Employee Experience

Why Now is the Perfect Time for an Employee Engagement Survey
Why Now is the Perfect Time for an Employee Engagement Survey 150 150 Jason Lauritsen

Last week, I launched a survey to better understand what challenges leaders are anticipating during the next year related to employee engagement.

Some themes are emerging in the data. There’s concern about employee burnout. There’s a focus on how to keep remote and hybrid workers engaged. There’s also some worry about the impact of return to office plans.

All of these are valid concerns to have on the radar as we head towards what will assuredly be another year defined by uncertainty and change.

But I want to offer a word of caution, as you consider what you think will be your biggest employee engagement challenges in 2022, ask yourself this:

What evidence do I have that this is a real issue? 

Back in my days as an HR exec, there was nothing more frustrating than sitting in an executive meeting listening to a leader speculate about what employees wanted or how they were feeling with no real evidence to back it up beyond perhaps a single conversation they had with an employee or an article they read.

So many decisions that get made in organizations on behalf of employees are based on assumptions about what employees want or need. That often leads to actions taken and investments made with good intentions that end up having no effect or worse.

For example, it might be easy to assume that employees who work remotely are less engaged or more difficult to engage than those who work in the office. But, there’s a mounting body of research that suggests that may be the opposite. Our traditional physical workplaces might actually be a cause of disengagement for employees.

To make matters even more complicated, the degree to which working remotely engages or disengages an employee is going to vary from person to person. Their personality, personal living situation, past experiences, skills, and a host of other factors all play a role.

Here’s the harsh reality check. If you assume your employees as a whole are either more (or less) engaged by working remotely, either way, you are probably wrong. Or at least you are partially wrong and that can have real consequences on the decisions you make and programs you roll out.

Assumptions lead to frustration

So, do you have any evidence to support your specific concerns or conclusions about what you need to do to engage employees in 2022? If so, kudos. You are on the right path.

If not, I’ll echo what I said in an executive meeting once upon a time as the leaders around the table were speculating about what our employees needed from us.

“Why are we making assumptions about what they want? They are right out there. Let’s go ask them.”

As work is transforming in front of our eyes and shifting beneath our feet, it is affecting everyone differently. Some people are struggling while others are thriving.

We can’t make assumptions about what people need and how the experience is impacting them. It’s imperative to get real feedback on an ongoing basis if you hope to retain people through all of this change.

This is why NOW is the ideal time to be using employee engagement surveys to gather insights and evidence to inform your decisions and actions heading into next year.

A well-designed survey process will help you identify:

  • Who’s thriving and who’s struggling
  • Where you have systemic issues that might be driving turnover and performance issues
  • Where you have strengths and resources to leverage
  • Where you have significant risks and need to dig in further
  • What issues you can address immediately

This is only a partial list of why well-designed surveys are powerful. As a manager, survey results from your team are one of the best tools you can have to facilitate a meaningful conversation about each person’s experience and how to make it better (more on that later).

5 Keys to a Well-Designed Employee Engagement Survey Process

Notice that I didn’t just say “survey.” It needs to be well-designed and it needs to be part of a process that ensures that actions are taken based on what is learned. Below are key things you need to do to get it right.

1. A commitment and process for meaningful follow-up action.

The most important part of any survey is what happens with the results. Do they lead to change and impact that the employees can see or feel? It is vital that you have a documented process in place for how action will be taken on survey results BEFORE you even consider launching a survey.

Without follow-up actions from the survey results being visible to all employees, a survey will often do more to undermine trust and engagement than if you did no survey at all.

2. Use a survey with a validated measure of employee engagement.

Most, if not all, of the engagement survey products out there, will have a validated set of survey items they use to measure employee engagement. The company should be able to share with you (or you should be able to find it on their website) some documentation about how they measure engagement and the process they used to make sure it’s valid.

This is important because you need confidence in that measurement of engagement because you’ll want to use it as a filter and means of comparison to evaluate what groups are more engaged than others and what factors are either driving or diminishing engagement.

3. Be thoughtful about what questions you ask.

It is always tempting to use the off-the-shelf set of questions from any survey tool, but I’d caution against that, particularly now. Before even looking at the survey questions, you should go through a process to determine and document what questions you really want to answer through the survey.

For example, you might write down questions like:

  • Do people feel like we care about them? How do they know?
  • How/when/where do people prefer to work?
  • What are the biggest challenges people are facing right now in getting work done?
  • Where do we have the most risk or evidence of employee burnout?
  • How are people feeling about our return to office plans?

These aren’t meant as recommendations, just an example of what might end up on your list. With this documented, you can now start the process of designing your survey. As you evaluate the questions you ask, you can keep coming back to this list to ensure you are at least attempting to answer the most important questions.

