Is your organisation doing enough for employee mental health?

happy neutral and sad faces pegged on a string
kelly handley

Kelly Handley

Kelly is Head of Client Services at Evolve. Kelly loves innovation and finding creative solutions to communications challenges.

I think it’s fair to say that society, in general, has become more aware of the importance of mental health and wellbeing over the last decade.

 

While advocates would argue there is still some way to go, there is increasing awareness and destigmatisation of mental health issues and disorders and a surge in people seeking help.

 

It is only natural this has extended into the workplace, where there is now a significant and increasing focus on the importance of managers and organisations supporting employee mental health.

 

Indeed the concept of a ‘mentally healthy workplace’ has emerged as a critical topic globally, with the World Health Organisation (WHO) releasing a Healthy Workplace framework and model that outlines recommendations for employers and organisations wanting to address the issue.

 

The WHO document describes a shift in focus from the physical work environment towards other factors such as health practice factors, psychosocial factors and a link to the community – all of which have a significant impact on employee health.

 

So what defines a healthy workplace? The WHO regional office defines it as one where its members work together to achieve an agreed vision for the health and well-being of workers and community – providing members of the workforce with physical, psychological, social and organisational conditions that protect their health and safety.

 

Closer to home, the Australian Government’s Department of Health also acknowledges that wellbeing and mental health are important aspects of workplace health.

There are some obvious, intrinsic ethical and social benefits realised from organisations prioritising the value of a mentally healthy workplace.

 

There is also a clear business case for organisations supporting employee mental health – with a large and increasing body of evidence confirming mental health issues impact organisations directly through increased absenteeism, impacts on productivity and profits, as well as increases in costs to deal with the mental health issues(1).

 

So how can you and your organisation ensure you are supporting employee mental health in the workplace?

1. Promote Manager Support
Much of the current research into mental health in the workplace has looked at the role of managers in supporting employee mental health.

 

Managers should not be expected to act as counsellors, but rather as a resource for employees who may be struggling, providing them with the flexibility that they may need at work, and encouraging help-seeking and accessing support.

 

This is backed by a Black Dog Institute pilot program undertaken in 2017 which provided managers of emergency services personnel with online mental health training.

 

Managers were taught how to recognise common mental health presentations, how to have supportive conversations about workload and performance, and how to convey support and acknowledgement to employees who were experiencing mental health issues.

 

In addition to substantial reductions in work-related sickness absence, the training was also associated with a return on investment of $9.98 for each dollar spent on the training.

 

2. Address Risk Factors
The Black Dog Institute has also developed research into common risk factors in workplaces for mental health. These include:

  • occupational uncertainty – e.g. a lack of job security or poorly managed organisational change
  • lack of value and respect in the workplace – e.g. bullying or a lack of organisational justice; and
  • an imbalance in job design – e.g. issues with workload and resources. (2) 

Being aware of these risk factors and being able to address them is likely to result in an improvement in workplace morale.

 

This might look like addressing issues of workload, providing as much information as possible about job security, and ensuring that an organisation has strong policies around workplace bullying, harassment and discrimination.

 

This approach requires support from leadership and an ongoing commitment to address the issues that are impacting employee wellbeing.

 

3. Provide Flexibility and Resources
Flexible working arrangements can be invaluable for employees’ work-life balance. Allowing working from home or remotely and flexi-time can be hugely helpful for employees who are struggling with their mental health.

 

Making sure that employees are aware of the resources available to them at work, such as Employee Assistance Program (EAP) counselling, carers leave and unpaid leave, provides an additional level of support – communicating to the employee that their wellbeing is important to the organisation.

 

Again, the business case for flexibility is strong – greater flexibility and autonomy for employees means that they will better manage their levels of stress, leading to lower incidences of burnout and sick leave – as well as being more engaged and productive employees.

The Black Dog Institute has an extensive library of online resources to help you or someone you know become mentally healthier, which you can access here.

 

What kinds of strategies have you used to support employee mental health in the workplace? What has been helpful in terms of educating and training managers in supporting their employees’ mental health? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

References:

1. European Network for Workplace Health Promotion. Newsletter 09/2010/.

2. Harvey SB, Modini M, Joyce S, et al. (2017) Can work make you mentally ill? A systematic meta-review of work-related risk factors for common mental health problems Occup Environ Med.

