Getting Employee Feedback on Returning to Work

Last updated on August 24, 2021 at 02:18 pm

Businesses are looking to reopen. This brings a certain amount of relief to employees who may have been unsure of whether they would have a job to come back to. But it also brings about anxiety. Employees might be worried about their health, safety, caring for their children or family, or a myriad of other concerns. These are important concerns organizations need to consider as they begin communicating return to work messages. But don’t make assumptions in a vacuum about what these concerns are and how to overcome them. Getting employee feedback on your process can make this an easier transition for everyone.

Why Employee Feedback is Critical

Ask employees what they need to see, hear, and know before they can return to work with confidence. Not only will this make employees feel valued, but it will also help employers get businesses up and running faster. This is because they can prepare a reopening plan that puts employee needs at the center. And this allows comms, HR, and ops teams to put together clear communication about employee health, safety, and any assistance the company can provide. 

Tips for successfully implementing a “return to work” survey.

1. Target surveys/questions to different groups of employees. A blanket survey may not be appropriate for employees working in different parts of the business. Employees who may still have the option to work from home versus those that will be coming back may have different needs and expectations. It’s important to make all employees feel recognized for the unique challenges of their positions.

2. Share the survey and communications plan with managers first. Employees may be apprehensive to answer certain questions. It’s important for managers to know the intentions of the survey and reinforce that employees should answer honestly. Ultimately, you’re trying to figure out how to best support them. This is less concerning if a strong culture exists and trust has been established by senior leaders already. But it’s always important for managers to know the plan first to support the overall message and their people. 

3. Ensure the survey is accessible by all employees. Distribute the survey via channels that all employees have access to. Employee feedback can be missed if a survey is only distributed through email or the intranet. These are channels that frontline employees often don’t have access to.

4. Have a plan for responding to feedback. Communications and HR teams need to work with leadership on solutions for many different outcomes of the survey. For example, if 25% of employees say that they are concerned about returning to work because they don’t have childcare. Your organization needs to consider whether they will provide child care assistance, extend work from home opportunities, etc. The biggest mistake organizations make when deploying a survey is not having a timely response plan, which requires the leadership team to conduct pre-work and prepare for multiple outcomes.

Why it Matters

The best outcome of the COVID-19 pandemic I’ve witnessed in the workplace so far is the prevalence of empathy. Senior leaders are recognizing the value of the people that make up their business. And they are making considerations for the future based truly on the needs and well-being of their employees. But don’t stop getting employee feedback and acting on it after a crisis is over. This should be an engrained practice in your organization to improve engagement, retention, and culture.

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