In the initial days after the start of COVID-19, many employees went onto social media to share how their companies forced them to come down to office without considering their safety. Many employees who had the option to work from home expressed their anger when they realized their companies did not trust them and asked them to keep their videos on during work hours.
A report by TechCrunch in March 2020 reported that Charter Communications employees were still asked to come down to office despite the pandemic. An engineer from the company ended up resigning when his company did not let them work from home. This was the case of hundreds, perhaps thousands, of employees who had to choose between financial security and health. However, the situation soon changed when the pandemic got worse and companies listened to their employees and asked them to work from home.
A lesson learned
The current crisis has been difficult for both management and employees across all sectors and industries. While CXOs are busy building business continuity plans, employees are feeling overwhelmed. HRs must be the bridge between the employees and management. While HRs are also undergoing a lot of changes trying to accommodate a virtual work life, one of the keys to establishing trust amongst the employees is by listening to them.
In the podcast series by Culture Club, veteran HRs try to explore these recent challenges and the need for HR leaders to go beyond their role and be empathetic to employees globally. Episode 2 of Culture Club is a conversation between Ramakrishna Vyamajala (Head of HR at HomeFirst Finance Company), Ketan (Head of People Function, Rentomojo) and Senthil (Founder & CEO, CultureMonkey) where Ramakrishna observes the many changes in organizational behavior since the start of the pandemic. An interesting observation he shares is that managers have become more empathetic towards their team members since people started working from home due to this pandemic. In fact, Ramakrishna says that the only way HRs can promote this evolving company culture is through regional managers and other mid-level or lower-level managers.
This directs us to the fact that organizations are rapidly evolving now more than ever and that the management needs to listen to their employees. Until and unless organizations completely adopt an employee-first culture, they cannot overcome crises like the current one. What helps employees during their tenure in a company is the confidence that their leaders are listening to them. The very need for building a flexible and approachable company culture is to give employees the freedom to share their thoughts and ideas with the team at large. The first thing that companies must do during any crisis is to reach out to employees and listen to their concerns and opinions.
A very important (and big) lesson the pandemic has taught organizations of all sizes is the importance of listening to their employees.
Communication is the key
According to Harvard Business Review's 5 Tips for Communicating with Employees During a Crisis post, company leaders must communicate with their team members with urgency, transparency, and empathy. This helps in making quicker decisions to overcome harm, showing respect to their employees, and keeping everything transparent helps establish trust. There are a few pointers that leaders must remember during a crisis:
- Communicate regularly.
- Devise and share a plan for the future.
- Be open about layoffs, if any, so that employees can be prepared.
- Help employees adjust to the new changes.
It's important to note here that leaders might always be busy with a hundred different things but, communicating with employees should never be forgotten. It is easy to understand that companies where leaders did not take the time to communicate with their employees, must have suffered a great deal — employees do not see such companies as honest, reliable, and trustworthy anymore.
How to initiate employee feedback
Companies must establish safe channels to enable employee feedback. Just verbally stating that feedback is welcomed and that they are willing to bring in changes is not enough. Employees must know for a fact that their leaders, especially HR leaders, are willing to put in the effort of initiating unbiased feedback channels for their employees.
CultureMonkey, an employee engagement platform, helps company HRs and management help employees share their feedback with the leaders without any threat of prejudice. Some tools that help companies establish communication channels are:
If there’s anything that empowers employees to speak up fearlessly, then that is anonymous feedback. CultureMonkey enables employees to reach out to their HRs whenever they face issues in their professional life. Instant feedback via email helps the concerned department to team up with the HRs and respond to the feedback as well as take action when required. The HR or team lead can also choose to respond privately to the anonymous feedback to communicate to the employee that they care and are willing to take the extra step for them.
Using CultureMonkey’s short and frequent pulse surveys helps leaders and HRs attain real-time insights into employees’ feedback. Pulse surveys are efficient ways of measuring the different drivers in a company and help understanding which needs more attention. Repeating these surveys every few weeks helps the management study and understand the progress of their actions in terms of employee management. It is easy to measure metrics, identify and solve the problem(s) through pulse surveys.
CultureMonkey understands that every organization functions differently and has different needs. It suggests actions to team leads and managers based on the available data concerning their specific teams. These suggestions are carefully curated from its library of more than 150 researched actions. Another great aspect here is that leaders can always keep learning from leaders in other companies and increase their engagement. They can do this by taking actions that have been successfully implemented by other leaders that will help your company too.
It’s time companies realize they need to listen and communicate with their employees to navigate through a crisis successfully. Helping out employees is the first step towards positively impacting the company’s growth.