The transformational role of employee recognition – more than just movie vouchers and watches?

thank you on post-it note
anthony ryan

Anthony Ryan

Anthony is The Evolved Group’s People and Culture Specialist. His expertise is in the measurement and analysis of organisational culture, effectiveness and the employee experience.

A key theme we see consistently in employee engagement surveys is the topic of recognition – a manager demonstrating to their employees that their work is valued, in a way that reinforces their behaviour and emotional connection to the organisation.

 

So why do we get it so wrong, so often? Many top tier organisations have employee recognition programs that fall flat, and it is not uncommon to see employees leaving an organisation in droves, despite any number of perks and sweeteners.

 

Recognition is defined as the act of seeing or identifying, or the acknowledgement of something as valid or entitled to consideration.

 

When we consider what recognition actually is, words such as see, identify and acknowledge come up – and these are at the core of how employees define recognition.

 

Indeed, much of the academic research into this area indicates that when we are talking about recognition, employees are looking for meaning, not things – with tangible rewards (e.g. bonuses or gifts) seen as a vehicle for delivering recognition, but not necessarily recognition itself.

 

In her well regarded 2009 publication Make their Day, Cindy Ventrice outlines that employees actually need to see an acknowledgement of their specific accomplishments and sincere appreciation of their personal value to the organisation, for recognition to be useful.

 

In fact, the evidence around employee recognition indicates that recognition is memorable because of the consistency and regularity with which it is offered and that it sends a strong message that they are valued.

 

So – what isn’t recognition?

 

It is not perks, bonuses, plaques, awards or incentives. These things might be part of the recognition experience, but without the meaning or thought behind it, they can end up missing the mark – which might explain why so many firms with extravagant bonus and recognition programs seem to be ineffective in retaining employees.

 

Ventrice outlines that, for recognition to be effective, it needs at least one of the elements of praise, thanks, opportunity and respect – and ideally is a combination of these. So what do these elements look like? 

Praise.

Employees want their manager to notice what they have done right and acknowledge their progress. Ventrice recommends that managers aim for clarity and ensure the praise is proportional to the accomplishment, and also timely. Additionally, she suggests considering whether public or private praise would be preferable for the employee.

 

Thanks.

Sincere thanks is a form of recognition that works – and describing why the person is being thanked, again aiming to be specific, accurate, clear and concise. Gestures such as handwritten notes are useful for expressing praise and appreciation and are likely to be kept by the employee for longer.

 

Opportunity.

This might look like providing employees with new opportunities to contribute in a meaningful way and learn new skills, or more opportunity in how the work gets done. Potentially this could involve the individual’s workplace aspirations, learning opportunities and needs, as well as autonomy – increasing their freedom in incremental stages as they demonstrate the ability to work well on their own. This taps into increasing employee intrinsic motivation – finding a way to engage and retain them by providing a clear pathway forward in the organisation.

 

Respect.

It can be argued that respect must be present for recognition to take place. Managers are advised to consider employee needs as they make decisions, allowing for personal crisis and learning details about each employee who works for them.

 

As managers, it is useful to keep in mind these principles when considering how to best recognise employees. At the end of the day, employees are also individuals who have different wants and needs – for some public recognition and fanfare will be optimal, whereas for others a handwritten note of appreciation and the opportunity to attend management training will meet their recognition needs.

 

Managers would do well to be curious and interested in what will reinforce their employees’ performance and tailor recognition strategies around this.

 

What kinds of recognition programs are effective in your organisation? What novel ways have you found to recognise good performance and convey genuine appreciation, which don’t necessarily involve perks and bonuses? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

The benefits of a diverse team

coloured pencils

Workplace diversity has been somewhat of a buzzword since the 1980s.

 

It is often a vague way to describe differences between employees and, far too often, represented by a stock image of people from different backgrounds, smiling and working together as a team. 

 

Fortunately, social progress and globalisation have moved diversity from an abstract idea into reality – with evidence suggesting that there are tangible benefits to a diverse workforce – both within the organisation and as a competitive advantage.

