How to Make Sense of the Upside-Down World of Business These Days

Navigate the storm using 4 questionnaires, FREE for the asking

As we slowly make our way back to work, more and more companies are asking employees to fill in weekly if not daily questionnaires about their potential exposure to COVID-19. What’s stopping us all from adding a few more questions to get a clearer picture of the employee experience on return, and over the near and longer-term future?

Employment law expert Simon Rice-Birchall thinks employers may find it difficult to force people to return to an office if they’ve shown they can do their job from home. That’s his opinion, albeit one echoed by loads of thought leaders and business journalists. But where do your people stand on this matter? What are they thinking? What are they feeling?

In a similar vein, David D’Souza from the Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development says his organization is hugely concerned by stories of employers forcing people to work and worries about the impact that has on physical and mental wellbeing. “Whilst it’s understandable that organizations are trying to sustain themselves, doing that by having people working under conditions of duress is not what you would want to see in a modern economy.” Another opinion by another spokesperson for the masses. But again, what are your employees thinking or feeling?

And what about those who were asked or forced to take pay cuts, work fewer hours, or face lay off as their companies struggled to weather the pandemic storm? While these sorts of measures may have allowed organizations to cull poor performers, it probably meant losing some really good people too. What is the sentiment of those cut loose and then recalled? Those who took pay cuts? Those who somehow managed to get through unscathed and are potentially dealing with survivor’s guilt? What can you do to pick them up and dust them off? To lift morale? Smooth out the employee experience? Reengage?

Then there’s digital transformation. That was a mere concept for many of us just a few months ago. Now it’s a business imperative. What was likely to take years to achieve is forcing our places of work to morph in a matter of weeks or a handful of months. How is that impacting employees? Have we missed anything? Recommendations?

Coronavirus, it turns out, might be the great catalyst for business transformation, as a Forbes report suggests. However, almost everything we’ve done over the past several years (things like cloud platforms, employee engagement and employee experience initiatives, big data and people analytics) have laid the groundwork for this new focus on crisis response and resilience.

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In a world before the pandemic, back in August 2019, the Business Roundtable (an association of CEOs heading America’s largest companies) acknowledged that all stakeholders – including employees – were as valuable as their investor shareholders. COVID-19 gave these leaders an opportunity to prove it.

And many have been doing just that.

The emerging business landscape appears to be shifting from a productivity mindset to one focused on the human quotient.

By rolling out bold initiatives that prioritize employees, companies are doubling down on their mission, vision, and values: the core elements of corporate culture.

They’re asking questions.

They’re listening.

They’re taking action.

They’re checking in, and asking again.

By investing in retraining, companies are readying people for the 4th industrial revolution that’s being foisted upon us far faster than ever imagined.

By redistributing authority, companies are accommodating different country, regional, and local issues that can’t possibly be managed in a centralized manner. Shared platforms, strategies, values, culture and employee input guides the way.

These companies and so many others are also probably reassessing the value of multi-tiered bureaucracy, knowing now that people are inherently trustworthy. The forced remote work experiment showed us we can be relied upon to do what needs doing, even under the toughest of circumstances.

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“Layers of management will disappear along with very expensive physical plants, while investments in-office perks can be reallocated to salaries or (more likely) the bottom line,” predicts writer Heather McGowan. “The nimble capacity to respond in inventive ways, from hiring workers from adjacent industries, training classroom faculty to teach online, equipping employees to work remotely or leveraging expertise to shift production from one product line to another…demonstrates a new leadership imperative to focus on inspiring human potential rather than simply driving productivity.”

What an uplifting vision. Is this way of doing business here to stay?

Jason Averbook weighs in with his own observations about how, up until now, our organizations have been measuring performance with a mindset that was formed when “everyone was a union employee, everyone was hourly when we tied performance to compensation.”

But we can’t do that anymore. Times have changed. Radically.

“In the now of work,” says Averbook, “we need to measure how people are feeling, how they’re doing and feeling about their work and understand exactly where they are and what we can do to help”

As McGowan surmises: “These are scary times, to be sure, and we still have so much to sort out and work through. Yet, it is also an incredibly optimistic moment for the future of work for humans.”

Check out these four questionnaires to help your leadership and your HR team read the pulse of the people in your organization; to respond with compassion, nimbleness, and care.

  • Return to Work Transition Questionnaires
  • Remote Work Sentiment and Needs
  • Psychological Health and Safety Status
  • Overall Sentiment on COVID-19

It’s the voice of employees – asking, listening, learning, and acting – that brings out our humanness and helps us make sense of and adapt to the upside-down world of business we find ourselves in these days.

Additional Resources

Check out our guides on workplace culture, employee engagement, and employee surveys. Learn about every aspect of a successful employee voice initiative!

WORKPLACE GUIDES

Read great blog posts on workplace culture, remote training, employee engagement, employee surveys and other great workplace topics.

WORKPLACE BLOG

Watch our series of webcasts discussing topics that matter to HR leaders.

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