Return to Work Solutions

Leveraging employee sentiment during the Coronavirus pandemic to guide critical business decisions.


Business leaders struggled during the COVID-19 pandemic

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit the World, it forced organizations around the globe to shift the way they operate, with many moving into a remote work model. This context of uncertainty put a lot of pressure on business leaders who had to reimagine the future of work and how to safely bring people back to the office.

The challenge for us at Momentive was to empower these business leaders to leverage insights about their employees' sentiment towards work and use that to inform critical business decisions. In the Fall of 2020, I was assigned to solve this challenge and lead the design efforts across three different areas of SurveyMonkey. I coordinated the work of 2 other designers, one content strategist and one product researcher and collaborated with two product managers and three different engineering teams.

How might we help business leaders leverage employee sentiment data to inform critical business decisions?

Project constraints

Time-to-market. Due to the fast pace of changes during the pandemic, having a solution out in the market as soon as possible was key for the success of the project.

Leverage existing platform. To achieve the time-to-market goals, we need to leverage as much as possible our existing platform instead of exploring new product features.

Organizations wanted to hear from employees

Insights from initial research showed that most companies were collecting employee feedback to inform their new workplace policies but not in a structured way. Organizations were mainly using informal channels such as email or slack, or zoom meetings.

Also, most companies said they would like to have something more organized that would be easy to implement and manage.
When asked about using surveys, participants said a lot of manual work goes into creating, managing and sharing surveys.

forms vision

Helping leaders make informed business decisions

With the insights from the research in mind, the team set the goal to create an optimized end-to-end experience that would enable organizations to quickly assess and plan the return of their employees to the workplace.

In the product, this goal translated into a twofold solution. First is a streamlined survey creation process that enables users to send surveys quickly and easily to their workforce. This first part consisted of ready-to-start entry points, expert-created templates, guided survey customizations, and recurrent survey collectors to track how sentiments change over time.

The second part of the solution consisted of the automatic generation of survey insights to reduce the time for data analysis while surfacing relevant data about employees' sentiment.

There were three specific situations that this solution needed to address:

1. Monitoring the remote work engagement. So companies could understand and monitor how the employees were feeling about working from home.
2. Returning to the workplace. That is, understanding the expectations employees had about returning to the offices. And,
3. On-site work engagement. Once back to the office, understand employees' feelings about the measures in place to make on-site work possible.

Streamlined survey creation with automated insights about employees’ sentiments towards the workplace arrangements.

The streamlined creation process enabled users to quickly and easily send surveys.

From survey templates to actionable insights

A central aspect of Return to Work Solutions is to help business leaders make evidence-based decisions to optimize resources and effectively manage change. With that in mind, getting users to quickly and easily convert survey templates into actionable insights was key to the project's success.

To solve this challenge, I worked closely with the Product Research and the Machine Learning team to automate the analysis of survey data and the generation of insights about employee sentiment.

The first step toward automating insights consisted of categorizing the different questions in the survey templates. There are three categories:

  1. Anchor question. That's the question that captures the overall goal of the survey. For example, the anchor question for the Remote Worker Engagement is, "How easy or difficult is it for you to work from home these days?". The anchor question is also a Metric question.

  2. Metric question. In our templates, this category of questions measures the performance of a feature or aspect in the employee's situation. For example, the employee's trust in the leadership; "How confident are you in the leadership team to make the right decisions?"

  3. Demographic questions. These questions determine the respondents' general characteristics, such as age, office location, department, tenure with the company, etc.

Ready-to-share survey reports

Once employees start to take the survey, the system cross-references the responses according to the categories. This processing of responses generates three types of automatic insights:

  1. Data over time. This insight is generated based on the anchor question combined with the different dates employees have taken the survey. It tells business leaders how their employees' sentiment has evolved.

  2. Benchmark insights. Also, based on the data collected with the anchor question, these insights help business leaders compare their business performance against other organizations.

  3. Demographic insights. By combining the data from demographic questions with responses to metric questions, this type of automatic insight help business leader identify issues of a specific group of employees. For example, "childcare is the top concern for employees with children under 18 years old".

To finalize the automation of the data analysis, we generate a reporting dashboard that shows a section called "Insights Summary" with the automatic insights presented in three cards. Below is a section called "Survey Questions" with data analysis of the latest survey deployed. This ready-to-share report helps business leaders have a snapshot of the most recent data and a deep understanding of employees' sentiment over time.

The ready-to-share report gives business leaders a deep understanding of employees' sentiments.

Lessons learned

The feedback we received about the Return to Work Solutions was positive. Most users shared that creating and deploying surveys felt straightforward and intuitive and that the guided flow helped them feel confident throughout the process.

The reactions to the automated reporting dashboard were also overwhelmingly positive. Users felt that the insights generated were relevant and aligned with what they needed to report, especially the data trends.

On the other hand, the Return to Work Solutions limitation is that it limits and forces the user to follow a prescribed flow. Even a small deviation from the defined steps, using a different method to collect responses, could comprise the automation of insights. Time constraints were the main factor influencing the team to create a somewhat rigid solution, but that is definitely one of the main aspects to improve.

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© Dan Bianchi, 2024

© Dan Bianchi, 2024

© Dan Bianchi, 2024