No matter who you are, where you live and where you work, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted every one of us in very different, and very personal ways.
As many organisations are now working remotely, it can be difficult to understand these differing personal experiences — and how they’re impacting your workforce.
This is why listening to feedback from your employees is crucial during this time. When you understand how your employees feel, it means you can be supportive, compassionate and responsive to their individual needs, and be in a better position to act decisively.
Prioritising employee equity during a time of crisis
Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is a private college based across two campuses in New Hampshire state. Recently, we partnered up with SHRM for a webinar to explore why Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DE&I) is so important to SNHU as an organisation, and how they are using data to understand the experiences of their workforce.
SNHU has always been committed to furthering DE&I as a core part of its mission — but this goal took on new meaning as the college’s many employees adjusted to working from home.
“We’re in a time of global crisis where we’re seeing marked disparities in financial and health outcomes for underserved populations,” said Jada Hebra, Senior Vice President and Chief Diversity and Inclusion Officer at SNHU. “During this time, we’ve been doubling down and reinforcing our commitment to our institutional values.”
When the shelter in place order was implemented, one of SNHU’s core priorities was to ensure that each employee had an equitable experience even while working remotely.
“Equity is really about creating conditions that allow every employee to have the same outcome, and meeting the needs of every employee,” Jada noted. “This is why now is not the time for us to lean back from our Diversity, Equity and Inclusion initiatives. If anything, we should be seizing this opportunity to lean in and ask questions — like how this pandemic is affecting our people and what we can do to make a positive difference.”
Creating an equitable experience with two-way feedback
Like many organisations during this time, SNHU has been keeping a keen eye on employee survey responses and comments to help them understand if they are fully meeting the diverse needs of their remote workforce. The college implemented Peakon’s COVID-19 question set to help them better understand this impact.
“When we decided to practice physical distancing as an organisation, there were things we needed to know to quickly ensure our employees felt supported and that we could meet their needs,” explained Dr Shanita Williams, Associate Vice President, Talent Engagement and Inclusion at SNHU.
“We needed to check our employees had the tools and resources to do their jobs, and how they felt about our business continuity plan during COVID. This will help us understand over the next few months if our employees are having an equitable experience here at SNHU.”
Maintaining a two-way dialogue with SNHU’s employees has meant that Shanita and her team have been able to act quickly on any employee needs or concerns.
“All of our leaders have been able to focus in on the COVID questions we asked — and if people said they needed more tools, we knew we needed to deliver on that,” Shanita noted. “We’ve used these questions to help us understand how our people are feeling during this time and identify any barriers. That’s so powerful.”
How to create a more equitable experience for your remote employees during COVID-19
Accommodate differing needs
As Shanita noted, identifying any barriers that may be impeding your employees during this time will be key to ensuring that they are having an equitable working experience, and have the tools and support they need to work remotely.
While you may not be able to meet every single one of your employees’ needs immediately, responding to employee feedback will help your employees feel heard, and it will put you in a better position to be proactive about the things that are in your power to change.
Each of your employees will have a different set of circumstances that impact how and when they are able to work remotely. Whether they’re parents, caring for loved ones or simply don’t have the environment or tools to work productively, now is the time to be understanding and accommodating on how these circumstances may negatively impact their productivity. Employees may feel guilt, fear or frustration that they are unable to fulfil their goals, so it’s important to be compassionate and empathetic to the individual needs of each.
Maintain a two-way dialogue
With many employees now working remotely full-time, it can mean that team members are feeling more isolated and anxious. Staying connected to your employees will be critical during this time, as it will help you understand not only their needs, but also how they’re feeling about the current circumstances, both on a professional level and a personal one.