Looking back, the last two months have been surreal – for all of us. Everything is new, and the struggle to make abnormal processes normal has transformed daily operations. The most common business pain points are now applying even more pressure than before the pandemic.

Why is that the case?

Let’s take a look at it in terms that we all can relate to. Imagine you’re driving a car with unbalanced wheels. As long as you’re cruising in the parking lot at 5 miles per hour, you’ll only feel a light rattle, if anything at all. However, if you go on the highway with wheels that are out of balance, the steering wheel will be violently shaking and it might feel like you’re about to lose control of your car.

That’s exactly what has happened in many businesses in the last couple of months. It feels as if the wheels are about to come off because everything is being pressure tested under the challenging circumstances COVID-19 has brought on. As a result, weaknesses are being not only exposed but magnified.

With so much happening at the same time, customer-facing employees on the front lines of businesses are under tremendous stress and pressure. It has become more critical than ever to avoid inconsistent execution, lack of visibility into the status of projects, and broad assignment of specific tasks, to mention just a few key competency areas.

Amid the chaos, in a world that has been turned upside down, the mental and physical well-being of your hourly employees on the front lines is of utmost importance. Frequent, personalized communications are mission-critical because, during times of high stress, individuals want to be reassured and receive guidance. Nothing is worse than being left out of the loop in times of crisis. Consider that individuals are already overwhelmed with everything that is going on in their private lives. If you don’t personalize communications and break the information down into bite-sized chunks and easy to follow instructions, your employees might get the perception that you don’t care about them.

Poor communication can have a significant ripple effect on employee relationships, performance, and it also prevents effective collaboration. Luckily, there’s a quick way to not only reach out to employees regularly, but also make them feel like they have a voice and can get their needs met: spot surveys.

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Why two-way communication matters, and what to ask

While cascading personalized information down to your employees is more critical than ever before, you should consider this an opportunity not just for notification but for two-way communication. To be clear, I’m not suggesting that you give all 20,000 associates a chat capability to get in touch with HR. Luckily, nowadays, we have several technology tools at our disposal. A very effective one to collect feedback from your employees without opening the floodgates to general email replies is the use of spot surveys.

With spot surveys, you have the flexibility to check in with your employees frequently while at the same time being able to tailor your questions based on their changing needs. The following are a few examples of questions you could ask and what to consider when asking them:

1. Do you feel comfortable with the measures we've taken to protect your health and well-being during COVID-19?

You could consider just letting employees type anything they want in answer to this question to get suggestions for improvement, but this could be a slippery slope, especially if you get many unrealistic suggestions that aren’t actionable. To better quantify the response, I recommend providing a scale from 1 to 10 for individuals to respond to. If a large percentage of the responses are unfavorable, you can always follow up with a question providing multiple choice answers to clarify the areas of concern further.

2. Do you have any questions about the use of your personal protective equipment (PPE)?

This question should only be asked after you've provided detailed instructions, ideally in form of diagrams, videos, or in-store demonstrations to train employees in the proper use of the PPE. Asking a question like this should not be used as a replacement for the required training or instruction. But it is a helpful tool to validate the effectiveness of the training or guidelines provided and identify where there may still be knowledge gaps.

3. On a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (extremely high), how would you rate the current level of stress in your life?

The opportunity here is to identify at-risk groups of individuals by location, store, line of business, job category, or any other segmentation that makes sense for your business so you can provide targeted communications with available resources to assist anyone who may be struggling.

4. On a scale from 1 (low) to 10 (extremely high), how likely are you to refer a friend to work for us?

This is a typical net promoter score question that you might want to ask in a certain cadence to monitor the trend. This question, as well as other questions about employee satisfaction and engagement, can provide helpful insights into the effectiveness of initiatives and programs that you have put in place to influence the employee experience positively.

5. What’s on your mind? Use the space below to suggest a question you would like us to ask in the next spot survey.

You could provide a list of options, or you could offer a free text response. This is an excellent opportunity to engage your employees in the spot survey process and give them some ownership; just make sure that you let your employees know how you select the next question, such as the highest number of votes for different options or the most prevalent topics identified in free text responses.

Making spot surveys effective

There are countless ways you can use spot surveys, but I hope you can see now how they can be a versatile tool to not only collect information but also demonstrate to your employees that you care and that their input is valued. Used correctly, spot surveys can even strengthen and positively impact the employee experience. To make spot surveys work for your business, you should be aware of a few ground rules.

Most employees don’t have “respond to spot surveys” in their job description or performance goals, so you will have to educate employees on what’s in it for them. One of the most effective ways to accomplish that is by being diligent on two levels: 

  • The first piece is providing employees with the results of the survey promptly.
  • The second is communicating to your employees the actions you have taken or will take based on the feedback provided in each survey.

While these might sound like common sense, unfortunately it’s where many businesses drop the ball. By not closing the communication loop and failing to act on the insights gained from the spot surveys, employees will quickly ignore your request to respond, and what could have been a feather in your cap can turn into a strike against you in their eyes.

Conclusion: Spot surveys build employee relationships when used well

Spot surveys can be a powerful tool, but as I’m sure you know, with great power comes great responsibility. If you use spot surveys wisely and implement changes in ways that are visible to your employees, you’ll not only gain invaluable insights but also build stronger relationships with your people. If you want more details on how to keep your employee experience positive even through the most stressful circumstances or have any other questions around managing through the current uncertainty, I invite you to visit Kronos’ resource page to learn more.

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Published: Tuesday, May 26, 2020