4. Import as many demographics into your survey platform as you can.

Let me say this first, never do anonymous surveys. Ever. If your culture is so toxic that you can’t fathom a survey that’s not totally anonymous, you’ve got bigger problems than a survey can solve.

A confidential survey (which means that you assure the employees that their individual responses are treated as confidential) is just as effective in eliciting responses as an anonymous survey, but you end up with much better data.

With that said, when you set up your survey, import as many meaningful demographic characteristics as you can export from your HRIS system. Why? Because the more you set up, the more ways you’ll be able to sort and review your data.

Everything that describes an employee’s role should be included, such as department, location, job level, comp level, tenure, performance evaluation data, manager, etc.

If you are worried about the engagement of remote, hybrid, and onsite employees, this also needs to be included. If you don’t have that data in a field in your HRIS system, then add a question to your survey to get it from the employee.

You should also include all the personal demographics you can: gender, age, race, marital status, parental status, etc. Particularly now and given what’s happened in the world over the past 18 months, our unique work experiences may be more influenced by these factors than anything else. And that’s a story that is profoundly important for you to understand and address in the near term.

5. Get the results to the individual managers as quickly as possible (with some instructions and training on what to do with them).

I alluded to this earlier, but the place where the biggest immediate impact can happen as a result of any engagement survey is at the individual manager level. This is a lesson I learned firsthand as a manager nearly 20 years ago when my organization rolled out the Gallup Q12 process.

At the time, I didn’t even have a team big enough to warrant getting our own results, but I had been taught how to use the results at the HR team level to facilitate a conversation with my people about their engagement and experience. It was a game-changer for my team and me.

The survey results are a catalyst for management transformation. When a manager uses those results to sit down with their team and ask them to share their experiences and thoughts about how the team is doing well and could get better, things change.

It’s not enough to just give managers the results. Don’t make that mistake. They need guidance in making sense of the results, sharing the results with their team, facilitating a discussion with the team about the results, and leading some collaborative action planning with their team. Results plus support and training equals transformation.

Now is a perfect time for a survey

The best time for a survey is when you are most uncertain about what employees need or how they are doing. An engagement survey isn’t about optimizing an arbitrary number. It’s about gathering data to inform better decisions that impact employees so you can retain them and help them perform at their best.

Whether you have a team of 5 people or an organization of 25,000 that you support, a good survey done the right way is one of the most effective and efficient ways to improve performance and drive retention.

If you have specific questions about surveys and how to best use them, drop those in the comments and I’ll be happy to address those for you.

work-from-home post-pandemic work - group of colleagues walking in an office with masks on
3 Big Things You’re Getting Wrong about Post-Pandemic Work
3 Big Things You’re Getting Wrong about Post-Pandemic Work 1080 720 Jason Lauritsen

We’ve officially entered the part of our pandemic journey where we can start planning for how our teams or organizations will work once this virus is under control. To wrestle through sorting out what changes to keep and which to discard as we try to find a new equilibrium.  

This is particularly true for teams whose employees have been working from home for the past year or more. The debate over whether to bring people back to the office or continue a distributed work-from-home strategy will only grow more urgent and heated over the coming months. 

As I’ve had discussions with people about this, I’m worried that there are a few things decision-makers are overlooking. Here are the big ones.

1. You aren’t really in control of this decision.

In the pre-pandemic world, organizations and managers might have been able to get away with requiring people to work in an office to satisfy their need to “see” people working or based on some misguided idea about how ineffective people are when working from home. That lie has been revealed.

People now know what is possible. They know they can work effectively from their homes, often even more effectively than in the office. They know that many of the limitations placed on where they worked pre-pandemic were not based on any real reasons beyond leadership preference or a lack of desire to satisfy employee preferences.  

If organizations force people into working in ways they don’t prefer, they will vote with their feet (or laptops) and leave. Your work-from-home employees have more job options today than before because they can work for anyone, anywhere—from their home. These same people are frequently some of your valuable and expensive as well. 

If you aren’t putting them at the center of the decision-making process about how you move forward, you are putting your team and organization at great risk. 

2. Put an asterisk next to any feedback where employees tell you that they love or hate “working from home.” 

I’ve been working out of a home office on and off for over a decade now. 

Pre-pandemic, working from home meant having an office or space in my house that served as my primary place to store my work stuff, take video meetings, or make virtual presentations. But, I also spent much of my week working from coffee shops or meeting people in person for coffee or lunch.  

I would get up early to do some writing or other focus work for a few hours before helping get the kids ready and off to school. Somedays, I’d head to the gym after that. Others, I’d move to a different couch to do more writing.  

I didn’t like working from home for the first few years because I was still approaching it using habits and mindsets I’d picked up working in offices my entire career. It took a few years to learn how to make WFH work for me. 

