If we were to identify an area that was most deeply affected by COVID-19, a clear consensus among experts is the HR field. People’s private lives have been hit hard, and recovering from it will be a very long process. Employees’ mindsets changed drastically, and so did their motivations and preferences. No wonder so many companies are trying to gauge what the current situation really is, and how big the challenge is on the human side. However, assessing this poses serious difficulties for employers, as traditional satisfaction surveys and other similar solutions do not seem to be worth much today. Below are excerpts from a discussion with Miklós Palencsár, the founder-owner of the RISE Human Development System – Mentors & Partners Group, and winner of the “Business Coaching Leader of the Year – Europe 2021”.
The fake team unit
An employer who deals with their employees from time to time devotes a lot of energy and money to getting an idea of what employees think about working conditions, managers, and the company in general. They try to draw conclusions from these surveys and use them in future developments. That’s fine. For HR, this is always a solid project that should be valued, as the future of the company depends on the quality of this task. There are companies where this is solved internally, but most international companies involve external experts in this process, as they want to avoid any mistakes. Nevertheless, the results obtained during these measurements are often in sharp contrast to objective fact.
Satisfaction surveys remind me of the outrageous story of the “Central Park 5”, when five young black men were convicted of attacking a woman in Central Park, New York City. The most severe sentence was 13 years in prison, all in the name of “justice”. Brutal and aggressive police officers forced teenagers, in the absence of their parents, to provide confessions or incriminating testimony. In several cases, they were convinced that they could defend themselves by falsely claim identifying other young men as the attackers, and that was enough to convict them. Well, the analogy is obviously harsh, but it goes back to how honestly people answer questions when there are perverse incentives at play. In many cases, employees have plenty to lose, so they do not provide real feedback to the hand that feeds them. Many times, at the start of an organisational development project, I was presented with satisfaction surveys conducted by internal HR or external “experts” that showed fantastic results, yet that company’s employee turnover was far above the industry average. And in sport, I have worked with national teams where the head coach or the federation felt that teamwork was not an issue, that these players would go to battle for one another, and then in the first team-building workshop, three key players got into it a shouting match before the first break. There was some truth in the words of the coach/federation: team cohesion was not really an issue because it simply did not exist.
Even if we want to tell the truth…
We can’t say that everyone lies when surveyed or assessed by another technique, as that would also say that no one is honest with their employer. However, this is certainly not the case.
It’s not about all people knowingly lying or skewing the facts. While we should also be aware that not everyone is telling the truth, these answers can certainly change the results significantly. To understand the problem with surveys, we need to be aware of the reactions of different personality types to such a situation. What is perhaps even more important is that we also need to see that even the best of all the answer sto a question we have just asked, to the best of our knowledge, is the way that employee feels today, how they think in that situation. This is the very first “skew point” in traditional surveys, as we make the real decision with our “original personality” on the most important issues. And we experience our days with our “present personality” or “modified personality”, in professional language. Today’s “present personality” is actually a blend of our “original personality” and all the roles we have had in the past to this day that have left an imprint on our personality. If, for example, a manager is promoted in a workplace, we will basically start using the personality traits of the “ruler” personality type based on the classification of the RISE system, as this type is the classic leader.
We’ve been leaders for many years, and we’ve been displaying “ruler” traits for more than a year, so even though we’re not “ruler” personality types deep down, which means we’ve been wearing a “behavioural form,” or mask, for more than a year. These behaviours, which are usually shown for more than a year, modify our personality. The danger is that we will always make decisions based on our “original personality” on issues that are important to us. That is, if we borrowed too many personality traits from another personality type, there is a big difference between the “original personality” and the “present personality”. However, we need to be aware that recorded personality traits disappear in a “crisis situation” and we cannot use them. For this reason, however, for an important question posed in the present workplace – where we recorded leadership behaviour, for example, following the “ruler” type – means our answers also differ from reality. Not because we want to lie, but because when we ask questions, we are convinced we think so. In the case of a corporate satisfaction survey or any other traditional survey, the respondent cannot reproduce the state of crisis that arises when we really have to make a decision on whether to stay or leave their current employer. The “professional” who thinks he can still handle this is more than arrogant. On the other hand, a corporate report to see what mood our employees, especially our key people, are really in, now emerging from the pandemic, is critical information for a company to plan for the future. But you also have to know that a lot of times, people have surprised themselves in the last year and a half with what really matters in life and how different it is from what they thought was important to them in the past.
It should not be overstated that our thoughts on a particular topic can indeed change significantly over time. However, we can also agree that in the life of any business, it is essential to have a clear and real picture of what you can expect in terms of human resources.
The era of dismissal of key people
Many companies have been hit hard this year by the start of the year, as expectations were that the severe global economic crisis will make it easier for employers to find employees because the demand side of the labour market has declined overall. Then 2021 started by showing that companies have given up a substantial amount of their employees. In addition, the biggest problem is that the employees who left the companies were in most cases the key people, the most valuable employees for the given company. Today, most professionals warn that this was only the first wave, and that 2022 will be a real shock to everyone who has not done everything in order to adapt the workplace and corporate environment to new expectations and employees.
A lot of companies are in trouble. And many people know nothing about this. We discussed how one of the problems with surveys is that we make important decisions with our “original personality”, which cannot be measured by satisfaction assessments. The problem is that the workplace has indeed become a very important issue for people. Interestingly, it was not the job and the career itself that became important – as this category alone clearly slipped back on the motivational scale – because it was preceded by things like the categories needed to enjoy health, family, leisure, that is, to enjoy life. At the same time, however, employees have re-evaluated the role of the workplace, because if we think about it, we spend half of our lives in this environment, so when we talk about enjoying our lives, it plays a critical role in the end result. That is, in 2022, from the workplace, key employees will not focus on making money and surviving at work, but on the real value of work. What’s more, in many cases, it’s precisely because these key people have been role-playing in the workplace throughout their lives and have taken on new personality traits, meaning they’ve changed their personalities to figure out how to feel most comfortable. So, a good employer now has a role to play in showing reality, in the mirror, to help make their employees truly happy”.