The Importance of Listening to Your Employees in Difficult Times

Change, Employee Engagement

We are living in a time of ongoing disruption and change. I think every person and every organisation is feeling it to some degree. Whether it is global issues, supply chain problems, digitalisation and artificial intelligence, company reorganisation, or changes in ways of working and high turnover (to name just a few), everyone I speak to is feeling it. 

For many organisations we are working with, it doesn’t feel like there is a sense of stability for any meaningful amount of time. 

There are the ongoing, incremental changes that we are all having to become accustomed to where we must be agile and adapt to the ever-changing landscape – e.g. digitalisation in the workplace and flexible working arrangements. Then there are the significant moments of definitive change and disruption – e.g. widespread redundancies. A moment in time that hits you hard.

In the UK, it has just been announced that our economy is officially in recession. Moments like this come with great uncertainty and anxiety for many people, and often pose difficult conditions for organisations. As human beings, in moments of vulnerability and uncertainty we need to feel heard, listened to and supported (I’m sure we can all relate to this in our personal lives). Yet, when it comes to the workplace, time and time again we see organisations postpone their planned employee surveys because they don’t feel it is “the right time” (when is it the right time!?). This could be due to societal issues, internal difficulties, or unfavourable circumstances (e.g. poor company performance, redundancies, or an acquisition). 

When these challenging situations arise, we strongly advocate for organisations to not shy away from still running the employee survey despite concerns about it being influenced by the current context/ difficult circumstances. Here are 5 reasons why…

  1. Importance of maintaining communication: Turbulent times often come with uncertainty and anxiety. Surveys provide a structured way for employers to have two-way communication with their employees, ensuring they understand what’s happening and how it may affect them, and giving them the opportunity to share their thoughts.
  2. Understand how people feel and the impact on morale: People are feeling the way they are whether you run a survey or not, but it is better to know how they are feeling and have the opportunity to support them and/or address issues rather than remain in the dark about it. Surveys help gauge how employees are feeling, what concerns they may have, and what support they may need. This insight allows companies to address issues proactively and implement strategies to improve morale.
  3. An opportunity to identify challenges and solutions: Difficult circumstances often bring about new challenges or exacerbate existing ones. By surveying employees, employers can identify these challenges more effectively. They can then work collaboratively with employees to find solutions, adapt, and implement necessary changes to navigate through the turbulence more efficiently.
  4. Enhancing trust and connection: When organisations actively seek input and feedback from their employees during turbulent times, it demonstrates a commitment to transparency, openness, and inclusivity. This fosters trust and enhances connection, as employees feel valued and included when their opinions are considered and acted upon.
  5. Informing Decisions: Surveys results on relevant topics help inform decision-making in the moment, which is particularly useful during periods of change when regular decisions are required. By asking survey questions that relate to the changes/ difficult circumstances, organisations can gather employee perspectives, concerns and needs to help make more informed decisions about changes, strategic priorities, and operational processes. 

Although we strongly advocate for continuing with running your survey, we do appreciate that you may need to adapt your survey content and design to accommodate for the circumstances surrounding the survey. This could look like changing certain survey questions to ensure they are relevant to your current context and provide meaningful insights to help inform decisions.

Whilst organisations may have a legitimate concern that the difficult circumstances and wider context may impact survey results and scores, this misses the purpose of an employee survey and indicates a transactional approach to surveying. The survey should not be able achieving a certain score or reaching an end goal, it is intended to be a key point of connection that leads to regular conversations between leaders and employees that are fresh and relevant. And why wouldn’t you want to do that during difficult and turbulent times?

Master Engagement Throughout the Employee Lifecycle