And when the pandemic hit, even I had some pretty significant disruptions to how I “work from home.” No more coffee shops. No more gyms. No more in-person coffees or lunches. And, no more travel to provide a change of scenery.  

Here’s my point. Those employees who were forced into working from home for the first time during the pandemic don’t have a complete picture of what working from home could look like without the shackles of pandemic restrictions. 

If you ask employees to provide feedback right now on whether they want to work from home or return to the office, you’re probably getting tainted data. What they’re reacting to is working from home during a pandemic versus working from the office before a pandemic. It’s choosing between two unequal options. 

Instead of obsessing about where people are going to work, it would be far more productive to investigate what people found valuable and satisfying about working from home, what they missed or craved about working from the office, and then marrying that up with the needs of the work and employee.  

3. Face-to-face interaction is important, but it’s not a justification for requiring people to work in an office. 

Just this week, I reconnected with a friend who was sharing with me how she’s desperate to get back into the office. She craves the face-to-face connections and random chats that only happen when we share a space. 

She hates working from home (during a pandemic) because she’s been stripped of all her face-to-face interaction. In her mind, working from home equates to isolation and loss of relationships. 

Years ago, when I was an executive recruiter, most of my clients and candidates were people I’d never meet face to face. I’d spend hours with them on the phone, but because of geography and the way my employer viewed this work, I didn’t have the opportunity to go see them in person. 

But once in a while, I’d have a project or a client in Omaha, where I lived. And I would try to meet with those people in person. What I learned was that even a short meeting in person completely transformed the relationship. It was as if our relationship got a trust injection. In fact, 20 years later, I’m still in touch with some of these people, which is not something I can say about the phone-only relationships I had. 

In his book, The Year without Pants: WordPress.com and the Future of Work, Scott Berkun describes how he took on managing a global team that had no office. One of the things that stuck with me about his journey was the importance and power he described of bringing that team to a common location for a week to work and play together. 

According to his account, that one week of face-to-face time together provided the foundation for them to work together exceptionally well the rest of the time despite being spread across geographies and timezones. 

Face-to-face time together matters. But that should not be a justification for requiring people to return to an office every day where they know they don’t do their best work (or that requires hours of commute time). 

Instead, in-person facetime together should be carefully and intentionally designed into the work experience for every employee and team, regardless of where they work. If we aren’t going to pay for as much office space, we can reinvest that money into opportunities for distributed employees to come together with a purpose.  

Also, for employees like my friend who equate working from home with isolation, we need to encourage and design social connections into how we work. I used to spend many of my lunches with colleagues even when we worked together in an office. Why wouldn’t we meet for lunch or coffee now? 

It’s not about Work From Home or Return-to-Office. 

We are getting trapped into debating and choosing between false choices. If the last year has taught us anything, it’s that our lack of imagination and courage constrained the way we were working pre-pandemic. These cannot be our excuses moving forward.

Instead of wringing our hands over whether to bring people back to the office or let them work from home, dig into what we’ve learned about how and where work can happen. Spend time with your people finding out what’s working, what’s not working, and together, envision what an optimal future might look like. 

The only thing limiting us today in reinventing work for the better is our ability to let go of the past and embrace that the future must be different. If we can be brave enough to keep exploring and trust our people, the possibilities are endless. 

 

Related Reading:

The #1 Management Imperative for 2021

How Has Employee Experience Changed?

Why Employee Well-Being is Vital to Work Performance

Management Needs an Upgrade: The Cultivation Mindset

 

 

Employee experience blog - woman holding compass and looking at mountains
How Has Employee Experience Changed?
How Has Employee Experience Changed? 1080 1350 Jason Lauritsen

I don’t know about you, but I feel like I’ve spent a lot of time trying to make sense of things over the last year. 

So many things changed so quickly. It was disorienting. 

Very little has felt certain or settled. 

And maybe the one thing that has felt the most uncertain and beyond our grasp is, “what comes next?”

The future has always been uncertain and unknowable. It’s not been written yet. 

And now, change has accelerated. Old ways of doing things are shattered and lying in pieces on the floor. And the path forward seems to be both hopeful of better days and treacherous given the presence of violence, illness, and inequity that seem to be lurking around every turn.  

How do you make sense of what’s happening and what to do next?

This question has felt daunting as we’ve navigated decisions about school, socializing, youth sports, and even shopping. 

But, these are relatively small decisions compared to the decisions many of you are confronting in regards to your future workplace.  

As I’ve written many times before, there is no “back to normal.” Normal as we knew it is gone forever. And why would we even consider turning back? We’ve come so far and learned so much. 

