Maintain Employee Engagement in a Crisis

Checking Team Engagement during the Downtime 5.4.20

Like most of you, I’ve just spent another week at my home office. Now and then, I have to remind myself to get up and go for short walks, otherwise I’ll end up looking like some of the funny videos doing the rounds. My time is filled with conference calls, researching, writing and planning. The downtime is enabling me to catch up on some tasks that I had fallen behind on, and other new projects that have now moved from ideas to action.

While the downtime is obviously filled with challenges for many of us, let’s flip that on its head today and focus instead on an opportunity. Last week I shared some ideas for engaging your teams in a time of crisis. Today I want to prompt you to take that a step further. 

Consider checking in on your teams with an on-line ‘Voice of the Employee’ engagement survey. Heather Humphreys the Minister for Business, Enterprise and Innovation also made this recommendation in her press conference recently.

While your teams are working from home and being as productive as possible, I’m sure they’d be able to find twenty minutes to complete an on-line survey. I’m not suggesting that the survey be to do with the current crisis. Instead, it should focus on the bigger picture of business as usual, as if there was no pandemic. I appreciate that may seem unreal, but if such a survey is communicated in the right way, I have no doubt that you’d get great insights from the exercise.

If you haven’t done an employee engagement survey before, here are some watch-outs from my experience. 

  • Confidentiality is critical. Employees need to feel safe in giving honest feedback. Otherwise they’ll tell you what they think you want to hear. So rather than design your own internal one on Survey Monkey, use an external provider that has the specialist expertise.
  • There are many providers of surveys that talk up their ability to provide an on-line service, as if that was the be-all and end-all. Well it’s not, as that ability should be a given with all providers. The real expertise that a provider should have is in setting the right questions in the first place. They should also expert in interpreting the results in a way that will facilitate improvement. That is likely to be beyond the skill set of a specialist technology company.

Tips for Designing and Conducting an Employee Engagement Survey

  1. Make an overall plan. Approach this as you would with any project, starting with your objectives, key actions, anticipate obstacles, accountabilities and timelines. Look beyond the survey itself, as your objective. Your objective should be more about employee engagement. The survey itself is just a means to an end.
  2. Select a provider. Source a company that understands the deeper objectives of what you are trying to achieve. After all, this survey should ultimately be about helping you to improve your business through better employee engagement. 
  3. Set the questions. Don’t be tempted to download random questions from a strange website, as they could do more harm than good. There is a structure and psychological flow to how questions are decided in the first place. Your provider should advise you on what questions to ask. Be careful, as some only use a generic set of questions. I personally prefer tailored questions that suit your company, your culture and your project objectives. 
  4. Communicate to all. Engagement surveys can raise suspicion, unless the communications are clear and concise. Be sure to make it clear that you want employees to think beyond the current crisis and consider life in the organisation before the virus. That will help to ensure that the answers are fair and valid.
  5. Gather insights. Challenge your provider to give you more than a set of data points. You deserve to get an analysis of what the scores tell you and how they compare across all departments and with other organisations. These insights will help you make sound judgements and decisions for corrective actions.
  6. Communicate the results to all. If your teams have told you how they feel, they deserve to know the feedback. Obviously you’ll consolidate your feedback into an executive summary of insights only. You don’t have to share the scores and all the detail. Show all the positives and don’t be afraid to show the negatives too. You’ll be respected for it.
  7. Develop action plans. Looping back to your initial objectives, be sure to follow this up with corrective action plans. Consider convening a temporary steering group to develop corrective action plans. But department heads need to take ownership for their own individual department actions, otherwise they won’t commit to the process.

The Last Word

If you’ve never done an internal survey before, it may sound daunting to you. But honestly, I have only ever seen positive progress when the steps above are followed. Go for it while you have the downtime. As Dr. Kenneth Blanchard said, ‘feedback is the breakfast of champions’.

Alan O’Neill is Managing Director of Kara, specialists in strategy, culture and people development. Go to www.kara.ieif you’d like help with your business. 

Alan is author of “Premium is the New Black”.

© Copyright. Alan O’Neill. All rights reserved. 2020


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