What employees think of – and what to do about it

October 4, 2017

What employees think of – and what to do about it

The role of an HR professional is broad, and covers everything from employee record administration, to conflict resolution and employee relations. So at some point in your career, you’ve probably been asked to do things like:

  • Increase employee engagement
  • Mediate a tricky dispute
  • Organise an office wellbeing initiative

This kind of task would be so much easier if you could just read your employees’ minds, right? Well, that’s exactly what Debora Figueiredo, writing for the Developing People Globally blog, claims to have done – using nothing more than the power of Big Data, i.e. Google!

What UK workers really think

Developing People Globally is a leading CIPD course provider. And Debora’s experiment on their blog was simple, but insightful. By typing in partial search terms, such as ‘my colleagues’ and ‘somebody I work with’, she was able to collect a list of frequently asked questions using Google’s autofill feature.

And it turns out that when employees get home from work – or maybe even while they’re at work – they’re thinking about things like this:

  • My colleagues are racist
  • I can’t stand someone I work with
  • My job feels pointless
  • My colleagues think I’m weird
  • One of my colleagues smells

These are probably not the kinds of thing you want your employees to be thinking. But let’s be practical about this – if they are thinking about them, then they won’t stop thinking about them unless the problem goes away.

And that’s where you can fly in to save the day. So what exactly can you do if your colleagues are thinking these things? Let’s take a few of the above examples, and work through them one by one.

My colleagues are racist

If you have a severe racism problem on your hands at work, then hopefully you’ve already addressed it, and taken action. You should have a strong policy in place condemning this kind of behaviour, and you should be making sure all employees have read it, understand it, and are following it.

But beyond this, you can adopt on-going strategies to encourage tolerance and cultural diversity in the workplace. We wrote about this a while ago on the blog, and came up with a few suggestions to help you get started, such as:

  • Creating a more culturally diverse holiday calendar. Why restrict your company only to the public and religious holidays most frequently observed in your country? Try introduce less common cultural celebrations, like the Chinese New Year. I’m not saying you must give everybody a public holiday for every single special occasion. But even just raising more awareness of these special days can help your employees appreciate what’s important to their colleagues.
  • Hold regular ‘culture days’. You can go beyond simply talking about special occasions, by holding the occasional cultural celebration. Invite different people from your workforce to talk about the things most important in their culture – be that religious or otherwise – and encourage other employees to ask positive questions, and open their minds to learning.
  • Prepare for cultural challenges. Cultures aren’t just about special occasions. Different cultures also pose unique challenges for your employees. Take some time to learn about these, and see how you can implement measures to make them less challenging. When a person’s race, religion or culture is causing fewer challenges at work, their colleagues are less likely to see it in a negative light.

The key is awareness and understanding. Approach race, religion and culture with an open mind, and encourage everybody at work to do the same.

My job feels pointless

In a survey we recently conducted, we found that 62% of employees believe appreciation and recognition is their biggest motivator. So if people at work are feeling like their jobs are pointless, chances are you’re not doing enough to show them how important they are.

What Motivates Staff the Most

The thing is, most employees do care about money, and money is usually their primary motivation for finding a job. But money isn’t what gives them satisfaction from their careers – and eventually, if employees continue to feel like their job plays a pointless, meaningless role in society, then they’re going to go elsewhere.

You can avoid this by showing them more appreciation and recognition. But you can also take the Gripple approach, and help employees to connect their roles with the stories your company’s product or service creates – after all, it’s what keeps public sector nurses intrinsically motivated, despite the continued pay freeze here in the UK.

One of my colleagues smells

You may never know an employee is struggling to deal with a smelly colleague, unless:

  1. They approach you to tell you; or
  2. You notice the smell yourself

Personal hygiene – or a lack thereof – is a highly sensitive issue, and must be handled with care. However, it doesn’t do any good to simply put up with it, either. You might find the advice of Tom Preston helpful, which we produced a while back on our blog as a five-step guide to telling your colleague they smell.

You can find out what your employees are thinking through quick-fire ‘pulse’ surveys

You don’t have to wait until the annual employee feedback survey to find out what your employees are thinking. In fact, growing evidence points to using a technique called ‘pulse’ surveys, which involves sending out quick, short questions and getting responses from your workforce in real-time.

By doing this, you can conduct quick, precise organisational health checks, and then respond with real action that makes a difference.

Take a look at the video below to see how we actually integrated Pulse Surveys into our HR software, for an example of how it works in practice.

If you liked this video, you may benefit from our modern, cloud-based HR system. Take a free trial today.

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