A Resource to Help

Earlier this year, my friends at Limeade asked me to write an eBook that could be a resource to those struggling to make sense of how work has truly changed and what that suggests about how we move forward.

In the eBook, I rely on data and trends to paint a picture of some of the most critical ways things have changed for those responsible for creating the employee experience for others. 

You can download the full eBook here.  

In the book, I highlight and describe six disruptions from the past year that have changed employee experience forever: 

  1. The impossible became possible. 
  2. Executives were confronted with the reality that our traditional model of work is broken. 
  3. Our sense of safety was lost. 
  4. Employee experiences varied widely across and within organizations. 
  5. Equity and inclusion became urgent issues. 
  6. A mental health crisis is building, and organizations seem dangerously overconfident. 

Each of these six disruptions is supported by meaty data and real trends. When viewed together, they paint a picture of both possibility and threat. 

The future, though, has yet to be written. This is why I follow the trends with five suggestions for approaching employee experience today and moving forward. 

Download your copy here. 

My goal in creating this wasn’t to predict or prognosticate about the future, but rather to help you get a clearer picture of what’s happening to inform your actions moving forward. 

I’m personally bullish about the future of work. As long as people like you seize upon what we have learned and refuse to turn back, we can create a better, more equitable, and engaging future of work together. 

For those of you who prefer to listen over reading, I also did a recent webinar for Limeade where I shared the insights from the eBook. You can request access to that recording here. 

Please email me or leave a comment with your thoughts. 

  • Which disruption feels the most significant based on your experience? 
  • What other disruptions do you think were incredibly powerful? 
  • Is there anything I got wrong or left out?

Let’s seize the opportunity to create a better future together. It starts today. 

 

Related Reading:

Getting Smart About Employee Experience (Resources)

The #1 Management Imperative for 2021

Designing Employee Experience (A “How To” Series)

Getting Smart About Employee Experience
Getting Smart About Employee Experience (Resources)
Getting Smart About Employee Experience (Resources) 1024 512 Jason Lauritsen

Employee experience isn’t a trend or a fad or a buzzword. It is, and will continue to be, a shift in how we do the work of unlocking human potential at work. If you haven’t already embraced this shift, now is the time. The best place to start is to get educated about experience, what it means, and why it matters.

Today’s post is about pointing you towards one great resource for doing just that.

Over the past several years serving as an advisor to the North American Employee Engagement Awards, I’ve had the opportunity to get to know Aimee Lucas and her work at the Temkin Group (now the Qualtrics XM Institute).  Each year, she presents some great insights and research findings at the event showing the strong linkages between employee engagement and customer satisfaction.

Aimee and her group have been at the forefront of the conversation about both customer and employee experience. At this year’s event, she shared a model they call “The Human Experience Cycle” that is a helpful way of understanding how experience works. The thing I love most about this model is that it clearly outlines the role that individual expectations play in how we experience things.

 

 

You can read more about the model here. It applies to both customer and employee experience. And it helps explain how to shape and measure experience.

Beyond this model, the Qualtrics XM Institute website is a treasure trove of resources available for free. At the site, you’ll find research and guidance about both employee and customer experience and, more critically, the relationship between them.  Below are a few I recommend that you check out as you continue your education in this emerging domain.

Insight Report: Employee Engagement Competency & Maturity, 2018 – Download

  • “When we compared companies with above average employee engagement maturity to those with lower maturity, we found that employee engagement leaders have better customer experience, enjoy better financial results, have more coordinated employee engagement efforts, have more widespread support across employee groups, are more likely to act on employee feedback, and face fewer obstacles than their counterparts with less engaged workforces.”
  • “The top obstacle to employee engagement activities continues to be the lack of an employee engagement strategy.”

Insight Report: Propelling Experience Design Across an Organization – Download

  • This is a great resource to understand the work of designing experience. It’s focused on customer experience, but if you replace the word “customer” with “employee” as you read, you’ll begin to see the impact.
  • “This report explores how companies can use Experience Design – which we define as a repeatable, human-centric approach for creating emotionally resonant interactions – to craft consistently excellent interactions and how they can share and spread these capabilities across the entire organization.”

Post: The Inextricable Link Between CX & EX

  • “Although the connection between customer experience (CX) and employee experience (EX) may seem obvious to many people, it’s important that we periodically test the linkage. So we took a look at the data from our survey that drove the report, State of CX Management, 2018.”

Post: The Engaging Power Of Employee Feedback

  • “In our Q3 2018 Consumer Benchmark Study, we found that 40% of full time U.S. employees strongly agrees with the statement, ‘My company asks for my feedback and acts upon what I say.'”
  • “Eighty-two percent of employees who strongly agree that their company takes action on their feedback are likely to do something good for the company, compared with only 30% of those who do not agree.”
Jason Lauritsen