Employee Feedback Platforms: How To Keep Employees Engaged, And Happy, During Lockdown
Bored kids, frustrated partners and over-watered houseplants might be our office mates right now, but the colleagues you used to share space with still exist, and so does the culture that tied your company together. Keeping that fragile and ephemeral culture alive however has become a much more daunting task, and it falls to managers and team leaders to nurture, but not stifle, culture and employee engagement in this singular set of circumstances.
Employee engagement is in a precarious position in many companies whose employees have scattered to the four winds.
Businesses that can adapt, engage digitally with employees, and promote a healthy company culture without stifling it will succeed post-lockdown, but how many will have the human skills to make this change?
The measure of success
Keeping employees engaged throughout lockdown, especially with confusing or contradictory official guidance, has been a singular challenge for businesses. An increased focus on mental health and wellbeing for furloughed and remote workers indicates an acute awareness of the importance of happy and healthy employees to a successful company and a successful economy. Dr. Joe Cainey, Director of Data Science at Peakon, a platform which conducts employee engagement surveys to feed back to managers, has noticed a significant change in the data gathered from their employee surveys since the onset of Covid-19. While Cainey states it has been “heartening to see leaders prioritize connectedness” while their staff work remotely, he also notes that “in March, the number of employee comments referencing wellbeing shot up by 51% compared with February, [and] employees have noted a pressure to work harder and longer hours during lockdown to prove to managers that they’re not ‘slacking off’.”
This distinction between managers putting more emphasis on wellbeing, and the idea that employees must pretend that their productivity is not affected by disruptive circumstances shows just how complex this particular minefield is.
Encouraging employees to take some time for themselves whilst working hard to keep the company afloat is a difficult task, but getting actionable feedback about what managers can do to improve things can be a lifeline. “We try and make it as easy as possible to give feedback and reduce that burden on employees,” says Cainey. “We see participation of around 90% which is far higher than paper surveys… [with that level of engagement] things can really improve in so many areas” says Cainey. With shorter, more regular surveys (Peakon’s standard survey consists of five questions written by an organizational psychologist) and less emphasis on a dreaded annual review, ‘ survey fatigue ‘ becomes far less of an issue. Once you remove these barriers, acting on employee feedback is “really quite simple,” says Cainey, “you ask people what they are happy and unhappy about, and you make a change… what makes people give really useful feedback is seeing real change come back.”
Engaged in isolation
Keeping remote employees engaged and measuring that engagement is not just a case of trusting employees to work independently, and making sure that their wellbeing is not suffering while in isolation, but ensuring that employees are comfortable with being surveyed in the first place. Concerns about employers surveilling their staff have skyrocketed recently, as it was revealed that popular video conferencing tool Zoom had an ‘attendee attention tracking’ feature (which was removed as of April 2nd). It has become clear that any return to office work will involve surveillance or tracking, and a painful compromise between individual privacy and the safety of society as a whole needs to be addressed. In such a state of anxiety around Big Tech taking advantage of this situation to gather more insight into our lives, it has become even more sensitive for employers to check in on employees, measure their wellbeing, or try to encourage productivity.
Convincing employees that feedback will be used to benefit them and the company, rather than to punish insubordination and root out whistleblowers is absolutely key in such an environment of technological distrust. “It’s really important that [the feedback mechanism] is seen as external rather than being on the side of the employer,” says Cainey, but once it is clear that this is not an extension of the C-suite, feedback tools can actually show compassion on the part of management during lockdown. “By asking for regular feedback and taking action to support their wellbeing, employers can demonstrate that they care about their employees,” says Cainey, “this can be the difference between a committed, productive employee and an individual seeking employment elsewhere.”
Walking the fine line between engaging with your employees and watching over them has never been more precarious than it is now. Given the importance of employee engagement to overall productivity (the Workplace Research Foundation found that highly engaged employees are 38% more likely to have above-average productivity), this period will be make or break for employers and will prove just how much compassion and respect they have for their employees. “Fine-tuning company culture now will be key to ensuring employees remain engaged and the company remains successful as a result,” says Cainey.
As we move into a new way of working supported massively by digital tools and home offices, the focus on nurturing employee wellbeing as a main driver of engagement will be key, and if handled properly could change our attitudes to work altogether.
Originally published at https://www.forbes.com.