Regularly assessing employee satisfaction can help create a transparent environment and allow issues to be tackled swiftly. Jim Barnett at employee engagement company Glint explains the value of getting constant feedback from staff.
With the number of organisations experiencing talent shortages at its highest since 2006, holding on to top talent is crucial at the moment. According to the Manpower 2018 Talent Survey, 45% of employers are unable to find the skills they need.
But by creating an environment where employees feel heard and valued, organisations can discourage staff from looking elsewhere. Employee feedback will help employers validate any hunches about how staff are feeling, spot problems early and find out what is working and not working, so that employers can act before problems arise.
Time to retire the annual satisfaction survey?
To make the best decisions, HR teams need clear information about what staff think and feel on a regular basis. The traditional methods for understanding employee sentiment, however, provide data that is neither clear nor timely.
The typical approach used by many organisations is the cumbersome engagement survey, some of which might have 50 or more questions to answer.
Surveys seek to capture a range of opinions, which are analysed manually and returned to leadership teams weeks later. This means that information is slow to reach managers, if it does at all, which diminishes their ability to make timely improvements.
The process is so time-consuming that most employers only attempt to measure engagement every one to two years, often resulting in employees feeling unheard and undervalued.
But advances in technology have made gathering and understanding employee feedback much more effective; real-time employee engagement analysis is now possible, enabling managers to see team-level sentiment and trends as issues arise.
Technology that uses design principles and organisational development makes survey-taking more enjoyable for employees and allows employers to analyse the results sooner. This means that surveying on a quarterly, or even monthly, basis becomes less cumbersome.
The contribution of AI
Artificial intelligence (AI) helps personalise the process, allowing employers to derive meaningful information from survey results. Natural language processing and machine learning can extract meaning from open-ended feedback, identifying patterns and putting employees’ thoughts and feelings into context.
It can also highlight emerging problems by analysing historic trends that would typically be hidden without a data science intervention. Such systems also learn over time, allowing more accurate predictions about employee sentiment to be made.
The availability of this information in a digestible format will free up time for both HR and managers, so they can spend more time coaching and developing their people, which will in turn enable a more people-centric workplace and help fuel success.
Getting managers on board
While the technology exists to make getting continuous feedback possible, it is of little value if managers are unsure how to use it. Managers need to be trained on the importance having regular conversations with their teams in order to get the full benefits from it. Such conversations can sometimes be difficult to fit in on top of their day-to-day tasks, but it is a big part of a manager’s role and is crucial to enabling transparency.
Managers usually need to be coached in how to use more frequent feedback: a new data point does not necessarily mean a new action plan is required to solve an issue, for example.
They also need to adopt a continuous improvement mindset. Getting useful feedback should be given the same level of priority as other goals and employee satisfaction should be considered a critical measure of a project’s success.
Actions to improve the employee experience need to be visible and continuous. Getting regular feedback and tackling issues as they arise leads to happier and more successful workers who are more likely to stay at an organisation for years, rather than months.