Listening Through a Crisis: Employee Experience When it Matters Most
How are our clients engaging with employees through the coronavirus crisis? Insights from Arm, Avon, LNER, Nomad Foods, Virgin Money
Our clients have continued to prioritise employee experience (EX) through the coronavirus crisis.
They have run surveys on key topics like working from home, communications, and well-being. They have explored issues like resilience and agility.
In terms of how the surveys are being used:
- Results have been analysed at a business level, so leaders can immediately address concerns and identify hot-spots
- Managers have received team reports, so they can act locally
- Employees themselves can be nudged towards specific resources and tools, for example, to support their well-being or to access benefits
So what are some of the learnings from this period?
An immediate focus for many companies was ensuring new work arrangements were effective.
Nomad Foods, for example, quickly deployed a pulse survey focused on well-being and productivity:
“The objectives of the survey were to gather insights from employees who are working from home, understand what we could do differently and gather ideas on how ways of working may change as we move out of lock down.
The results were really encouraging. Most people believed that working from home was going well and felt extremely well supported. In fact, we saw a desire for ongoing flexibility in the future. As a result, we’re now accelerating our smart working initiatives.
The survey helped us identify some groups who were under more pressure, which included those managing issues like childcare (including home schooling) and supporting elderly relatives.“
Tim Kensey, HR Director at Nomad Foods
From a change leadership perspective, organisations viewed the crisis in terms of three phases:
- Managing through the initial challenges
- Restoring stability
- Rebounding strongly
Surveys have provided a way to listen to and involve employees in each phase. This has been the case at Virgin Money:
“In Virgin Money we ran a pulse survey in April to assess our agility in creating new ways of working and serving our customers, and we also looked at how we can best support and connect with colleagues.
We achieved our highest ever response rate for a pulse survey, and colleagues told me the content of the survey was superb.
Our Executive Leadership Team and Board found the feedback really helpful.
We’re will also integrate some of the questions from the COVID-19 Leading and Accelerating Back surveys into our all-colleague survey in June.”
Edwina Emery, Employee Engagement Manager at Virgin Money
Analytics and narrative insight
Looking across the survey data that’s been published, it’s clear that employees had a generally favourable impression of their company’s efforts in the early stages of the response. There’s a kind of “grade inflation” effect that you need to consider when analysing results.
It’s also important to examine the drivers of stress and anxiety. Over 90% of employees express some level of anxiety from the coronavirus, with 55% indicating a moderate or high degree of anxiety. Key driver analysis shows where you can focus to have the most positive impact.
Comments analysis provides a narrative insight into key concerns. One organisation that has done a good job of using text analytics is the train operator LNER:
“We analysed our survey results to understand how well people are dealing with this crisis. We found that employee engagement at LNER is not just holding up, but it is improving. In fact, we have seen engagement improve over the course of several years. We’re far more resilient as an organisation.
The results told us that communications are working, people believe our health and well-being programmes are effective. We can also see that many front-line managers are doing a great job of staying in touch with their teams.
We analysed the comments feedback to understand where there were concerns and opportunities. We could see if we had any hot-spots. This showed which things contributed to people’s anxiety about the coronavirus. These insights were especially for staff who are in customer facing roles.”
Jennie Pitt, Inclusion and Engagement Manager at LNER
A key feature of the crisis has been the speed at which events have unfolded.
What’s critical from an EX point of view, is being able to survey people on an agile basis, in the moments that really matter to them.
Agility and responsiveness was critical at ARM, for example:
“We have started to implement a continuous listening strategy at Arm and we were able to quickly measure how well people were managing changing working arrangements.
The response to our pulse survey was overwhelmingly positive. People really appreciated being asked for their opinions.
We also asked people for tips and suggestions, in terms of what was working well. People came back saying that all those tips should be made public as a way of sharing creative ideas and best practice. This kind of in-the-moment feedback and knowledge sharing is really critical.“
Hayley Whitwood, Director, Organisational Effectiveness at Arm
There was a similar focus at Avon:
“We were able to run a short survey in ten languages in a matter of days, with great support and guidance when we had queries.
We got instant feedback from more than 2,000 associates across the globe.
This kind of agile insight is critical for understanding the experience of our associates during this critical time.“
Anne-Elisabeth Jehl, Learning & Talent Manager at Avon
In the third phase of the crisis leaders are focusing on how to rebound strongly.
This includes planning for how to operate as conditions improve, and how to manage through ongoing uncertainty. There’s a focus on effective risk management. Leaders also want to learn from what’s worked well during the earlier stages of the crisis.
Key topics include:
- How do you reconnect with people who have been working from home and who may want to continue working from home in some fashion?
- How do you “re-board” people who have been furloughed?
- What’s the best way to support key workers who have remained on site?
Many companies have been measuring levels of anxiety and stress through all the stages of the crisis and will to continue to track this.
Leaders also want to make sure that the organisation does not simply default back to the way things were before the crisis. Instead, they want to learn from the prior months about the experiences that have led the organisation to be agile and effective.
Leaders also want to ensure that people are not just drifting back into established work habits, but are coming in with a growth mindset. This is critical, given the need to rebound quickly.