Many companies are suddenly working remotely for the first time, and employees need to transition to working from home right now. During these changes, knowing your remote employees’ moods and expectations is more important than ever. Feedback data is becoming more crucial for all in HR, and many business leaders are already using digital solutions to measure their remote workers’ experiences. But how can you actually use that data to improve the employee experience?
We spoke with three HR experts to hear their insights on why continuous employee feedback matters, and how leaders can use the data and engage their remote employees.
Jaakko Sahimaa, Organizational psychologist, researcher, and author focused on making work more meaningful on an individual, organizational, and societal level.
Juho Toivola, Organizational psychologist and thought leader who was named “HR industry forerunner who is leading the way” this year.
Susanna Rantanen, CEO and co-founder of Emine, which was announced as one of the “Top 10 Employer Branding Agencies in Europe” by HR Tech Outlook (US).
What leaders need to know about remote workers
Whether or not fully remote work is temporary for your company, it seems like it’s becoming the new normal. Between 2005 to 2017, there was a 159% increase in remote work, and it’s grown 44% in the last five years. In the current situation, business leaders could challenge any of their existing biases to remote work and instead aim to co-create a positive remote employee experience.
Susanna Rantanen shares the key elements of a good remote organization or team:
- Trust: A culture of trust that work gets done despite the place or time.
- Clear communication channels: Everyone knows what, where, and when to communicate on which topics. Everyone knows when an answer is not expected—understanding when the workday starts and ends—and that people do not need to be available at all times.
- Channels: For official and unofficial communication, and channels for feedback.
- Working infrastructure: Tools, connections, a place to work at home.
- Clarity on roles & responsibilities: Understanding how work is divided.
- Good social networks: Official and unofficial.
Remote employees don’t need to work the traditional 9-to-5 workday. Rather, remote work enables people to better align their work and private life. Since not all employees will have the same daily schedule, clear communication is needed within teams to ensure everyone understands the culture, how to work together, and how to help one another within working hours. Individuals also need to clearly communicate their availability to the team.
You don’t need to replicate in-person office interactions with your remote employees. But to keep them happy and engaged, you need to show remote employees respect and consideration, have meaningful communication, and actively listen to their needs. Collecting continuous, real-time employee feedback is the best way to improve remote employee experience.
Why real-time, continuous employee experience measurement is crucial
Things are changing fast in today’s climate. You need to feel the pulse of your remote employees’ experiences and expectations at all times, meaning bi-annual, monthly, or even weekly surveys are not enough. Instead, you need to measure your employees’ moods and expectations every single day.
Juho Toivola shares his insights on the importance of continuous employee feedback: “As an employer, you don’t know what people say about you when you are not in the room. And yet that is the most honest feedback that tells what your employees think about their job, peers, community, management, and the organization culture they work in.
“Getting direct, continuous feedback from all employees is important and useful because it gives you visibility on what matters to them. The topics and themes that people give as feedback are never just feedback, they have already become talking points. You can be sure they are being discussed among employees and with people outside your organization.”
By enabling continuous feedback, you can discover the genuine talking points that need your reactions and actions. The more frequently you get direct feedback, the better you know the talking points.
5 ways to use real-time employee experience insights
We asked the HR experts for their tips for how leaders could use real-time employee experience insights to help their remote workers and the entire organization.
1. Feel the real-time pulse
Susanna Rantanen discusses how to lead and support employees during fully remote periods: “I often get asked ‘How could I motivate my employees?’ and everytime I answer ‘Have you asked them?’ This is simple advice—ask and you will know. Feel the pulse of the organization. This means you need to enable people to give feedback on what works and what needs improvements. You need to be aware of how people experience their workday.”
You can provide specific options for what makes employees happy, and where there’s room for improvement—such as leadership, workload, internal communications, teamwork, and purpose.
“When you ask your employees every day how they feel, you’ll know their pain points and their highlights. That helps you understand what needs to be fixed and how, where leader support is needed, and which challenges your organization members could solve as a team or as a community. Use these insights in daily leadership and management, and to empower people to make the changes,” Jaakko states.
When you know employees’ specific pain points, you can focus on solutions that matter. And by inviting them to share the highlights of your company and work community, you can share a sense of pride with your team, demonstrate your success to external stakeholders, and improve your employer brand.
2. Improve the 360° employee experience journey
Since multiple points make up the entire employee experience, you need to get employee feedback on:
- The applicant experience
- The recruitment experience
- The employee experience
- The advocate experience
While regular calls, check-ins, and chats with your team are important, they don’t give you a big picture view of the remote employee experience. However, continuous, real-time feedback will give you statistically significant information on how your employees are doing right now, allow you to monitor trends and fluctuations over time, and identify differences in teams and departments.
