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The Importance of Organizational Feedback during Times of Change

If you don’t deliver on your culture in a crisis, then your culture meant nothing to start with. And when you stand successful on the other side, your culture will be why” – Didier Elzinga, Culture AMP CEO

We are delighted to have hosted the webinar “The Importance of Organizational Feedback During Times of Change” on the 24th of June. Having as guest speakers Mrs. Charlotte Burt, Senior People Scientist at Culture Amp UK and Mrs. Friederike Rissing, HR Director DACH & NORDICS of Reckitt Benckiser, we emphasized the importance of gathering feedback, especially during times of change and we also analyzed the impact the crisis had on leadership and culture.

If you are interested in finding out more, please find below some learnings from the speakers:

Employee experience and long-term success

It is in these very challenging times that companies are finding out what their culture really is and what kind of environment they created for their employees and leaders, as well.

Successful businesses know the impact of gathering people data and putting their culture first when making important decisions. Typically, when we think about surveying through organizational change, we consider it to be the most crucial time to gather on employee feedback, but if we are being really honest, we usually feel that these moments are not the ones when we are putting culture first. Many companies fear that now is not the right time to ask for feedback, especially when there is a tendency in times of crisis to focus on more pressing issues.

Why are we so reluctant to seek feedback? Mostly because there is a concern at management level that engagement scores will decline during times of change, or that results will be unfavorable, or even that by the time the results of the surveys arrive, line managers would have already changed. This is also due to:

  • Lack of growth mindset: this means the organization misses the chance to hear honest feedback from which it can learn and adapt;
  • Learned helplessness: companies perceive they do not have control to influence a situation. This belief can lead organizations to consider they cannot influence how employees feel about a change; hence, this undermines their willingness to gain a true picture of their employee sentiment.

The key thing to know here is that our organizational behavior may be influenced by the same kind of thinking that hijacks our individual emotions, influencing our behavior and willingness to seek out employee feedback.

1. The principles of why you should continue to gather feedback

Closing the loop is crucial

Communication should be done even more in times of crisis, by being able to address all issues and perceptions clearly and absorb the fear of your team, so that they can drive towards a plan in the face of uncertainty.  This is a two-way process, and the focus should not be on the speaking part, neglecting the crucial component that is listening. As a leader you do not always need to have the answer, but you should always pay attention.

Feedback can drive the change

Gathering feedback pre-change to understand the readiness of the employees, but also gathering it during a crisis, can be immensely valuable and can help organizations to better direct resources and understand where employees may need more support. Knowing what they are going through, we can then learn and develop, and consequently improve the performance.

Understand what employees are actually hearing

Management often communicates the business rationale and the corporate strategy, but people really want to hear the story and not an explanation of the business.

None of us know what it is like for others in very different circumstances during change, and as much as we try to put ourselves in others’ shoes, the best way of knowing how people interpret our messages is by asking them.

2. The importance of gathering feedback

Company reputations are fragile

Employees keep track of how they are treated and are not afraid to share that information publicly.

Commitment is easily lost

When employees don’t feel well treated during times of crisis or uncertainty, employee commitment can also be damaged.

Retaining top talent is crucial

Even before COVID-19, top talent could be scarce and in high demand. COVID-19 marks a whole new era on the wall of talent; therefore, it is important to demonstrate a culture which values employees and takes the steps required to maintain quality staff.

Sometimes, leaders feel they know how to do things. But they need to listen. If they want to attract, engage and retain talent, they need to create a great environment and a great employee experience. So why not ask those they are doing this for? Ask what they think, feel, need. Then it can be so easy to adapt.

Avoid the recovery collapse

There are times that define the character of a company, and those that want to stay on top, prioritize the employee experience, because they know that people want to work for an employer that cares.

Key Learnings

  • Putting culture first can be difficult for change
  • The culture you build day to day, especially the culture you build in good times, will help you through the bad ones
  • Everyone has the accountability to form culture, not just leaders
  • Many of us can be guilty during times of change, only focusing on the speaking part of the communication and ignoring the active listening. Communication is both ways
  • If you work in Europe and you start conducting surveys, always have the privacy aspect in mind
  • Leaders should have a service to others mindset
  • Leaders need to create an environment where employees can really develop
  • Leaders don’t need to know everything, they can actually learn from the employees, developing collective learning- the entire organization needs to identify the way forward
  • Don’t shy away from conducting surveys
  • Listen before, during and after change, and also keep the dialogue
  • Feedback is not only about surveys, but also about face-to-face interaction
  • Everyone needs to be opened to and prepared for sincere feedback
  • Feedback should be neither positive nor negative- don’t confuse it with criticism
  • Employees will keep on completing surveys if they understand where their feedback goes to and if they have seen some kind of tangible action
  • It is important to address fear and acknowledge that there is also power in vulnerability
  • Leaders should enable, remove road blockers, give space and create an environment where their employees/ colleagues can thrive and achieve the desired success

Content by Ana Maria Popescu