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Take Their Temperature

SHAMEELA WINSTON
Well, in a manner of speaking.

As employers, many of us have taken steps to assure our staff safety and general wellness. We did all we possibly could to protect jobs and support in any other way that we could under the circumstances.

From where we stand, it seems like our employees are adapting well to these new realities we find ourselves operating in. But, to be fair, much of what we know about how our staff are coping is based on observation and informal discussion. We haven’t taken the extra step of conducting a proper survey to quantitatively and qualitatively articulate what our staff are thinking and feeling, what their biggest concerns actually are, and how they would prefer we support them.

Frankly, a well-designed survey will give you the fullest possible picture of your employee experience that will provide the basis of important decisions about solutions that would best suit your context. If your organisation has not done a survey, please consider it. And when you have decided to conduct one, please note that the way you approach and execute the exercise is crucial to getting cooperation from your staff. And after that, the way you interpret and use the information shared is crucial in maintaining trust.

Typically surveys are completed anonymously to promote confidentiality of responses, yet employees have an abiding fear that their employer will be able to recognise them through their responses, and this fear causes them to hold back. So, if a survey is to be done for open and honest expression of feedback from staff, please assure confidentiality. It is also important that you give context to the questions.

For instance, in trying to assess the eligibility of an employee to work from home, your survey may ask questions about the availability of certain resources in their homes, which could be misconstrued as an evaluation of quality of home life as opposed to accessibility to technical support needed for remote working.

So before you send the survey, explain and contextualise it to get maximum cooperation. Keep in mind that because of their emotional and psychological state at the moment, some employees may lash out in the survey. It’s to be expected.

Finally, as the employer, it’s important you’re committed to the survey. There’s nothing that erodes faith from the employee perspective as much as taking the time to participate in an

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exercise like this, only to find that the company ‘ignores’ feedback. Sending an employee survey and failing to act on it can be worse than not surveying at all. Let your team know what you will do with their feedback, and it is vital that you honour your commitment. This makes them feel like they have an audible voice, which contributes to creating the enabling, high-trust culture we all need as we adjust and adapt to changes.

Here is a sample of some of the questions and statements that such a survey could include, giving you access to your employees’ actual sentiments, preferences and considered suggestions that they may be afraid to share openly in meetings:

I feel my safety and wellness is protected in the work-place.

I believe we all honour safety protocols.

I feel supported to deliver on my responsibilities from home.

I feel financially secure for the next several months.

I feel I have been involved in decisions that affect my job or work environment.

I feel my fears and anxieties are acknowledged and addressed.

I am kept informed about important issues and changes.

What is one way we could continue to support you?

What is your biggest concern right now – at home or at work?

Is there anything the organisation can do in light of these circumstances that would be helpful to you?

What communication/updates would be valuable to you during this time?

What suggestions do you have that the organisation should consider to safeguard our operations?

What do you think the organisation could have done differently?

Your staff know what they need and what would help them best. They also have ideas on how to adapt to these changes, ideas that could even help the organisation brace and survive through any further disruptions in the future. So asking them to answer questions like the ones above in a formal exercise such as a survey can generate suggestions that help you design relevant solutions to address their specific concerns.

Yes, you have compared notes with other employers and you researched options online. You talked to your employees one-on-one, or in meetings, to get insights and share information. You have done your best. Yet, the survey is perhaps the source of the most useful feedback. It will be unfiltered and subjective in parts, but it will be the truth. Do one. And have a great week.



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