skip to main content
Workplace
3 Reasons to Gather Employee Feedback During Disruption
Workplace

3 Reasons to Gather Employee Feedback During Disruption

by Nate Dvorak and Dipak Sundaram

Story Highlights

  • During COVID-19, people wanted to offer employee feedback
  • Halting an employee survey during a crisis can send the wrong signal
  • In unpredictable times, employee feedback provides valuable data

The thing about disruptions is that they're uncertain. By definition, they're unpredictable. Since no one can know how long a crisis will last or what the outcomes will be, the most sensible thing to do is address your employees' current needs.

And the only way to know what your employees need during a crisis is to ask them.

During crises -- especially financial ones -- organizations often react by clamping down on budget items that are viewed as nonessentials or "nice-to-haves." This is a prudent stopgap to curb spending, but if employee surveys are on the chopping block, it's time to reevaluate decision-making about what's essential.

The impulse to pause business as usual during periods of uncertainty is normal. Conventional wisdom might cause leaders to assume that issuing an employee survey amid instability is intrusive and will seem tone-deaf.

But recent Gallup research has revealed that people want to tell you how they're faring.

Since no one can know how long a crisis will last or what the outcomes will be, the most sensible thing to do is address your employees' current needs.

Since the pandemic began in March, Gallup Panel surveys have had shorter field times than is typical, and still, the response rates are some of the highest ever recorded. Employee surveys issued through Gallup Access are also seeing high participation in short time frames, indicating that employees appreciate the opportunity to be heard.

In contrast, consider how delaying a planned feedback opportunity looks and feels for employees.

1. It magnifies the impact of the crisis itself. A crisis so disruptive that it delays an expected opportunity to share feedback (via a survey or some other method) amplifies employees' fear. What could be so bad that it precludes collecting feedback? This is especially true if the crisis interrupts a regular feedback loop that employees consider routine.

2. It communicates to employees that their opinions are only welcome when business is running smoothly. The message employees receive when organizations postpone an anticipated feedback opportunity is that what they think is unimportant. That when things get tough, employees aren't even given a chance to voice their opinions.

3. It feels like indefinite procrastination to employees. It's impossible to predict how long disruptions will last. Instead of postponing a survey or feedback opportunity indefinitely -- causing employees to question when it'll happen -- consider gathering feedback that is relevant and actionable now. By gathering pertinent information, organizations can address their employees' current needs.

Sometimes it does make sense to hold off on collecting feedback. For example, it might make sense if employees are overloaded with work and the survey takes more than 20 minutes to complete and doesn't even acknowledge the current crisis. Or if the survey's feedback simply isn't something leaders can act on. And that's a big one: If a company will not or cannot take action to address the feedback the survey gathers, it should postpone collecting it to begin with.

Asking your workforce what they think and then taking no action after getting their answers is always the wrong move.

Gathering Employee Feedback Sends a Positive Message in Times of Crisis

The truth is, if an organization positions feedback opportunities correctly, there is no better time than during a period of disruption to check in with employees to see how they are doing.

Consider leaders in a crisis. They are forced to make high-stakes decisions on shortened timelines with a long list of variables. Any opportunity those leaders have to learn what employees think and how they feel about what is happening is helpful context. It can boost leaders' confidence in the decisions they make.

This is true even if the decisions leaders make don't align with employees' wishes. Awareness of a disconnect between the decisions made and employee support allows leaders to tailor their messaging to anticipate objections. By proactively addressing opposition, leaders help their workforce understand why they made that decision.

And make no mistake: A willingness to listen sends a message to your people. They will know that their opinions are valued -- even if the outcome doesn't align with their perspective.

Asking your workforce what they think and then taking no action after getting their answers is always the wrong move.

It's worth noting that leaders can't assume they can predict the survey responses. At the height of the lockdown in the U.S., employee engagement went up. Engagement among remote workers is not uniform. Some suffer. Some flourish. Many organizations found unexpected markets and customers in digital commerce when forced to explore that landscape.

In the same way, leaders may find their teams are more resilient, creative or engaged than they would have assumed. We live in counterintuitive times -- now is not the time to "go with your gut."

Feedback Produces Positive Outcomes That Benefit Employees and Their Organization

Garnering employee feedback through surveys or other channels benefits the organization and employees alike. Gallup has found that understanding and acting on employee feedback from engagement surveys is directly related to organizational resiliency. Teams perform better during tough times (i.e., recessions, disruptions) if they have:

  • clear expectations

  • the materials and equipment they need

  • the opportunity to do what they do best

  • coworkers across teams who are committed to quality

Consider gathering employee feedback as an opportunity to ask additional strategic questions about:

We live in counterintuitive times -- now is not the time to "go with your gut."

The business case is clear: Leaders need a way to listen to their people. By gathering employee feedback during business disruption, leaders open the door for the right kinds of interventions at critical moments to ensure the organization is best-positioned to navigate times of change.

Learn what your employees need with scientifically validated surveys on Gallup Access:

Author(s)

Nate Dvorak is Director, Workplace Research and Client Advice, at Gallup.

Dipak Sundaram is Executive Director, Advisory Services, at Gallup.

Jessica Schatz and Ryan Pendell contributed to this article.


Gallup https://www.gallup.com/workplace/350183/reasons-gather-employee-feedback-during-disruption.aspx
Gallup World Headquarters, 901 F Street, Washington, D.C., 20001, U.S.A
+1 202.715.3030