 

We can define diversity as the differences among people due to age, gender, race, ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, socioeconomic background, education, experience, physical appearance, capabilities/disabilities, and any other characteristic that is used to distinguish between people.

 

As a result, a diverse workforce is one that represents the broad spectrum of these characteristics and managing this diversity has become a global concern.

 

Forbes releases a list of the ten most diverse companies each year, using their Diversity and Inclusion (D&I) index. Accenture topped its most recently released list due to the gender and cultural diversity of the company’s board, the number of women in their global workforce and the number of females the company hires.

 

It is clear that diversity and inclusion is perceived as a key factor to organisational success – but what are the actual benefits of diversity within a team?

Empathy & Engagement

Diversity helps emphasise the appreciation of differences – where we are exposed to others’ realities and experiences and become aware of unconscious biases that we might have held.


It is good to consider the emotional transformation that occurs when individuals participate in diversity initiatives, take part in awareness exercises and fully embrace diversity and inclusion in their workplace.


Becoming aware of what you don’t know can be emotionally liberating – and have effects that extend into our family and personal relationships.


In terms of employee engagement, our surveys suggest that when an organisation embraces diversity and inclusion, employees feel a greater sense of belonging, feel more valued and respected by the team, and can perform their job functions better – resulting in better outcomes for both employees and the business itself.


Innovation

One little-discussed benefit of a diverse workforce is that, in reflecting societal differences in the real world, diversity is helping to bring them closer to their customers. Having team members from different backgrounds allow a variety of different perspectives and business ideas that might not otherwise emerge.


Creativity and innovation are likely to emerge from a workplace that encourages diversity, with the connection demonstrated in companies such as Rockwell Automation, which was able to increase women in leadership roles substantially and involve male employees in playing a key role in defining the culture.


Their business leader Grant M. Yoshihara explained ‘Diversity is not just based on what someone looks or sounds like, but by what someone has experienced. These elements manifest themselves as diversity of thought.’

Clarity on Values

Having a diverse workforce allows leadership to be intentional in its values and goals, with ongoing conversations about how to promote inclusion and diversity within the company and also within the community.

 

Our research consistently reinforces millennials are interested in their workplace’s corporate social responsibility, and the promotion and celebration of diversity is likely to attract strong talent.

 

Being able to showcase diversity as one of the organisation’s strengths has seen companies such as Facebook and Google publishing annual D&I reports that are circulated outside the company.

 

The next step for many organisations, including those behind on their D&I efforts and even those leading the way, is to consider how they can continually make their workplaces more diverse and inclusive.

 

Accenture’s Chief Leadership and Human Resources Officer Ellyn Shook provides the following advice: “It’s important to start with leaders so they understand the business opportunity that’s possible when you have a diverse workforce and an inclusive work environment that fosters a true sense of belonging.”. Employees who witness inclusive behaviours are more likely to engage in them themselves, especially if they are demonstrated consistently by their leaders.

 

What benefits have you seen from a diverse workforce? How has your company approached building a more diverse and inclusive team? Please feel free to leave comments below.

Benchmarking – an unhealthy obsession?

office worker with 5 stars on clear wall
Tom Caley

Tom Caley

Tom is Evolve’s Head of Product Development & Innovation, and is a passionate advocate for people and customer experience, with a focus on unlocking the potential in others.

Having spent a great deal of time in both customer and employee insights, I’ve participated in numerous lively debates around the importance of benchmarking. To some, it’s an absolute must-have, eclipsing almost any other factor in a listening programme. But I’m not convinced. 

 

In the customer space, sure. Having appropriately contextualised benchmarking data (i.e. local competition, same industry, some form of supporting qualitative data etc.) can be highly instructive, provided that it doesn’t distract too much from what our own customers are specifically saying about us. 

 

I have more complex feelings about external benchmarking in employee engagement. As a people leader over the years I’ve received more than enough annual engagement reports; lots (and lots) of pages of charts, with comparisons to vaguely hinted at “similar size organisations”. Who are these organisations? What is their comparability to my own? Is the comparison being made valid? It is generally impossible to answer these important questions. My concern is that meaningless comparisons lead to performance anxiety. Anxiety is a negative emotion that doesn’t motivate, it distorts and distracts from a sense of purpose and confidence. 

