Common Themes from Employee Engagement Pulse Surveys to Guide Leaders as Employees Return to Work

Posted by Ashley Barsanti on Jun 9, 2020 10:58:43 AM

This article is co-authored by Ashley Beaudoin and Lisa Kenney.

ee pulse survey

COVID-19 continues to disrupt organizations worldwide and uncertainty remains at an all-time high as leaders and members of the workforce begin to rebuild the new normal.

As companies transition back to normalcy, it is important for leaders to gain insight from employees to make sure the workplace and company culture return to a place of stability as quickly as possible.

To help leaders obtain this information, IMEC has created an employee engagement pulse survey to assist companies with identifying what employees are going through as they embark on this uncertain experience and begin to transition back to full force. The brief survey consists of questions that seek to elicit both qualitative information, that is what employees are saying today, as well as quantitative information, that is what the numbers tell us is going on.  This blog will focus on the qualitative information, supported by quantitative results we gathered by listening to employees who responded to the survey. 

After conducting multiple pulse surveys, IMEC has found common themes that leaders can focus on. In addition to creating a safe work environment, which is at the forefront of everyone’s minds, the following are themes that are at the top of employees’ minds:

  • Improve communication
  • Create and/or Maintain an atmosphere of trust
  • Provide meaningful recognition

Improve Communication

With the U.S. unemployment rate surpassing 40 million as well as roughly 1.83 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, employees have indicated that they are seeking more transparent communication from leaders. They told us they are seeking both formal and informal types of communication. 

For example, when thinking of sharing information in a formal setting, how and when information is conveyed is critical. Specifically, COVID-19 has been impacting companies on a daily basis. One production employee indicated that their company can support them by, “keeping good communication as to what is happening or expected to happen in the near future.” Overwhelmingly, people are seeking to have communication about constant changes as well as expectations for the future. In addition, individuals have expressed, “communication that is critical needs to be shared and understood at every level of the company.” Leaders have been reporting that they communicate via email. Although updates are being shared, in many cases, production personnel are still seeking that face-to-face interaction. This allows for questions to be answered as well as for a working relationship to flourish.

Leaders must also make it a point to keep in contact on an individual basis, more informally. The pulse survey indicated that 76% either agree or strongly agree that their manager is regularly checking in with how they are doing (not just work related).  A frontline worker stated, “visit and talk to individuals one-on-one.  Without a formalized setting, one can truly then get a feeling of concerns, etc. Walkarounds and informal sit-downs would instill a great way to build that stronger connection.” This reoccurring topic shows how important it is for employees to have a personal connection with leaders.

Create and/or Maintain an Atmosphere of Trust

Something that is just as important as providing transparent communication is creating and/or maintaining an atmosphere of trust. Trust is a main factor of determining organizational success, and the need for it came through loud and clear as a theme in the survey findings.  Although many leaders know this, trust doesn’t just develop overnight. Now more than ever, when it is critical for a workforce to remain united and resilient, the secret sauce for that to happen successfully is trust.

As the saying goes, “people don’t quit a job, they quit a boss.”  In fact, Gallup estimates, “[an employee’s relationship with his/her] manager accounts for at least 70% of variance in employee engagement scores across business units.” Statements like these show just how influential managers are. One frontline worker who responded to our survey said, “The workers have lost faith and trust in the management and that causes lack of performance and attendance. The management needs to find out how to regain trust.” The pulse survey indicated that regardless of company size or product being made, trust is essential.  It is needed to increase hope, morale, relationships, productivity, and engagement levels.

Provide Meaningful Recognition

As many businesses are deemed essential – and even as other companies are just now beginning to re-open and resume operations - employees are expected to be productive and continue to produce quality products under difficult circumstances. They are asked and required to meet demands while they are concerned not only for their health, but for the health of their families, and are dealing with the uncertainty of job security.

With all of that said, employees are seeking genuine recognition from leaders. In fact, 72% of employees agree or strongly agree that their supervisor provides positive recognition. Then, when focusing on management, the level of agreement drops to 64%.

 Many know that for recognition to have purpose, it goes beyond a pizza party or bringing in donuts. Yes, those are nice things to do. However, consider how effective they are when seeking desired, longer-term outcomes.

When IMEC surveyed a remote department, one employee stated, “I do believe that we all need some form of happiness. Virtual high fives or thank you notes to be passed around...anything to bring smiles.” People are seeking quick, yet thoughtful suggestions for recognizing a job well done. Employees have been missing the daily connections they are used to and are seeking that human relationship.

People slowly coming back to work, as well as those who have remained at work, are seeking positive recognition. Regardless if workloads have been inconsistent or at an all- time high, leaders must pause and take a step back with the team to see what they have accomplished to date. When asked “how can the company support you at this time”, one employee indicated: “keep up the community spirit, recognize people for their unique talents.” Taking recognition a step further, one frontline employee wrote, “The factory workers are the bread and butter of the company.  If they aren't there no one has a job” It was a humbling statement describing how some positions might go unnoticed. A great starting point is to recognize individuals in a timely and personable manner. Every job is critical to the success of an organization.

As IMEC continues to work with manufacturing companies, employees will be heard through employee engagement pulse surveys. Tools and resources will continue to be shared with companies as they surpass the trenches of COVID-19 and rebuild their workplace and company culture.

Have questions? submit them to The Illinois Manufacturing Helpline and an expert will respond within one business day! 

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Ashley Barsanti

Written by Ashley Barsanti

Topics: employee engagement, leadership, manufacturing, workforce, COVID-19

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