Plan for the future by listening to employees now

If your building is on fire, go grab a hose. It’s not the time to be drafting new architectural plans to make your business fireproof. It’s also not the time to lament over not having a fireproof building in the first place.

Plan for futureIt is possible for organizations to leverage times of crisis as a strategic advantage. Experience tells us that human beings are quite good at adapting to a new environment. However, it also tells us we are less adept at applying rigorous thought to future needs.

Amid this COVID-19 crisis, organizations have a unique opportunity to innovate their business model – and the employee experience, too. With some extra effort, leaders can go beyond the typical knee-jerk reactions and temporary fixes. And those who can figure it out quickly will have an incredible advantage for growth on the other side of this crisis.

Organizational change always starts with leadership. So first, leaders need to evaluate and refine how they:

  • Communicate with the organization.
  • Stay connected – and keep their people connected.
  • Motivate people in a remote environment.
  • Plan for the rapidly changing future.

Leaders can address and improve their leadership style by crafting a unique approach to planning that incorporates strategies for the current, transition, and future states.

With any new approach, it is imperative for organizational leaders to have a robust employee feedback system. This helps to confirm the organization is headed in the right direction, and it also provides an early-warning signal to indicate when a strategy pivot may be needed.

Capturing employee feedback and using it to guide your decision making is important, especially now. Short, targeted, and more frequent “pulse” surveys (no more than 10 questions, typically) are an extremely efficient way to collect feedback. Internally, short, and targeted surveys help you to:

  • Watch for signals about the employee experience and how well your culture is supporting your strategy.
  • Gauge connection and alignment with your strategy and values.
  • Know if your people feel motivated to give their best.
  • Make sure your employees feel appreciated and recognized for their contributions.
  • Determine whether your employees have the right tools to do extraordinary work.
  • Identify potential barriers.

There are external benefits to employee feedback. As your employees are your eyes on the world, they are often the first to notice changes that may affect what is happening now. A good pulse survey will alert you to these changes much faster than the same information will show up in financial reports or sales reports.

Remember, organizational threats and opportunities often begin as weak signals from the periphery. Monitoring these triggers will help you to quickly seize opportunities and mitigate threats. 

Tom Devane is vice president of workplace consulting for Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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