 

As a team member, I’ve sat in playback sessions from my managers around the same. Yet, if I think about the amount of time spent poring over the benchmarking data versus that spent looking at our own feedback and reconciling it against the specific circumstances at play in our team or organisation, it’s pretty negligible. 

 

To me, spending time looking at external comparisons can akin to standing on the pitch in the middle of a game of football, staring at the scoreboard. If I stop and look at what’s happening on the pitch, I can see the run of play, who’s in space, who is not, if I’m about to be tackled (probably, yes). All of these factors are clearly more instructive in determining what’s needed to try and affect a victory. 

But I can understand why we might feel the need for such data. Particularly at the start of a listening programme, we might look at our numbers and wonder what they really mean. Until we have established a baseline and can understand the direction in which we’re moving, we might feel a lack of a “so what” factor. 

 

In these instances, I think it’s much more useful to look at all of the available data points in turn and try to grab as fulsome an understanding of the bigger picture as possible. Internal benchmarking can be more useful. We know the contributing factors at play in our own organisations so are much better placed to understand the meaning in the difference than we might be with external ones. 

But, if we’ve done our listening properly, the real gold is in the accompanying comments. The number presents one view but until we triangulate it with the “why” from the comments, as well as the direction in which we are trending it’s just part of the picture. So why do we tend to obsess so over numbers? 

 

I think a lot of it still comes from the financial reporting approach to business intelligence. Think about your own organisation. I’d be willing to bet that there is significantly more resource, energy and attention given to generating and understanding financial data than there is for customer or employee engagement (possibly combined). Financial reporting has been around for immeasurably longer and people understand it, feel comfort in its relative certainty and supposed objectivity. 

 

Customer and employee feedback—particularly of the qualitative kind—by nature brings a degree of ambiguity. There is nuance to it, the varying viewpoints, experiences and communication styles of hundreds or thousands of different people. 

 

We can often feel a lot less comfortable with ambiguity, or by being given license and responsibility to follow our own paths. We might indeed look to the relative certainty of numbers or the “safer” notion of wondering what everyone else is doing. I’m sure the explosion of social media in the last decade talks to many of the same motivational factors.

 

If we have access to external benchmarking data, then great! Let’s add it to the mix. But let’s not be distracted by it. We have a heap of our own information we can use to form a more robust understanding of the situation. There’s definitely no need to panic if we don’t have it. Context is everything when it comes to interpretation.

 

Use the data from your listening program and your innate understanding of your own situation to create that full picture of the game as it plays out around you. Connect with your teammates and understand their points of view. Agree on achievable and relevant objectives and work together on hitting these. As you conduct more measurement, your own baseline data will begin to tell you if you are pulling the right levers. This is ultimately far more valuable than any arbitrary benchmark measurement.

The top five don’ts of designing effective employee engagement programs

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kelly handley

Kelly Handley

Kelly is Head of Client Services at Evolve. Kelly loves innovation and finding creative solutions to communications challenges.

I worked in large organisations for more than 20 years and I think it’s fair to say I’ve experienced my fair share of employee engagement surveys and programs!

 

It’s included everything from completing my first paper-based employee satisfaction survey when I was starting out as a Marketing Assistant, to managing my team’s participation in programs developed by some of the ‘big names’ in employee experience. 

So, when a friend asked me for some advice recently, I was happy to give my two cents. She’s a GM in a small but growing business and has been tasked with launching a program for their rapidly growing team. Keen to avoid common pitfalls, my friend asked me for the top things not to do as she considers the best way to set up her program.

 

Luckily, she was happy for me to turn my suggestions into a blog too, so here are my thoughts on the don’ts – and what this means you should do.

  1. Don’t ask too many questions
    Hands up if you haven’t been subjected to a 100-question, hour-long, three coffees required employee survey at some point in your career?
    The early days of employee surveys were a case of quantity over quality, with a battery of questions asked about every aspect of the workplace experience, as organisations tried to cover any and every possible driver of satisfaction.

