How many people are out there wondering or dwelling on the future of American workplaces now that the vaccine for Covid-19 is becoming so widespread? Employees from all over the country are at the edges of their seats thinking, “What does the future hold?” Homes and sparsely occupied offices are humming with concerns over returning to work, the requirement of the vaccine, fears, desires, questions, all creating a tumultuous undercurrent to workplaces in every setting.
A whopping 87% of people surveyed by Prudential’s Pulse of the American Worker Survey: Special Report, want to have the option to work remotely at least one day a week, while only 13% desire to return to the office full time. How can leaders of organizations navigate this change in their own workplaces?
The thing is, employees are looking to their leaders for the answer to the question “What does the future hold?” But it is more accurate to pose it, “What does the future hold for me?” Sure, it is good to stay in the know in terms of CDC recommendations and WHO cautions, but when, or if the laws have already relaxed where you are, what should be the guiding force of this change?
Well, with any organizational change my answer remains the same—the voices of your employees should be the guiding force. At the end of the day, it’s the people of the organization that will be affected by your strategy, so why not incorporate them into the solution?
Navigating the Touchy Stuff
How should you go about gaining input from your people about such a sensitive topic? Well, they don’t call me the Employee Whisperer for nothing, so I have some suggestions for you.
- Host a series of Round Tables, whether virtual or in-person, and ask questions. Let your team know it is an information gathering session. Tell them you are gauging their perspective and input because you want to make sure they are represented in the decision making process.
- Run a survey series. I’m a big fan of surveys, and this is a prime alternative if you struggle getting people to speak up during Round Tables. Blast the survey through every vein of the organization, the more contact it makes, the more responses you will receive, and the better you will be able to create your change strategy. I think that this specific issue resulting from the pandemic and the effects of the vaccine is the perfect opportunity to run Pulse Surveys. They are short and to the point. A few succinct questions will hone in on and amplify the voices of your employees.
- Perhaps the most direct way to listen to the voices of your employees is in a one-on-one meeting. Manager-team member one-on-ones provide the most conducive atmosphere for direct communication. The crux of this tactic is the follow-up step after the meeting is complete and the message from the employee to the manager has been conveyed. As a leader, it is the manager’s responsibility to pass along the feedback of their team members to the decision makers. Then the manager, along with decision makers, should strategize an action plan, and relay that plan back to the team member, in every occurrence.
What’s at Stake?
The outcome of organizational changes that don’t reflect the needs and voices of their employees are frightening. Unrest will seep through each tier until the number of employees who value the company and are loyal dwindles off, leaving you with little, if any employee loyalty.
Your employees aren’t looking for the answers that the CDC and WHO have put out there, they can find those on the internet. They are looking for your answers and your strategy. I challenge you to come up with one that reflects through and through the level of care you have for your team. After the year (more than a year? I don’t even know anymore) we’ve had, care should be our crutch as we navigate one tough situation after the next.
I think everyone will agree that change comes with enough challenges on its own, so let’s try to limit the resistance of the people the change will affect. The easiest way to limit resistance, is to create buy-in and, what do you know! The best way to create buy-in is to involve your employees each step of the way.
If you have any questions, concerns, or workplace dilemmas you wish to discuss with me, feel free to reach out to firstname.lastname@example.org.