Preparing your workforce for Plan B

With Covid cases on the rise again, many businesses are revisiting their remote working approach and a continued people-first approach will be crucial to approaching any change. People teams remain central to an organisation’s response to the pandemic. People/HR teams therefore have an ongoing opportunity to ensure that people’s needs, and expectations are at the forefront of any hybrid or home-based ways of working. Leveraging feedback channels and data that reports on employee thoughts and behaviours has proven to be a significant piece of this puzzle.

Data is still heavily underused to solve business challenges, particularly when it comes to using that data to support people. Today’s People teams are sitting on a wealth of information and therefore no longer need to make assumptions about what their people want and/or need to succeed. To truly understand the mindsets of those people, and adopt a fit-for-purpose strategy, we need to look to data and seek out actionable insights.

At Avado, we focus on implementing strategies that act on employee feedback. We analyse qualitative data from various informal discussions and cross-functional workshops, as well as quantitative data drawn from multiple sources across our business. This approach has helped us to create a long-term plan that delivers upon the core experiences that are meaningful to our people, in areas such as reward, leadership approaches, growth and development, career progression and alignment with the business’ ambitions. Leveraging in-house data led to a drastic reduction in overall employee turnover over three years, from 43% in 2018 to around 25% in 2021.

Developing actionable insights from our data capture proved particularly significant as our people transitioned to full at-home working for the first time. Though we can predict an additional layer of support for them will be needed this time around, we cannot entirely predict what this layer will look like. For businesses considering their own Plan B come winter, what sits within the data can make or break that strategy.

Generally, everyone has different expectations, ambitions and needs. In addition, across the working landscape, there is an increased ask for more flexible, remote or hybrid working. Businesses therefore need to build models that accommodate people’s lives and facilitate a culture that enables continuous performance and productivity, based on happiness and engagement.

Collecting data on the likes and dislikes of working – wherever that environment may be – offers enormous insight into the way a business can support people in the transition to a long-term hybrid working approach. For us, at the outset of the pandemic we learned that our people needed to set up productive home working spaces. So we offered an allowance. As we transitioned into more hybrid ways of working, we went about finding out how our people wanted to work both at home and in the office; we built new ways of working to accommodate this. Accommodating people – the most complex but asset for any business – can significantly impact commitment levels, psychological safety, overall performance and general satisfaction levels, which in turn impact culture.

A business can get this data from many sources. Weekly company surveys and anonymised, open-ended questionnaires are invaluable tools. Data can be captured from practically any conversation, as long as the intent is made clear, and the purpose of its capture is clearly communicated. Because of the added layer of anonymity with surveys, for example, we’ve found our employees to be more transparent and open to completing them; we’ve also found a growing number of people respond to them without anonymising themselves, showing us that trust has increased over time – such that we were certified a Great Place to Work recently, based on the trust levels in our organisation.

We also actively encourage and celebrate participation – the good, the bad and the ugly. This helps increase trust in our culture and drive consistently higher completion rates. In the last year at Avado, we recorded an average of 73% completion rates in our company surveys (which is “really good”). We believe this is because we take action from what our people are telling us. Actioning insights is surprisingly a lost step in the process amongst many organisations, but it is crucial to keep people happy during a time of constant change and disruption. This is where many leaders might turn a wrong corner – they ask their people for feedback but fail to do anything with it.

Data is present in every organisation, yet it is often untouched. Though, data can be a business’ single greatest advantage during a time of change. Every business will have a Plan B, but those that are created based on data, for their people, could be in a greater position to sustain growth and survival. We’re certainly seeing that, in our own business and in those we work with. For people teams navigating through a new working world, data is the only way to ensure that people remain at the forefront of business decisions.

Natasha Holland

Posted December 14, 2021