    Luckily, many – but not all – programs have moved on, with technology such as conversational AI being used increasingly in the survey process to capture more data with fewer questions.

    Critically, applications like EVE (our Evolved Voice Engine) are now collecting better quality text data via two-way, iterative and open-ended conversations, which is then analysed using advanced text analytics to provide a more effective understanding of the key drivers of things like employee satisfaction.

  2. Don’t follow the traditional rules when selecting the questions you do run

    One of the reasons many organisations go with the ‘big name’ EX programs is they provide the opportunity to benchmark. However, to achieve this benchmarking, you need to use the same, longstanding question sets and exact question wording, meaning important organisational – and team nuances – are missed.

    I remember completing an employee survey that asked me to select the three things that attracted me to the company I was working for initially and the three things keeping me there. The response options presented for the keeping me there question were not at all relevant to me or my role, nor was I given an option to select an N/A or Other. Chatting to my colleagues confirmed they felt the same way. It was then no surprise when our team results confirmed the reason we were being retained was our organisation had a ‘great safety and OH&S culture’ – the only option me and my marketing team colleagues felt was vaguely relevant to our situation!

    While benchmarking is important, and it can be great to say your organisation is the top percentile for engagement in the world, this means nothing if it’s been formulated using measures that are out of step with your core business and don’t take into account what’s important to your people.

    You need to let your employees express what is important to them. The best programs capture ratings for core measures, supported by flexible questions capturing open-ended feedback that can be unpicked using advanced text analytics tools to understand what is really driving results.

  3. Don’t make your survey a once or twice a year event
    Employee surveys were traditionally an annual event, and while many EX programs have introduced a bi-annual ‘pulse’ check in to complement the once a year read, this is still out of step with how employee engagement works. Experiences and engagement at work change from day to day. There are seasonal ups and downs, not to mention reactions to major changes that happen in every business throughout the year.

    Surveying on just two days annually means organisations are missing the ups, downs and the in-between of the employee experience on those 363 other days of the year.

    The best programs have tools to support continuously collecting people’s feedback on how they are feeling at work every day – letting people say what they want, in their words, at times that matter – not just when you ask.

  4. Don’t take too long to act
    We all exist in agile operating environments these days – with rapid turnaround cycles underpinning every aspect of what we do.

    In the EX context, many programs are struggling to keep pace, particularly when it comes to reporting.

    At the extreme, I remember getting the results for an employee survey four months after my relatively small team had completed it. By that time, we had a new manager, one team member had moved to another area, and another had left the organisation making the results redundant.

    The best programs present ongoing results in real-time, and in a way that is easy to digest, understand and act on.

  5. Don’t turn bad results into a worse experience for employees

    We’ve all heard of – and possibly experienced – the witch hunts that can follow poor employee survey results, with managers huddled in a meeting room trying to work out who said what instead of focusing on why these things were being said and what was needed to resolve.

    Every organisation will experience peaks and troughs in engagement scores. Your leadership team’s behaviour post-survey – how you react to the results and act – will serve to improve engagement if it’s done well or create distrust if you manage it poorly. Today’s leading programs provide tools and support to connect teams, focus them on understanding and driving action from feedback, along with tracking and communicating progress on the action taken.

When we developed PeopleListening, we had the opportunity to create an engagement program that reflected not just academic rigour but real-world smarts from our experience as employees, managers and HR professionals. Our goal has been to avoid these pitfalls and create a solution that is effective, pragmatic, immediate and useful.


We’re seeing significant improvements in the volume and quality of feedback collected by our clients using PeopleListening. The feedback we’re collecting from respondents about their PeopleListening survey experience also confirms it’s delivering a more positive experience.


We’re now talking to my friend about deploying PeopleListening for her organisation, and I hope to follow up with a blog following their successful implementation in the coming months!


Do you have anything to add to the don’ts and do’s? I’d love to hear your thoughts – leave a comment below.

Ethics and data integrity

woman with question marks and game devices
Pauk Burley

Paul Burley

Paul is The Evolved Group’s Director of Growth. Paul is passionate about decision-science and the part accurate data insights have to play in the customer and employee life-cycle.

