening in a crisis, and most can be effective. The only sure way to fail is not to listen at all.

2. Listening enables leaders to make better decisions.

In times of uncertainty, leaders need as much data and insight as possible to make more informed decisions and take more effective action. Asking employees for actionable feedback on critical topics as they emerge provides leaders the insights they need to proactively address potential concerns and challenges.

3. Listening is a two-way conversation, not a one-time event.

A survey is a great way to gather feedback from employees, but it’s also an important way for leaders to communicate what’s important to them. Asking for feedback on the difficult topics shows leaders care, but that’s just the beginning. It’s also critical that leaders communicate the results, act on them, and continue to evaluate their progress. Doing a survey is not a “check-the-box” activity.

4. There is no such thing as survey fatigue.

Many organizations hesitate to ask employees for feedback on emerging topics and challenges to avoid “survey fatigue.” The challenges of 2020 showed that was a bad excuse. Employees are not only willing but are eager to provide their feedback on topics that are meaningful to them, when they trust leaders will act on it. The fatigue only sets in when leaders stop acting and employee feedback is disregarded.

5. Employees need to have a voice in times of uncertainty.

Employees want to be heard. When they are feeling uncertain, unsafe, or stressed, they want leaders to know. Those are the most critical times to be checking in with employees. We gain much more meaningful insight in these moments than we do in the standard times leaders previously thought were ideal for surveying.

See the way forward to giving your employees a voice.

As we apply these lessons learned to survey strategies in the future, it’s important to remember there is never a better time than a crisis to listen. The best practice has not changed—it’s always been important to listen during times of uncertainty, but the pandemic proved that it can be done and it doesn’t take months of planning to do so.

The Perceptyx survey platform enables organizations to listen to their workforce at any time. The flexible technology combined with expert support allows for adaptability in defining a listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization, and provides insights when you need them most. Get in touch to see how we can help your organization develop the right listening strategy going forward.

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