Listen. Act. Repeat: How Leaders Can Provide a Modern-Day Employee Experience

By: Jay Choi, EVP and GM of EmployeeXM, Qualtrics

We are in uncharted territory. From the largest lockdown in history to global social unrest, economic disruption, and all-remote workforces, 2020 has brought challenges leaders have never faced before. And the year is not over yet.

However, with any challenge or disruption we face, an opportunity to grow and become better soon follows. Right now, organizations across the world have an opportunity, maybe for the first time in years, to reflect on how they are taking care of their people and the changes they need to make.

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We can’t simply “go back” to the way things were before this year, nor should we. Expectations and the nature of work have changed forever. We have to create a better experience for our workforce and ensure the “new normal” becomes the “new better.” Here’s how.

Listen. Act. Repeat.

A new global Qualtrics study on employee experience found that 92% of respondents said employee listening is either important or very important during this crisis, but only 51% were explicitly asked for feedback by their employers. Those who were given the opportunity to provide feedback responded significantly more favorably about their resilience and well-being than those who were not asked.

Every employee’s needs are different. Whether it’s about their remote work situation, employee benefits, or health and safety in the workplace, frequent feedback opportunities give employees an opportunity to share their voice with company leadership — and gives leadership an opportunity to do something about it.

Because employee feedback is only useful when leaders commit to taking action on it. We intuitively know that asking for input and feedback can improve an organization’s ability to maintain an engaged and productive workforce. But the data shows, unequivocally, that the process of turning that feedback into clear action actually has an even more significant impact on one of the most critical drivers of an organization’s resiliency: employees’ intent to stay.

Nearly 70% of employees at organizations that do well turning feedback into action say they intend to stay long-term. But only 48% of employees at companies that do a poor job of turning feedback into action say the same — even fewer than at companies that don’t ask for feedback at all.

Leadership counts double in a crisis

Strong leadership is a consistent driver of engagement and resilience across an organization.

People who have manager support at work are twice as likely to have the ingredients for resilience than those who do not (86% vs. 43%), and they’re three times more likely to be engaged at work (79% vs. 23%), the data shows. Unfortunately, only 67% of employees said their managers have helped them adapt to organizational change.

Empower your managers to support their teams by equipping them with the right information to explain and prepare those teams for change. Give them the tools and autonomy to balance and manage workloads (including their own), adjust targets, and communicate expectations.

Those who lack clear expectations from managers are 51% more likely to feel less productive and twice as likely to feel anxiety while working from home, according to recent research.

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Get back to basics

Sometimes the pursuit of new and trendy ideas leads us away from solid, foundational principles. If we want to truly improve employee experience for the modern era, we can’t forget about the basics.

Employee engagement actually increased during the pandemic for more than 70% of the organizations involved in the global study. As leaders recognized the risks of COVID-19, many stepped up to take action and instinctively provided visibility and transparency, communicated more frequently, and made decisions that showed they care about their people.

And employees’ confidence in senior leadership’s ability to make the right decisions for their organizations actually increased by 14% during the pandemic, jumping from 53% to 67%. Strong leadership and communication strengthened the bond between most organizations and their workforce, even (and especially) during a crisis.

As we return to our workplaces and regular routines, let’s not forget the things we learned during the crisis. Employees are the lifeblood of an organization, and we need to learn from their experiences to improve the ones we offer in the future. Don’t let this opportunity to create the “new better” pass by.

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