This post is for leaders who want to do right by their employees during COVID-19 but don't have a blueprint for employee feedback. I'm sharing our approach — one that has helped us at TINYpulse and many of our customers as we navigate the situation together.
At TINYpulse we struggled with what to pulse during COVID-19
We've embraced plenty of change as COVID-19's effects ripple across the world. I've also felt my share of uncertainty and fear for TINYpulse, my family, and myself.
Especially being headquartered in a COVID-19 epicenter of Seattle, Washington.
When the outbreak began I addressed the company and my team leaders moved quickly to transition everyone to a work-from-home model.
Yet the situation continues to bring new challenges.
No one knows exactly how long we'll be working from home. Or what effects COVID-19 will have on our team, our culture, and how we do business.
Because we religiously use our own product at TINYpulse we had to come up with an approach that would be effective for COVID-19.
We heard from other leaders who felt paralyzed
It was tough to hear our customers — some of the most engaged businesses in the world with some of the most forward-thinking leaders in the world — felt paralyzed by the situation.
When I dug deeper it was because they didn't have a blueprint for this challenging time.
They felt tentative.
Tentative because they didn't want to accidentally offend someone by asking the wrong pulse questions during a sensitive time.
If you are interested in asking the hard-hitting questions about COVID-19: be sure to check out the Top Employee COVID-19 Concerns for detailed insights on what's top of mind for employees.
Here's the approach we took
It consists of the following:
1. Share the "why" up front
As a leadership team we grappled with back-and-forth emails on what question strategy made sense. Or whether we needed to change it at all.
A senior leader at TINYpulse asked the fair question: "Do you think Happiness comes across a bit insensitive now? It just feels odd to ask in the middle of this pandemic."
We sent the question as scheduled but with one key addition.
Our HR leader sent an email beforehand explaining the "why."
If you're unsure about whether a question is too sensitive I encourage you to send an email like this ahead of its release.
Let your employees know you're asking this question for a positive reason which is to find out how they feel. It's not to stir emotions.
2. Lean into the issues
I and our leadership team know what we signed up for.
We don't run away from issues. We lean into them so we can learn to improve.
We may not score a perfect 10 on everything but it won't be for lack of trying.
3. Don't hide from the truth
Sometimes negative feedback is hard to stomach. We've all grappled with it one way or another.
But I always treat feedback as a gift and an opportunity to clarify or improve. So should you.
4. Keep a consistent pulsing rhythm
The COVID-19 situation is constantly changing. Therefore it's vital to stay consistent with a new pulse every two weeks.
5. Find out how they really feel
In my experience leaning in encourages everyone else lean in too.
It encourages leading with solutions and the spread of positive recognition.
This helps everyone feel like a leader.
We discovered 10 amazing pulse questions
By leaning in and speaking with our customers I discovered additional pulse questions. These are ten of of my favorite questions based on my research with customers and our own experience at TINYpulse.
10. What are 2 things you are most grateful for outside of work?
Why I like this question: It doesn't all have to be about work. But when we are at work I believe we can and should acknowledge appreciation outside of work.
09. What is the best way to provide updates and communications to you?
Why I like this question: Our recent research co-published with Georgetown University highlights communications as critically important during the COVID-19 crisis. Different organizations have adopted different approaches to communicate with their people so this is a great question to ask to find out if their chosen approach is effective. If it's not the leadership team can learn and adjust accordingly.
08. What are your thoughts on the frequency of our updates?
Multiple choice options:
A) Not frequent enough
B) Too frequent
C) Perfect amount
Please explain why.
Why I like this question: I would pair this with the previous question above. The above is the format. This is about frequency.
07. What are you most proud of accomplishing recently? Share your success stories.
Why I like this question: This question is positive and emphasizes that as long as we all focus individually it rolls up to a lot of progress for the organization as a whole.
06. Which team member has been living out our core values during this time? Give examples of what they are doing to exemplify.
Why I like this question: This gives employees a great opportunity to highlight their co-workers. We all know that providing gratitude to others creates a powerful and positive vibe.
05. For any Cheers for Peers you've recently gave or received, which was special to you and why?
Why I like this question: This is a new question I like because it promotes employee recognition and positivity. It's easy to get bogged down with what needs to be better. But equally important is highlighting the positive.
04. During your next 1-on-1, what topic would you like to add to the agenda to discuss?
Why I like this question: I like this because can see overall org trends and then segment by department. If it's appropriate, you can be sure I'll add to the next 1-on-1 agenda.
03. How connected do you feel to others within the organization right now?
(1 = No connection at all; 10 = 100% connected to those I need to work with)
Why I like this question: It's great to see how connected the overall organization is and by departments. If there is one team that is struggling, I can focus on and create an action plan that is appropriate to engage them.
02. While working from home, I feel that I have what I need to remain productive and successful.
Or, if not in a role that can work from home: I feel that I have what I need within the office to remain productive and successful. (1 = I'm completely unprepared; 10 = I have absolutely everything I need)
Why I like this question: It highlights whether my team has what they need to be productive. And then we can segment by department and private message folks if they are missing tools or other support to boost their effectiveness.
01. What are your top tips or tricks for staying productive while working from home?
Why I like this question: Because everyone can lean in and share a tip that has worked well for them.
BONUS QUESTION: How happy are you at work?
(1 = extremely unhappy and about to quit; 10 = extremely happy and jumping with joy.)
Why I LOVE this question: Despite COVID-19 our mission at TINYpulse is still simple — happier employees. If we don't measure employee happiness on a regular basis we can't measure it.
How To Interpret Your Responses And Take Action
Once you've collected responses from your employees there are countless ways to launch into action.
Unfortunately it's impossible to recommend the right answer in every case. Yet all of our experience points to a few best practices.
These are the most helpful tips that have overwhelmingly worked for us:
Fixate on trends instead of outliers
You should read every response but remember: let the data do the work for you.
Big trends are for big decisions.
Rogue responses always warrant a conversation but you cannot please everyone. Don't allow perfect to be the enemy of the good.
Don't make big decisions based on outliers. Make them on larger trends instead.
Always be transparent even if you don't know the answer
Many leaders opt to stay silent until they know the answer. I firmly disagree with this.
Leaders staying silent tends to fester in the minds of employees. Perceptions become reality.
Even if you don't have all the answers being up front and honest has an edge every time.
Remember to be positive
As leaders, we leave huge emotional wakes behind us. It's on you to provide confidence of attitude, clarity of plan, and transparency of performance.
The tone you take gets amplified during challenging times, so please remember to point out areas of positivity.
Express gratitude for employee responses for they spent valuable time to provide them.
For more helpful information on how to analyze your responses, check out our guide on How To Analyze Employee Survey Results.
What pulse questions and approaches have you taken?
If you have an idea to share that has worked for you or any questions drop a comment on our LinkedIn thread.
Or feel free to email us any time with thoughts and questions on this topic: firstname.lastname@example.org.