Ethics and data integrity: When employee engagement survey data is used to predict the behaviour of people that have completed the survey.

As predictive modelling becomes even more commonplace, with models being used to predict everything from what television shows will be watched tonight to election outcomes, there’s a couple of questions that run deep into ethics when predictive modeling enters the world of employee engagement and feedback surveys.

 

“What happens when the organisation collating the employee feedback and engagement data uses the responses from employees to predict their future behaviour?”

 

And;

 

“When employees realise that their survey responses are being used to predict their behaviour, will they change their survey responses? And what does this do to the validity of the data being collected in the first place?”

 

Predicting future behaviour and people’s actions is notoriously hard, especially in a work setting. A huge number of variables may be influential, but only a limited set of variables taken from the workplace are included in the model.

 

When assessing predictive modelling we need to consider a whole range of factors:

 

Is the data being used fairly?

 

What will you do with the predictive outputs?

 

What about the false positives?

 

Will we create more harm than good and are we opening ourselves up to legal challenge from our employees?

Is our predictive model explainable? Auditable? And defensible in court?

 

As with any other modelling that may be used in the workplace, I believe you must ask yourself these questions before using employee feedback data for any other reason than that what it is intended for – measuring engagement and helping people become their best at work in a happy and supportive environment.

 

Does predictive modelling really belong in the world of employee feedback and engagement? We don’t know for sure right now as it is early days. Using it for things like reducing staff turnover is a great objective, but should it be done in a more open way? As opposed to collating data for one reason then using it for another?

 

I personally foresee a situation where employees start to game and proactively manage their survey responses to deter any predictive model from identifying them as a flight risk. This deliberate change in their responses could make the engagement data less valuable, accurate and as actionable as we would all want. I’m pretty sure this won’t be the last time this discussion point is raised.

What do you think? Is it all a bit dystopian?

 

After all, we’re all employees, even those that are implementing and using this predictive tech!

 

I’d love to hear your thoughts on the topic – please leave me a comment below.

Analysing Engagement Data In Your Business

Business Chart Organisation Success Concept
When you’re looking for ways to improve employee engagement, gathering information with surveys and interviews is a great start. But without access to the proper employee engagement software and analysis, your business won’t be any better off in the long run. PeopleListening™ , however, is a unique piece of software. It doesn’t just gather the data you need – it processes that data, analyses it, and turns it into valuable information that you can use to get real results. Here are just a few of the ways PeopleListening™ can use cutting-edge analysis technology to increase your employee engagement.

A Rich Pool of Data

All too often when managers are thinking about how to measure employee engagement, they realise that they don’t haven’t obtained the right raw data. It’s a bit like cooking; even if you’re the best chef in the world, you’ve got to start out with quality ingredients. When gathering the best raw data about your employees, surveys and interviews can be problematic. Anonymous surveys are great for getting candid thoughts, but asking pre-conceived questions can lead to unhelpful, pre-conceived answers. In face-to-face interviews, on the other hand, you can’t always be sure that you’re getting honest answers from employees who might be holding something back. For generating employee engagement tips, PeopleListening™ has the best of both worlds; the data pool we use for analysis is anonymous, honest, real and meaningful.

Industry Leading Analysis Techniques

The genius of PeopleListening™ is that it first generates valuable data and then systematically processes it into easy to implement information. On its own, open-ended feedback would take hours to synthesise, but with PeopleListening™, you can understand the needs of your workforce on scale and use that to drive employee engagement. You can see what matters to your employees, and with multi-language processing, you can do it across multiple languages like Chinese, Arabic and Thai, too.

Results that are Easy to Access and Understand

It’s all well and good to gather huge quantities of data and analyse it with the most advanced techniques available, but if you don’t know what your results mean, they’re not going to be much use to you. You’ve got enough stressors already without having to learn a whole heap of jargon.   That’s why PeopleListening™ has ensured that our analysis is easy to access and understand. Each manager can receive their own tailored results, which are accessible on mobile devices. PeopleListening™ generates charts which will show levels of engagement over time and map the mood of your organisation on an ongoing basis. It makes performance management and employee engagement simple, visual, and easy to understand.

