Insights Discussion: 10 Things COVID-19 Has Taught Us About Employee Surveys [VIDEO & RECAP]

By Perceptyx - July 02, 2020

While the COVID-19 pandemic has dramatically impacted daily lives, it has also impacted how organizations are listening to their employees. To help leaders act quickly, organizations have adjusted their employee listening strategies to equip leaders with the timely, relevant data needed to inform helpful actions. 

In this session, Sarah Johnson, PhD, VP of Enterprise Surveys and Analytics at Perceptyx, facilitated a discussion with four leaders: Kathy Randall, Director of Culture and Engagement at Ahold Delhaize, Zach Kalinoski, Talent & Workforce Analyst at NiSource, Mary Amundson, Director, Talent Programs and Analytics at Land O’Lakes, and Dalia Lenskis, Director of Engagement and Employee Experience at Mastercard. 

This discussion revealed 10 things COVID-19 has taught us about listening to employees through surveys.

1.  It’s always a good time to survey employees

Even during uncertain times, listening to employees is critical to show opinions are valued and to guide meaningful action. As Sarah Johnson explained, “we can’t assume that we understand what is going on, so this is the perfect time to collect more information.” Mary Amundson of Land O’Lakes echoed this point, sharing that many employees expressed their gratitude for being asked their opinions and concerns through a COVID-19 specific survey.

2.  The best leaders want to hear from their employees

Dalia Lenskis shared Mastercard’s leaders always want to hear from employees. In fact, listening is so important that resources were created to empower all levels of leadership to effectively listen to employees. For Ahold Delhaize leaders, it was critical to hear how all employees were experiencing this unique COVID-19 environment, recognizing they could not assume how employees were truly feeling. By asking some potentially tough and uncomfortable questions, leaders were able to gather the very specific feedback they needed to guide targeted actions, Kathy Randall shared. 

3.  Just asking “how’s it going” speaks volumes

Surveying is a great way to show the organization cares about employees, especially during challenging times. For example, Kathy Randall of Ahold Delhaize explained their store employees were extremely appreciative that the organization cared enough to ask how they were doing during the early days of COVID-19. Even though they were extremely busy, they appreciated the opportunity to provide feedback. 

4.  Ask question that are meaningful in the current environment

Asking questions that are relevant to the current business environment is critical to not only get leaders the information they need most but to also show leaders are aware of the current challenges employees are facing. Zach Kalinoski of NiSource revealed their organization first gathered employee feedback through a COVID-19 response survey. Based on these initial findings, items for a second survey were crafted to show employees “we heard you, we feel you.” As Sarah Johnson mentioned, failure to ask relevant questions can potentially make leaders appear tone-deaf to what matters most to employees.  

5.  Ask the questions the drive actions

Asking actionable questions is critical for leaders to turn survey feedback into real improvements. At Mastercard, leaders took quick action based on employee feedback from a COVID-19 specific survey. When employees were surveyed a second time, participation rose dramatically due to employees seeing the feedback was really used by leaders, Dalia Lenskis shared. Zach Kalinoski shared that survey feedback at NiSource led to many quick improvements including increased leader communication to field employees and a website to receive office supplies sent directly to employees’ homes.

6.  Good enough is good enough

The world is changing so fast, if we wordsmith questions or take too long to ask, we lose the opportunity, Sarah Johnson explained. For NiSource, COVID-19 created an environment where leaders were forced to make decisions fast with the best data available. This quick-acting mindset allowed for leaders to approve and launch a survey rapidly, gathering the real-time feedback they needed from employees. Kathy Randall shared a similar experience for Ahold Delhaize. Because of Ahold Delhaize’s collaborative culture, approval of survey questions normally takes months, but the organization was able to launch a COVID-19 specific survey in only 1 week in order to capture timely data leaders needed immediately.

7.   Be fast. Fast Fast Fast

At NiSource, leaders are making decisions so quickly that preliminary survey results are shared with select leaders to accelerate the speed and quality of action, Zach Kalinoski explained. Mary Amundson commented on how fast their teams collaborated at Land O’Lakes in order to launch a “just-in-time” survey, meeting leaders’ needs to see data fast. Only by surveying quickly, acting quickly, and surveying again can leaders get the relevant data they need to make timely decisions in an ever changing environment.

8.  Engagement can rise in times of adversity

Companies that care about employees and listen to their perceptions are the ones that are always investing in their employee experience, explained Sarah Johnson. This investment is clearly paying off as evident by Perceptyx’s research which found engagement rising, not falling, for many organizations. For Land O’Lakes, this was definitely true as employees expressed much higher engagement and overall satisfaction with their employee experience during this time. “There is a sense we are all in this together,” explained Mary Amundson. 

9.  Take action before you survey again. Make things visibly better

Although listening is important, it is only the first step. Leaders must also act on survey feedback to show employees’ opinions are valued and to make real improvements. Dalia Lenskis provided a great example of Mastercard’s CEO directly addressing employees’ concerns about job security which was learned from their first COVID-19 specific survey.  By authentically calming concerns, employees reported a significant improvement on a follow-up survey. At Land O’Lakes, the CEO hosts listening lunches, specifically referencing the survey feedback to show concerns were heard and to explain what actions are being taken.

10.  Asking the right questions, listening and acting at the right moment = Caring

Overall, all four organizations expressed the importance of surveying employees now to demonstrate the organization values employees’ opinions and to provide leaders with the timely data needed to make informed decisions. Kathy Randall encouraged others to be brave, asking the tough questions to receive valuable information leaders need. By asking relevant questions and acting on that feedback, organizations show they care about their employees, even during times of uncertainty. 


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