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The massive changes to work life as result of the COVID-19 pandemic are forcing many companies to find new ways to boost employee engagement. Qualtrics surveys may help.
Qualtrics began offering a basic version of its survey tool for free to help employers better manage employee engagement. The tool delivers results in real time. It can help HR departments see what's trending and to what degree employees are engaged.
"Employee engagement is a part of employee experience," said Laura Becker, research manager of employee experience at IDC.
Employee experience is more holistic and encompasses the entire employee lifecycle and organizational engagement, she said. Qualtrics is more about surveying employees and getting their feedback to further engage them.
In other words, organizational and HR leaders shouldn't lose sight of the more-encompassing employee experience, but tools such as Qualtrics can help uncover engagement issues, which in turn, help to boost the employee experience.
Employee engagement during the pandemic
Organizations can't understand their employees unless they find ways to uncover their perceptions of their work life.
The most important Qualtrics features are its surveys, particularly the pulse surveys for remote workers and the surveys employers can use to gauge employee feelings on returning to work, Becker said. Qualtrics has also enabled a workforce symptom checker organizations can use if employees return to the office, as well as a contact tracing component employees can use to notify people they've come in contact with in case they become ill.
Surveys are just one part of a listening strategy to determine employee sentiment, said David Johnson, principal analyst of employee experience at Forrester.
"It's an important channel, but it's not the only one," he said. "It's no substitute for having calls and conducting [employee] journey mapping."
The free version of Qualtrics offers limited capabilities, and companies will need to upgrade to a paid version to gather more substantive data, Johnson said. That data collection also requires data analytics skills to interpret. In addition, organizations may need a psychologist, which Qualtrics can assist with.
"You have to be careful when you interpret data," Johnson said. "When you take it at face value, it can cause you to draw the wrong conclusion."
Surveying remote employees
One company that started using Qualtrics after it went fully remote is Chanty, a team messaging service similar to the now-ubiquitous Slack. The company had not been using Qualtrics before it closed its offices in Zurich, New York and the Ukraine due to COVID-19, said company founder Dmytro Okunyev. Instead, business leaders and managers communicated with employees during meetings. But the pandemic forced the company to find new ways to uncover how employees were faring.
On a given day, Chanty sends its employees very basic surveys that ask them no more than two questions related to how they are feeling, how productive they are and what their main obstacles for the workday are, Okunyev said. Chanty leaders and managers then use the feedback to try to create a better employee experience. For example, the company learned that its employees function much better when they have a flexible schedule versus fixed work hours.
Before the COVID-19 pandemic, Chanty leaders and managers focused on the more organizational aspects of working in offices, but they have pivoted to try and understand how satisfied employees are with aspects of work such as communication loops and software, Okunyev said.
Qualtrics was fairly easy to set up, which helped Chanty get up and running on employee surveys quickly, he said.
"There are tutorials and resources to help you get started, but it's actually so easy that you can just create an account and get going within 15 minutes," Okunyev said.
However, while it's easy to set up and to create surveys, the app was built for American users, which meant Chanty had to address CSV file import issues before it could analyze employee responses.
Qualtrics in a post-pandemic world
Chanty will not require all of its employees to come into the office and plans to have a partial work-from-home model, Okunyev said.
"Insights [from Qualtrics pulse surveys] are giving us a lot of information that people actually want to feel at home, even when in the office," he said.
"They're called 'pulse surveys' for a reason -- to keep your finger on the pulse," said IDC's Becker.
Laura BeckerResearch manager of employee experience, IDC
Qualtrics provides a way to collect 365-degree feedback and then create a dialogue with employees on a frequent basis, she said. Historically, companies would survey employees annually, but those days are gone.
"Studies see a correlation between engagement and outcomes, because engagement creates employees [who] are more committed and trusting," Becker said. "Employees are the internal customers of the organization, and in their personal lives, they're used to being customers."
They expect that same level of service within their work environment, she added.
As for Chanty, its foray into employee engagement surveys with Qualtrics during the pandemic is just the beginning.
"We plan to continue using it . . . so that we can learn more about our employees and the best way to create a work environment for them," Okunyev said.