“Get ready for unprecedented change,” the HR opinion leaders promise as if we hadn’t already experienced enough of these changes and had to adapt. How should businesses adjust to turbulence? Research has shown that both employees and managers feel remarkable change fatigue.
Transformation of working life
An essential shift has happened – people see employment less as a transaction and more as a relationship or connection. We value our relationship with the employer, the respective business, and customers more than before. Research confirms that employee wellbeing depends more than before on whether personal and company values match. Based on the 2021 Gartner study (Hybrid and Return to Work Survey), 53% of respondents admitted that they doubted the meaning and purpose of their daily work after the pandemic. Gallup measures employee satisfaction and points out that only 20% of employees believe they thrive at work. 18% of those surveyed feel miserable, and the rest just go to work (Blind Spot. The Global Rise of Unhappiness and How Leaders Missed It. 2022). And according to the research firm, this trend is worsening.
The simplified conclusion says that the current management practices and metrics no longer work, and we must follow the changes. Monitoring engagement and job satisfaction alone does not yield the expected results. Employees want much more flexibility when it comes to where and when they work. The unique employee experience—the skills, personality type, and life stage—makes the map of expectations a thousand-piece puzzle. A one-size-fits-all solution does not work, and the importance of compensation is in decline as a reason for resigning from the workplace. In parallel to salary, burnout experiencing and lack of flexibility have a comparable weight when considering leaving a job.
The team leader is an endangered species
Employees’ expectations of the manager have increased drastically. The direct manager creates an atmosphere in the team where there is trust among the team members, and everyone feels involved. Ideally, we want the team leader to obtain the necessary resources from the top management, to be able to read the body language of team members through the screen, and to give advice in case of mental tension. In addition, we know that a team leader’s influence on team members’ mental health is comparable to that of a spouse. As the icing on the cake, post-pandemic research suggests that first-line managers are at the highest risk of burnout due to changes imposed during restrictions. Gartner used the phrase “the team leader is sandwiched between top management and employee expectations” to describe the team leader position.
Where should a company find all those superheroes, or how can managers be trained to be on the expected level? People-centered management sounds trivial, but it helps managers get closer to employees’ expectations. Each of the teammates seeks a unique experience in the working relationship. How do you collect these expectations and reactions to changes to make wise choices and the finest management decisions? Do managers have sufficient data on people’s sentiments?
Monitoring works as an activity monitor
A once-a-year engagement survey only gives managers a snapshot of one week and does not reveal positive or adverse reactions to day-to-day internal or external events. The more often employees share their opinion, the lower the effect of situationality on the results. In the case of continuous, daily, or weekly monitoring, it is possible to mitigate the timing risk and monitor dynamics over time. For example, weeks after the restructuring, it is possible to map people’s assessments of the change and react if necessary. As on the activity tracker, monitoring identifies areas that need managers’ attention and teams’ unique strengths.
So what to map, and what questions to ask to get agile and actionable data? Since expectations differ widely, mapping the employee experience on the broadest possible scale is evidenced. For example, by monitoring the employee journey, one can find weak points related to onboarding and the decline in motivation after some years. Were there changes before the voluntary leaving that could have influenced this decision?
As teams’ sentiments differ, working conditions and climate must be monitored at the team level. Monitoring wellbeing in all aspects provides valuable information about the areas needing attention and improvements of the same assessments after taking activities. If the goal is to map the entire employee experience, ask hundreds of different questions, and in this case, a long-term or ongoing survey is the only feasible solution.
What data does an effective manager need?
A mere recommendation index or level of engagement does not give the manager a specific course of action. Data becomes actionable when a survey opens up building blocks of engagement through particular questions, such as trust, meaning in work, and values. In favor of long-term monitoring is the need to reach the root causes and specific issues that need attention.
According to HR experts, management efficiency is one of the most critical focuses in 2023, in parallel to employee experience. In the era of hybrid work, consultants recommend team leaders communicate with each team member at least once a week. It cannot be more than a brief contact. When employee wellbeing monitoring runs in the background and maps all aspects of their working life, the manager can focus only on what is relevant and act efficiently.
A pulse survey (internal climate, current moods) is an excellent tool for mapping employees’ emotions and satisfaction. The focus of pulse questions is narrow and based on management or HR assessments. Employees’ concerns often differ from the manager’s; they are unique for every person. The broad scope of monitoring helps to reach blind spots that have not been discussed yet.
Companies with engaged employees stand stronger on turbulences
Many businesses detail the customer’s journey and collect customer feedback after every transaction. Employees deserve equal attention and have opinions and suggestions about work and organization. People discuss these topics more often in the smoking area or office kitchen than in team meetings. More people will speak out if companies make collecting ideas and feedback easy, safe, and convenient.
Daily use of social media has made expressing an opinion a standard for everybody, disregarding the professional position. Not all people are provided floor at the meeting, and many do not dare to give their idea in front of the team. Why not give your people a handy solution with a great user experience, invite them to join the change management, and benefit from the usage of collective wisdom during our volatile times?
Employee experience monitoring is a management tool
I encourage companies to map the work experience of their teams. Even three months of monitoring involves getting answers to a hundred questions (if you ask a question daily). After all, it provides more information than any traditional survey.
Be prepared to discover some surprises and blind spots. At a minimum, leaders gain confidence that their priorities match most of the employees and that they are concentrating on the right goals.
The monitors are primarily anonymous and reflect the team’s team’s team’s evaluations, not the individual employee. Each unit has unique problems and joys; it’s easy to define them with software like Motichek. In addition, most of the work is done in groups that are not official departments in the structure but deal and project teams (source: M. Buckingham on ADP Research Institute 2019). The expectations of these temporary teams are high and unique as well. Monitoring them and supporting the managers with the collected data would also be worthwhile.
The software underlines the need to polish the professional life experience, and the team leader has clear priorities. Management’s quality and efficiency will improve and be more responsive to employee expectations. The puzzle pieces gradually start to fit together when people management design is as data-driven as financial planning.
According to Gallup, only 8% of employees agree that their company uses survey results to initiate development actions (link to the survey). So there is a lot of potential for enhancement.
Pille Parind-Nisula, 2023