4 ways to check the pulse of a workforce

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Most employers, and their advisers, probably wish they could peek into the minds of employees to understand what workers are thinking, gain perspective on day-to-day frustrations and use that information to help make employees’ lives easier.

These vital insights can inform an employer’s ability to help employees feel more empowered, do great work, feel secure and supported in their organizational roles and to build a better company culture.

Taking the pulse of a workforce shouldn’t be a guessing game. An informal process of ‘throwing ideas against the wall to see what sticks’ wastes time, wastes resources and only serves to frustrate employees. There are better ways to understand what makes employees tick.

A good place to start is seeing work from their point of view. A recent ADP study, Fixing the Talent Management Disconnect, shows that there is a gap between how employers and employees 72% of employers believe performance reviews are an important milestone for career development, only 54% of employees agree. Further, only 15% of employees say they have defined development goals, despite a majority who are looking for growth within their current companies.

Closing the gap
These kinds of gaps don’t crop up overnight. They’re a slow-drip that seeps into an employer’s ability to connect with workers. To help avoid it, here are four tips to help employers keep attuned to workforce perspectives:

1) Collaborate on development goals. Development goals are an important tool. Employers use them to mentor and track progress and employees can use them to set and build a sense of professional and personal accomplishment. By approaching development goals together, employers can help employees feel more connected and engaged in their work. Research bears this out. According to the 2016 ADP Employee Engagement Study, only half of employees felt they had a clear understanding of their goals and objectives for the year. Happy employees were 3.5 times more likely to have a grasp of their goals than unhappy ones.

Employees say they are likely to move to a new employer for perks such as flexible schedules, bonuses and paid leave.
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2) Promote training programs. Employers should encourage workers to participate in training as an integral part of bringing development goals to fruition. Enhancing employee skills can be beneficial for both parties. The employer profits from a more professionally mature, well-rounded worker and the employee bolsters their knowledge and worth to the organization. According to the same ADP study, 77% of companies offer some sort of training programs yet only 40% of employees participate. Encouraging employees to take advantage of training can boost confidence and enhance skills.

3) Establish skip-level meetings. It’s difficult and often intimidating for subordinates to voice workplace concerns to their direct managers. However, skip-level meetings are an effective way for senior leadership to build a rapport with employees and elicit candid feedback. Establishing these meeting quarterly or bi-annually enables top brass to tap into an invaluable perspective and glean insights about the day-to-day workings of the organization. Asking employees their opinion helps them feel they are tangibly contributing to the company’s future direction.

4) Enhance leadership communication. Workers want leaders to communicate future plans and goals, progress, achievements and other big-picture issues that impact the organization. In addition to face-to-face meetings, a blog or newsletter is an informal way for C-suite executives and senior leadership to deliver leadership messages as well as solicit feedback and recommendations from employees who might not otherwise have the opportunity to voice an opinion. Consider delivering broadcast emails and voicemails on a regular basis. Periodically, conduct surveys and 360-degree feedback to gauge how messages are received and to measure effectiveness.

Having your finger on the pulse of employee needs, attitudes and opinions can help employers develop and drive more effective engagement methods that, hopefully, empower their workforce and cultivate a more productive culture.

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