Employee engagement in a VUCA environment
The business world has always been a challenging place. This is especially true today, when we are operating in what is known as the VUCA environment- volatile, uncertain, complex & ambiguous.
In such an environment, an organization relies heavily on its workforce to stay engaged, and give in their best to ensure that the organization reaches its desired results. Accordingly, many organizations invest in periodic surveys to gage the engagement levels of their employees.
However, what happens when an organization is undergoing even more changes than normal, and is in turmoil? If the organization is struggling with these changes, so would be the employees as well. Hence, organizations would ideally be spending more of their energies in understanding the pulse of their workforce, right?
Unfortunately, it is a general perception that organizations should only check the pulse of their employees when business is doing well, and/or organization has some growth plan. Most organizations shy away from conducting employee surveys when the company is in a turmoil- say if there have been mergers, change in leadership, or business plans have not been met. In any of these aforementioned situations, and any other similar situation, the likely approach to employee surveys is to cancel them.
There are two primary reasons for this. Firstly, organizations want to focus the funds on ‘things that truly matter’. And secondly, organizations expect dismal results as employees are likely to voice their displeasure in such situations.
However, canceling engagement surveys for either of these reasons is not the approach that organizations ought to take. In times when the organizations are in a flux for various reasons, employees tend to be uncomfortable as well. In this situation, management approaching them for their feedback will be reassuring for them. The management can also understand the specifics of their employees’ discomfort, and accordingly take measures to ease it. Failing in doing so, would lead to high attrition, and low productivity, which would only further aggravate the organization’s already difficult condition. Hence, investing in understanding the pulse of employees becomes even more critical during difficult times.
The other important point to note is how the results of an employee survey is perceived by the management. Surveys are essentially diagnostics to understand the state of employees. In case, the results are negative, then that is actually a success for the management because they now have an opportunity to address the issues, before they catapult. This is a much better situation to be in, than if they remained unaware of their employees’ opinion while it continued to silently hurt the organization.
In a VUCA environment, it is an organization’s workforce that determines if it is going to sail through, or sink. In such a situation, it is prudent for any management to invest in understanding the sentiment of its employees, and take measures to engage them, as this is what would ‘truly matter’ in the organization’s journey to reach its goals.