A question I’ve been asked a lot lately is, “Are other companies still surveying their employees during this time of turmoil? Isn’t that a bit tone deaf when we’re experiencing significant layoffs, hiring freezes, and a general sense of economic uncertainty?”
The short answer is an emphatic yes. Companies are definitely still surveying during this period—and they should be. We’ve found that during these times of uncertainty, it is more important than ever to be checking in with our employees. It’s critical that they feel seen and heard, even when we don’t have all the answers.
It is more vital than ever to continue checking in with your employees.
Take the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic as an example. No one knew what was going on or what the next week, month, or quarter would look like. But something surprising happened. At Newmeasures, we saw our clients’ employee engagement scores improve across the board. This may have been partially due to the general gratitude employed people had for their jobs as many of their friends and acquaintances lost paychecks and health insurance coverage, but that doesn’t tell the full story. Our 2020 data clearly demonstrated that engagement rose because employees saw leadership and managers making an effort to check in with them and ensure they felt supported—particularly in new ways of working in a now-virtual world.
The same applies in times of financial uncertainty, which we are all feeling to some degree with talks of an impending recession (or one that by some measures is already here). Now isn’t the time to shy away from employee feedback just because it may not all be glowing, as leaders have had to make difficult decisions that are often untenable to many in their ranks. Rather, giving employees a space to feel heard and demonstrating that you genuinely care about them as people is critical to fostering that deeper connection to a workplace that is beyond anything a paycheck can provide.
Giving employees a space to feel heard and demonstrating that you genuinely care about them is critical.
In spite of all of this, I can’t tell you how often I hear survey teams and leaders worried about a dip in their otherwise high employee engagement measures if they ask at “the wrong time.” When that fear arises, it can be helpful to flip the script. Instead of aiming for “good scores” on your next survey, treat it as an opportunity to learn and as a powerful mechanism for continuous improvement. What a gift it is to have this information about how your people are feeling, what matters to them, and what will keep them around long-term! While in both views, the goal is the same – to provide an excellent employee experience – this shift in perspective can help leaders to not shy away from employee feedback in difficult times. It isn’t akin to getting a report card, but more so like meeting with your doctor for a check-up and reviewing some bloodwork diagnostics so you know where you stand and can move forward with intention.
A final concern I often hear from leaders is that asking employees for feedback when they are burned out or slammed with work feels really out of touch. It’s a valid concern, and I certainly do appreciate it—but believe there are ways to mitigate that risk. If your survey (or other means of checking in with employees) is concise and asks questions that really meet the moment, then the lift will not be too heavy and the tone will feel right.
At the end of the day, people really do appreciate the opportunity to voice their opinions to leaders and managers who care and have the ability to do something to better support them, even if you don’t have all the answers. After all, who does?