Over the last few months, the landscape of the modern workplace has dramatically changed. From furloughed workers to full-time telecommuters to employee parents with unexpected homeschooling duties, a lot remains unprecedented and unknown for the global workforce. This uncertainty coupled with a lack of in-person interaction is creating a chasm between employees and their HR advocates. And it could be fueling a culture of “employee disconnect”.
How can employers fix employee disconnect?
Narrowing the gap between the remote workforce and HR doesn’t have to be difficult. In fact, the global crisis can (and probably should) bring HR and employees even closer. We put together a plan (below) that can assess employee disconnect, understand why it happens, and build a bridge between employers and employees through continuous, empathetic communication.
Assessing Employee Disconnect
To understand what employee disconnect is and how it’s impacting employees today, it helps to understand how employees felt before COVID:
- In a 2019 study from Service Now, only 44% of employees felt their employers cared.
- In that same study, it was found that only 40% of employees felt their feedback was being heard or used.
- A 2019 study from Workplace by Facebook revealed 54% of remote workers felt disconnected from the company. In industries where most or all employees are encouraged to work remotely, that means over half felt the dreaded employee disconnect.
- In that same study, it was noted only 14% of employees felt connected to their company’s headquarters.
Based on the above data and the events that have transpired in 2020, not only do today’s employees feel more disconnected from their employers and physical office space, they don’t believe their employers even hear what they’re saying or care enough to make critical changes on their behalf. What was a less-than-ideal dynamic to begin with, topped with a global health and economic crisis, becomes a gaping void in the employer-employee relationship.
Understanding the Reasons Behind Employee Disconnect
It’s unlikely for someone to wake up on the first day of their new job and think “I will never connect with this company!” If an organization is experiencing (or wants to ensure they don’t) employee disconnect, they need to understand how it can plant a few roots and spread throughout the organization.
A few common reasons for employee disconnect include:
Thirty two percent of employees have to wait 3+ months to get feedback from their managers. In fact, annual surveys are on the decline across the board. This is a major missed opportunity for employers to readily learn what’s happening with their people. Surveys are useful tools for uncovering employee disengagement and employee attitude patterns. And the more frequently they’re utilized, the more often managers can connect with their staff for two-way feedback.
Miscalculating the Employee Experience
With a lack of employee input comes a miscalculation of the overall employee experience. Since so many employees are sidelined at home, gathering an accurate indication of their day-to-day issues will be crucial in connecting with their employee experience. Until then it’s all just bad data. Or, even worse, no data at all.
Sluggish HR Systems
That three-month-wait for feedback could be stemming from outdated HR technologies and employee experience tools. Certain HRIS platforms or programs require manual data entry, so it could be weeks or more before the organization can actively address employee issues and make much-needed changes.
Eliminating Employee Disconnect with Employee Communication
Regardless of the reasons for employee disconnect, there are ways to end it, prevent it and create better day-to-day employee experiences despite it. The strategy involves proactive employee communication:
1. Create Multiple TouchpointsToday’s employees prefer several self-serving communication touchpoints that are easy to access. Stellar employee experiences usually feature a variety of ways to reach HR — from communication platforms like Slack or Teams to text messaging, telephone, video conference and intranet. No amount of communication channels are too many when it comes to connecting, but be sure to update information and check in consistently.
2. Deliver Engaging Onboarding ExperiencesNew employees will be entering the workforce despite the current business climate. As they do, creating onboarding experiences that pull them into the fold and keep them there can help cut employee disconnect off at the pass. By using multiple communication touchpoints, HR professionals set themselves up to catch the “peak moment” a new employee feels validated in their choice to work at the company. They can then deliver an experience that reinforces the new hire’s decision and strengthens their bond with the organization. Whether it’s virtual, in person, a home mailer or more , onboarding is one of the most crucial times to spring into action with a communication plan that will ward off the “seed” of employee disconnect before it germinates and takes root in your company.
3. Make it Easy for Employees to Take ActionEnsuring your employees can easily interact with your organizational systems, procedures and tools is essential for them to take effective action wherever they are. Seamlessly automated workflows can simplify task management and catch any breakdowns in the communication process. By acknowledging employee concerns in real time and allowing them to be a part of the optimization process, employees feel more empowered and better equipped to perform their jobs.
4. Break Down Employee SilosIt’s the responsibility of the entire organization to prioritize and deliver a first-rate employee experience. By moving the onus of employee engagement away from an HR-only function, every team can take charge of the process. This helps barriers between employees, departments and other segments of a company further dissipate and a more connected organizational culture to unfold.
5. Meet Employees Where They AreWhether they are scattered across the digital universe, out in the field, or making a consistent appearance at headquarters, your communications should engage employees through mediums that suits their personal preferences. Be it mobile, online, in person or via video, by meeting employees where there are, HR leaders make it easier for them to share their ideas and feedback which in turn helps them feel more connected.
Above All: Know Employee Expectations
In an increasingly digital employee ecosystem, workers have come to expect speed and efficiency. Why wait for a phone call when they can get an immediate direct message? It’s the job of the HR leader to be hyper aware of employee communication expectations and deliver them through every channel possible.
To bridge the employee disconnect, especially in these unprecedented times, it’s going to require assessing, understanding and empathy, only then can you develop the best plan for consistent, frequent outreach, and more opportunities for two-way feedback.