Postponing surveys could erode trust, exacerbate employee anxiety, and bar opportunities for building a stronger workplace culture.
In a short time, the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted companies around the world. It has forced us to lead during uncertainty, learn how to telecommute effectively while avoiding burnout, get better at communicating with remote workers (and engaging them) and much more. It’s been a crash course in resilience!
With so many rapid changes, it might seem like now is an unstable time to survey employees.
“After all,” you might think, “with this being such an unstable time, I know responses won’t be representative of the way things normally are around here. It would be better to wait until things return to normal, so we can make changes based on the way the business usually operates, not the way we’re doing things during COVID-19.”
The reality is that employee surveys are an essential listening tool right now, while the COVID-19 pandemic is affecting how your organization operates.
Why survey employees during COVID-19?
You only need to read employee comments from Best Workplaces™ who are surveying during COVID-19 to see how employees perceive companies paying attention to their employee experience.
On March 23rd — the day that British PM Boris Johnson issued a sweeping stay-at-home order – a DHL employee survey respondent in the UK had this to say to the question, “If you could change one thing about this company, what would it be?”:
“Very little, as the company regularly asks for feedback and continually asks, ‘Is DHL still a great place to work?’ And the answer is: yes, it is. DHL has done an amazing job during this pandemic in keeping us all up to date and safe.”
One employee at National Corporate Housing expressed a similar sentiment in a pulse survey sent on March 20th. Employees responded to a question on how much they “feel a sense of pride” in their company:
“I think this is especially true during this time. So many of my friends and family work for companies who do not care about their employees. I take comfort and pride in knowing that our Executive Team is doing everything they can to protect the 300 families here at National.”
The act of surveying shows employees at these companies that their personal experiences are a priority.
Here are three specific ways surveying employees during COVID-19 benefits companies and employees:
Reinforces an intention of care
When you survey employees during tough times, you are showing them that you are committed to their well-being.
Surveying now acknowledges the stress created by the COVID-19 pandemic and sends a message that you are here, and you are listening.
In order to reinforce that you care, it’s critical that you:
- Share the survey results
- Take action on the results
Sharing the survey results, what you learned from the survey and what actions you’re taking as a result of the survey helps build the kind of trust and credibility that are a hallmark of Best WorkplacesTM — and a key component of the Trust Model™ that 30+ years of research have revealed to us.
Gives you crucial insight into how to best support them
Asking someone you manage, “How are you feeling?” may not always get quite as honest and direct a response as confidential employee survey.
During times when employees are experiencing fear, anxiety and uncertainty, they may feel least equipped to vocalize their needs and experience with the organization or their people leader. Without this insight, organizations may have a blind spot when making decisions and operate without the benefit of this data.
At Great Place to Work® our leaders sent out a 10-question pulse survey to see how employees were coping with unique stresses of coronavirus. The results were enlightening.
Among other things, we learned that:
- Employees’ caretaking scope has expanded. Worry over laid-off relatives and older parents vulnerable to the coronavirus is a huge burden.
As one employee put it, “My biggest concern are my parents and the possibility of them contracting COVID. I just want to make sure they do not go out as much, even for groceries.”
- There is a new financial fear. Our leaders learned that financial concerns are top-of-mind and the specific ways people are financially burdened.
“We wouldn’t have learned that if we hadn’t surveyed,” our CEO Michael said.
Helps you navigate the recession
Our research on diversity and inclusion shows that the experience of certain groups of employees predicts whether organizations flatline, survive or thrive during a recession.
Often-marginalized employees turn out to be forecasters of when the business climate will turn bad. These employee groups include:
- People of colour
- Frontline workers
- Hourly male workers
- Long-tenured employees
Why study these groups?
- They play vital roles in both good times and bad
- They often serve customers directly and are plugged into the reality of how the business is doing.
- They’re also a source of good ideas that many companies overlook, like ideas for cutting costs or new ways to create revenue.
- Their employee experience can uncover insights about opportunities to change your company culture and better recession-proof your business.
Surveying your employees is not only an act of compassion — it’s a source of essential business intelligence as we stare down a possible prolonged economic downturn.
If you would like our support surveying your employees during this critical time, please hit this link.
For more on how to navigate in this time of crisis, see our other coronavirus resources.
– Laurie Minott
Partner at Great Place to Work® USA