It’s been a long year. For the large majority of us, even with experience telecommuting, working from home has never gone like this before. As an executive recruiter, I’ve always believed that employee experience is the single greatest predictor of employee success and retention. I also believe that the key to understanding employee experience is communicating. Ask good questions, listen intentionally, follow up, role model, observe. But lately, I think that most managers whose employees were abruptly thrust out of the office and into instant telecommuting, it’s growing increasingly difficult to have a good sense of how each individual is really doing.
That concerns me.
I think it should concern every manager with employees currently working at home.
Yes, our employees are resilient, talented, and hardworking. And yes, a great number of them have been quite happy to skip the commute, dress more casually, and spend their lunchtimes walking the dog. But for companies like ours, who have worked so very hard to foster a sense of community and shared experience, it’s painful to know that we’re not “fully present” for each other right now.
We’ve worked hard to keep the connections strong (check out my favorite list of Ways to Re-Engage and Reassure Your WFH Employees), but at times like this, the best way to really know how your team is coping, where they’re struggling, and what you can do to help is… ask them.
I don’t mean in the “how are you doing/I’m doing fine” kind of way. I mean that, even if you’ve never formally surveyed your employees before, here are 4 reasons you might want to start now.
1. Most of Your “Checking-In” Opportunities Have Been Taken Away
Is it possible to be a dynamic, supportive, motivating leader of a remote team? Of course. But you probably need a little more time (and maybe a little guidance) to build your own virtual management skills. Performance, enthusiasm, engagement, and job satisfaction won’t suddenly reveal themselves to you during short zoom calls. Employee surveys are always a smart idea. Right now, they could be a lifeline, re-establishing deeper communication between you and your staff.
2. A Survey Sends a Message Abut Your Care and Commitment
Too often, surveys are written as if the only purpose is data collection. Of course, your survey will help you ask and learn about each employee’s experience. But in my humble opinion, a robotically worded survey will only serve to undermine you. Conversely, a carefully crafted, sincerely written set of questions tells your employee that you truly care and that you're earnestly invested in their success. In addition, a well-designed survey reinforces the company’s mission and brand priorities through the categories of questions you ask. A word of caution, however: surveys backfire without several layers of communication. Don’t just ambush your team with a surprise email attachment. Tell them in advance why your surveying, how it will be structured, how you’ll share top-level results, and your willingness to adapt based on what you learn.
3. You’ll Learn What’s Working, What Isn’t, and What Kind of Help Will Actually Help
These are turbulent, anxiety-provoking times for everyone. No matter how well your team was doing, or how articulately they could express their needs before COVID, they’re less likely to bare their concerns, struggles, or fears to you now. The longer that goes on, the greater the risk of disengagement. Think of these issues as an iceberg. You probably have no idea what's really going on beneath the surface level conversations you've been having. For example, even if you’ve managed to keep every team member’s job and pay whole, some employees may be in paralyzing financial trouble if a spouse’s income has been cut. Others may be trying their best (and often feeling like they're perpetually failing) to meet the needs of young children while keeping up with their own work. Still others may have underlying health issues that you never even knew existed but that are now causing them to fear for their own health and that of their loved ones. There are more examples, of course. Running alongside them all, are the potentially traumatic, long-term effects of these strange times, the unplanned isolation, the masks, the political strife. The support needed might differ broadly from person to person. But you won’t know how to help if you don’t know where it’s needed.
4. You’ll Stand Out as the Employer Who Actually Cares
Home page statements and hashtags about your commitment to the well-being of your employees sound nice. They are nice. But they’re also quickly forgotten, lost in the clutter of everyone else saying the same things. Here's what your employees will remember: what you say to them, what you ask, and above all else, what you do when times are tough. And they'll tell their family and their friends, and the strangers who someday ask them how they got through this. These are the things that will not only drive up employee retention but sustain your reputation as a truly great employer.
A Guide To Creating A Better Survey
So where do you start? I'm glad you asked. Here is a link to our guide with tips on crafting a better employee survey.
You may also find that these survey templates, crafted specifically to be used during Covid19, are a great place to start.