One of the key drivers of employee happiness is meaningful work. It can be especially challenging to maintain a sense of community and meaningfulness in remote work, so it’s crucial that leaders use continuous employee feedback to understand how their organization feels right now, what’s working well, and where improvements are needed.
Jaakko Sahimaa states that “Through continuous feedback, you are able to identify what might be killing motivation and meaningfulness in your organization, and how to fix that. You are also able to identify what you’re good at, create a sense of accomplishment together, and discover how to further develop your strengths.”
By using continuous feedback data for daily management, team management, and organizational leadership, you get a 360° view of the employee experience.
3. Ask for feedback about specific topics
When there are changes within your organization—such as sudden remote work— or you’ve recently implemented new ways of doing things, it’s especially important to ask for feedback. Learning what has the biggest impact on employee wellbeing now is critical to ensure you focus on the right things.
Susanna explains, “Change is always a journey—it starts from the world we know and ends with the new normal. The journey itself is the most challenging—you need to be aware how your employees feel during that journey. Feel the pulse to be able to keep everyone onboard.”
Susanna suggests asking your newly remote employees:
- Have you found a routine, or is lack of routines causing you stress?
- Do you have any infrastructures in place or is that causing them unwanted extra effort, stress, or bad ergonomy?
- How do you feel about communication and new types of teamwork?
- Do you feel alone or still feel as a part of a social network?
- Have you managed to separate working hours and free time?
Asking how your employees are doing instead shows that you care about their wellbeing.
4. Evaluate & adjust your employee value proposition
Your employee value proposition (EVP) is the unique set of benefits that an employee receives in return for the skills, capabilities, and experience they bring to a company. It defines the essence of your company—how it is unique and what it stands for.
“Evaluate whether your EVP and values come to life in employees’ real-life experience. If yes, great—you are going in the right direction. If not, dig deeper and react,” Juho says.
- What needs to change?
- How will we communicate internally and externally about the gap between our goal and values and employees’ real-life experience?
- What kind of actions should be taken?
- How can we engage all managers and employees to improve experiences?
In times like these, your employee value proposition and your organizational culture are being put to a huge test. It’s important to check how well your EVP is fulfilled when your company is changing rapidly and your employees’ everyday work has transformed. Juho shares an example: “If your Employee Value Proposition is built on ‘close collaboration between teams and customers, human to human communication and community’ does this come alive when people are working remotely? Your EVP needs to reflect the reality of what your organization’s members are actually experiencing.”
This is where continuous feedback plays a huge role—you’re able to learn more about your organization, teams and individuals. You don’t need to guess what kind of support your employees need, but can identify their needs through continuous feedback.
5. Close the feedback loop & communicate back with your employees
After gathering employee feedback and taking actions, it’s crucial for leaders to communicate back to their team. Share the pain points, highlights, actions taken, results, and check-in with how your team members are doing. By sharing experience insights, action plans, and results in real-time with everyone at your company, you show that all employees have a voice. Especially with a fully remote workforce, it’s always better to over-communicate.
“Dialog and communication are the most important change management elements. All levels of leaders and managers should see the feedback data and use the insights in their daily work to empower people to make changes. Communicate the results, engage people to co-create better experiences, and communicate about improvements. Enabling feedback and communicating back increases togetherness and meaningfulness,” explains Susanna.
Keep the human-to human-approach
Now and in the times ahead, leaders need to think of the employee experience as the human experience. Juho shares his thoughts for the future: “When we go back to the new normal, work life will be transformed. The way people think about overall work-life balance, and their wishes and requirements for organizations will change. During this time, people will understand what elements build meaningful life, what kind of work life balance they would like to have and how they see themselves as employees and as a part of a team, organization and society. This is going to be a global transformation.”
Susanna urges leaders to keep the human-to-human approach: “We’re now in an unusual situation where you learn more about your colleagues everyday—sometimes in remote meetings kids are asking for help with school work or you get introduced to your colleagues’ pets. You see the other side of your colleagues’ work-life balance, and that increases humanity at the organization. We are building unofficial connections, and sharing similar situations—this is something we should keep when things get back to the new normal. Why change humanity? Let’s just increase that!”
In summary: Key impacts of continuous, real-time feedback
- Engage all employees across different countries and time zones
- Take immediate actions based on employee feedback
- Use employee feedback as a leadership and management tool
- Close the feedback loop by gathering, sharing, taking actions, and communicating back with the team
- Expand your idea of “employee experience” to human experience”
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