Analyse Engagement Data with Our Employee Engagement Software

To start analysing engagement data in your business, use People Listening – an employee engagement platform that helps improve communication, learning and development, team and individual enablement, transition and retention. By knowing how your people feel and where to act, you can drive positive leadership, culture and engagement in your business.

Get in touch with our team today for employee engagement strategies that work. Call us on +61 3 9923 7659 for your demo or contact us online.

Active Listening – taking action on employee feedback

3 co-workers with woman taking notes
alex kokshoorn

Alex Kokshoorn

Alex is Group General Manager, and passionate about working with people and technology to inspire positive change.

While company assets are often defined as the ‘four Ps’ – product, place, promotion and price – the fifth P – people – is perhaps the most critical in terms of their ability to ‘make or break’ an organisation (McEwen, 2001). As we have seen time and time again, the success of a company is directly linked to the satisfaction of employees who embody that company, with the ability to retain talented people critical to the success of a company, regardless of the economic climate (Freeman, 2005). Asking for feedback and ensuring employees feel heard is an important part of maintaining a productive working culture. As important, but an aspect that sometimes gets missed, is taking action on this feedback to make a quantifiable difference to employee experience. This blog will explore an original and innovative process of collecting employee feedback, as well as some of the potential benefits of using chatbot technology to probe and explore employee experiences in more detail.

 

The process of getting employee feedback about important aspects of their work life, such as communication, colleagues, pay and the general office environment is complex.

 

First, it is necessary to capture the right data, by asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time. One issue that often arises in these kinds of assessments is the closed nature of responses – by asking questions such as ‘please rate the quality of leadership in our organisation from 1-5’ means we can miss out on the nuance of employee experiences with leadership, or their perception of how leaders are doing. Closed and quantitative questions are useful, but we can often end up finding what we were looking for – rather than exploring what is actually there.

 

Open ended responses can reveal a deeper insight into organisational issues than categorical responses and it is only in the last few years that we have the technology to synthesise this information quickly and translate it into something actionable.

 

The Evolved Group has developed a new survey companion, the Evolved Voice Engine, or Eve, so people can say what is important to them in their own words. Eve asks follow up questions based on what people are saying and these conversations are auto-classified into defined topics of interest using the Focus Words application. Topic definitions can be updated over time to reflect new themes relating to the employee experience. Again, this kind of analysis – exploratory rather than confirmatory – is a powerful tool in understanding complex areas such as Employee Engagement.

active listening

But what should we focus on?

By overlaying an employee’s ‘overall satisfaction’ or ‘likelihood to recommend the company as a place to work’, the Focus Words application can classify topics into areas you should:

  • ‘Celebrate’ – those having a high positive impact and experienced by many
  • ‘Elevate’ – have a high positive impact but only experienced by a minority
  • ‘Fix now’ – have a high negative impact and experienced by many
  • ‘Fix next’ – have a high negative impact but not a systemic issue

As per the example below, these topics can be visualised in impact matrices for both the positive and negative drivers of employee experiences.

Characteristic of this type of assessment is that it highlights how topics can be highly polarized at times (driving both positive and negative sentiment) or have little to no impact on sentiment. For example, career development may be a category having both positive and negative sentiments – while an area such as office equipment may be less controversial.

What next?

We now have an effective and reliable way of measuring employee experiences by listening to them in their own words. That is great – but it only takes us so far. The next step is to take action on the priority areas highlighted and to track progress towards those outcomes. If we identified Leadership or Communication as areas of focus, we should then outline a plan to address those concerns.

This involves reaching out to the right people in the business, agreeing on the specific tasks that need to be completed, and committing to dates. Some of the questions that might be asked are – how should we assess the impact of each intervention? What is currently problematic about, for example, communication, and what have employees conveyed to us about this? Who are the exemplars in our organisation and what can we learn from them?

 

Each organisation will have its own unique profile of areas to focus on, but it is clear that by tapping into what employees are thinking organisations can focus on the things that matter most when it comes to employee engagement. How does your organisation currently listen to its employees? What are some areas you are interested in exploring, in terms of your company culture or employee engagement? Please feel free to leave your comments below.