3 Mission-Critical Questions to Ask Employees Right Now – and What to do with the Answers.

Posted in Best Practice

by alicia

Our Return to Work Playbook emphasises the need for agility. The need for progress over perfection. 

But getting there’s hard, because when faced with uncertainty most of us prefer caution.

Structure.

Debate.

Evaluation.

We want to reassure ourselves we’ve done everything we can to avoid mistakes.

But that’s the antithesis of what the business needs at the moment. Instead, you need to act now, learn fast, and improve as you go.

Pulse surveys are the easiest way to achieve that. And you can boil them right down to three killer questions, as long as you use the answers.

Here they are.

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1 - What’s been great about the last few months?

The pandemic has caused huge upheaval, and there’ll be things you got wrong in your response. But there’ll also be things you got really, really right.

Like, maybe people have loved working from home. Maybe they’ve enjoyed a better work/life balance. Maybe they’ve been working on more challenging projects, because layoffs meant their workload increased. Maybe their workload decreased and that meant they felt they could do better work, with less stress.

COVID-19 might have even accelerated changes you’ve been promoting for years, like more flexibility, better communication and fewer group meetings. 

Uncover those things, then use your positive momentum during COVID-19 as a platform for future progress.

 

An example…

At Re: Engage 2020’s June virtual event, Benjamin Granger (XM Catalyst at Qualtrics) and Marina Pearce (Head of Talent Analytics at Ford) co-hosted a session on business recovery after COVID-19.

Marina talked about how Ford has been working for several years to accelerate decision-making, overcome ingrained norms, increase flexibility and decrease bureaucracy – things they’ve found really hard to change.

But with the pandemic, she said they’ve seen fast, measurable change in all those places. COVID-19’s been a huge catalyst for cultural growth.

 

What comes next?

Collate and prioritize the answers, so you know what your biggest focus areas should be. Then circulate to the senior leadership team. Find out from their perspective what needs to happen to continue doing a great job on the things that matter most.

COVID-19’s been a line in the sand: don’t let the status quo creep back in. You can successfully make massive, organisation-wide change happen now, if you’re focused and determined.   

 

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2 - What could we have done better?

This isn’t about debriefing. It’s about building useful insight to move forwards. As we wrote in our Return to Work Playbook, COVID-19 presents a huge opportunity for change. Your actions now – reboarding and beyond – will make-or-break engagement, which means they’ll make-or-break business recovery.

Read more: How to stop COVID-19 becoming an engagement crisis

This question highlights practical improvement areas that, if you seize them, offer a huge opportunity to show up better for your people. 

And at the same time, it reveals employee sentiment around company leadership. So you can spot issues as they develop and take action to resolve. Before disengagement turns into resentment which turns into turnover.

Maybe you could hold small group sessions with senior leaders. Or HR one-to-ones with struggling employees. Or deliver care packages to people it’ll make the biggest difference to.

 

What comes next?

Analyze trends, cross-referencing against what you already know about employees and teams. Analysis is where you’ll unlock most value, getting practical insight to move forwards.

Perhaps some employees are consistently complaining about burnout, and further investigation shows they’re typically parents. In that case, better parent support could be a quick win.

Or maybe many employees say they feel unsupported, and you can trace the issue to several specific managers. (Our State of EX report suggests that’s been a common issue through all this).

Connecting those managers to extra training – or checking-in, to see if they’re feeling unsupported themselves – could solve the problem efficiently and fast.

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3 - What are your challenges right now?

This is about providing immediate support. We’re talking, support for the next week. Amy Leschke-Kahle had a lovely turn of phrase in her Re: Engage 2020 talk ‘Creating visibility and connectivity for your workforce’:

“Work isn’t a once-a-year thing. Work happens over and over. It’s 52 little sprints.”

That’s an especially helpful attitude at the moment, when timelines feel dramatically accelerated. A week’s a long time right now!

That’s why we wrote about the importance of micro-learning in our Return to Work Playbook: “Leaders need to adopt the approach of learning in the flow of work”.

We need to connect our people to immediate answers and immediate guidance to address their immediate problems. That’s the key to business agility. And it starts by asking people how you can help.

 

What comes next?

Act as a connector and facilitator. Make sure managers are equipped to provide immediate support to their direct reports, whatever support’s needed. Be proactive and present – don’t set-and-forget.

Then ideally - as in the quick action checklist we shared last week – make asking this question a habit. Encourage managers to schedule a quick weekly email asking their team members about their current challenges.

That’s how you embed learning at the point of need – which is essential for agile growth.

If you don’t ask, you don’t get…

 

Now’s an exhilarating, intimidating time to work in HR. People leadership has never been more under the spotlight.

But that can lead to inaction and delay, because you don’t want to make mistakes. And you’re probably nearly buried under your desk anyway. Stuck firefighting, answering hundreds of employee requests, checking and updating HR policies, managing layoffs, and so on.

Pulse surveys are an easy, fast way to be more proactive. And the answers to these three questions will help inform strategic action that’ll have a long-term impact for your people and business.

Download our Return to Work Playbook now to discover five guiding principles for experience-led reboarding that has a big business impact.