By Jake Outram
As we navigate challenging economic times, what should employers be doing to enhance their employee experience (EX) to drive business success?
The listening revolution
COVID changed everything, overnight, for everyone. In business, it prompted a new focus on employee welfare and support that accelerated the evolution of HR from a business support function to an important arbiter of company strategy.
Businesses recognised that employee listening had to become a top priority. Traditional approaches like annual engagement surveys alone just weren’t enough. Real-time listening and response became part of a company’s duty of care. Employers quickly pivoted, adopting additional approaches to understand employees’ wellbeing and to identify what kind of support they might need to do their jobs.
The economic crisis
Hot on the heels of COVID, economic instability in the form of inflation and the energy crisis is now directly impacting employees worldwide. The employer’s duty of care has shifted emphasis, moving from asking how employees are doing to giving them transparency about the future and understanding their needs inside and outside of work.
Employees need to know the direction in which the company is going and whether there’s a strong plan for the future, whatever may come. Those who are confident in their organisation’s strategy and the aims of leaders are more likely to stay in their jobs, believing the business has what it takes to weather the storm.
This confidence-building isn’t just about top-down communication, however, it’s also about exchanging views with employees and providing transparency about whatever challenges the business may be facing. If leaders can offer authentic reassurance about the organisation’s prospects, that can have a positive effect on key EX metrics like intent to stay and employee engagement.
In times of uncertainty and volatility, you simply cannot rely on infrequent or anecdotal feedback. Listening tools have evolved and allow you to not only quickly and easily understand how people are feeling and the support they need in their roles, but also to respond in near real-time. Engagement surveys still form a key part of most EX listening programmes, but with more frequent listening you can also tailor the focus to what is happening around you, using your listening tools to help navigate through the uncertainty and understand what matters most to employees in the moment and to react in a timely way.
Exploratory listening of this kind needs to be flexible, but communications and actions need to be authentic and realistic. While businesses may not currently be in a position to offer pay rises that solve in line with inflation, with a detailed understanding of how employees are affected,what they need, and their preferences they can begin thinking about how to respond to the issue.
Listening through multiple channels
Tools to explore structured and unstructured employee feedback may seem suitable for larger companies, but structured feedback is important even in smaller businesses. Without it, leaders may rely on anecdotal evidence or the views from the most vocal individuals who don't necessarily represent the true picture.
Likewise, personal listening is often associated with small companies, but it should be a core leadership behaviour in larger organisations too. Skip-level meetings, where senior leaders connect directly beyond their direct reports, can offer insights to leaders and better connect employees with the organisational goals and direction. Yet, this is a practice that became more difficult during COVID and is a skill that many leaders need to relearn. In an informal setting without an agenda, leaders can ask questions like – What are some of the challenges you have? How can we support you to overcome obstacles inside and outside of work? How can we do things better?
To learn more, request a free demo at the Qualtrics website.