PROBLEM SOLVER VS. PROBLEM SEEKER
April 2018 – Brandmap:
In my articles and panels at the summits, I always underline the importance of listening to your employees to understand them. It is actually a very simple act: “listening”. Why should we listen? Because we need to understand the changing expectations of our employees, to identify their priorities. Why do we need this? Because we want to become the best employer brand, to attract the best talents to our company and to achieve the best business results with the best employees. There are various methods for collecting the feedback of your workforce. We use “quantitative research” methods to collect the numerical data with the following purposes:
- to identify employee expectations, engagement and motivation levels as well as important areas for improvement;
- to understand the reasons of people quitting the job and to conduct competition analyses;
- to determine different views of employee groups regarding corporate culture during times of change;
- to capture the degree that the departments meet the expectations of their internal customers with their performance, the levels of satisfaction about the communication and interaction styles, the conflict areas in the company, and the tips regarding the probable causes of these conflicts.
Even though there are numerous other research methods based on need, the most common quantitative research tools address the topics above. These research methods are the best for collecting numerical data and proving the highest priority improvement areas with numbers. When the Human Resources professionals stand before the management team without such research data and name the improvement areas, express the employee expectations, the management team may not want to believe them or to make them their priorities. An independent third party revealing those dynamics with specific data always strengthens the hand of the Human Resources department.
There is also the face-to-face focus groups and one-to-one employee interviews that we name “qualitative researches”. These interviews enable us to learn the insights of employees about any subject and make our action plan based on them. For example, in a half day that we spent with 8-10 employees, we can easily understand what they mean when they say ‘”career expectation” or what they are expecting when they mention “recognition”. “There is no recognition in the company” may well mean that the recognition is missing since a division is feeling estranged because another division is always the favorite of the management, or that recognition is missing since the first level manager refuses to thank employees claiming that they are only doing their jobs. The belief that only salvation is a new title due to the probably ineffective future salary raise and the depreciation of pay in time may also create the career expectation.
Now, let’s come to the real issue: all of the research methods I listed above are actually tools to listen to the voice of the employees. The frequency, the quality, the content of these tools should be determined very carefully. It is unacceptable not to conduct any surveys, however, it is also negative in the eyes of employees to conduct a survey too frequently, once in every 2-3 months. Of course, if a brave heart comes up and says “yes, we frequently conduct surveys, but we share their results, generate the required actions, put these actions into practice rapidly”, then there is nothing to say but to bow before them. But, unfortunately, things don’t go like that in real life.
When you ask the problems of the employees but do not share any results afterwards and do not take any action, the employees will naturally begin to think that those surveys or focus groups are performed just to put a tick in a checkbox. It comes to such extreme points that the employees stop believing in the sincerity of the survey. The voices are raised claiming “they conduct surveys so that the HR can be rewarded”.
The employees begin to participate less and less in the surveys, they confused the purpose or the content of one survey with another. And thus, no sound result is obtained. The employees’ confidence in the company is damaged.
I guess we need an adjective before the word “communication” while we keep on saying ‘communication comes first’. “Sincere” communication comes first. Being honest and being open. You are so willing to convince the employees to fill in the questionnaires and to attend the focus groups, but you need to show the very same willingness to share the results and explain the future actions to be taken. In other words, don’t conduct these studies just to check a box.
That’s why you should be a problem solver rather than only seeking the problems. Believe me, this is much more sincere. However, don’t get me wrong, you can’t solve every problem. There are things a company can fix rapidly, and there are things that you cannot even lay your hands on for a while. The important thing is to share these results sincerely with your employees. If we ask them to share their opinions, it is their natural right to learn the results obtained from those surveys.
Otherwise, all the research efforts turn into unnecessary tools without sincerity. And when you truly need them one day, it will no longer be possible for you to get efficient returns.
Don’t ever spend your time or money if you won’t provide feedback regarding results, if you won’t be able to take any action.