Amid Global Conflict and Crisis, Leaders Must Recommit to Employee Listening

TED KITTERMAN

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TED KITTERMAN

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Here’s how to care for employees struggling with news from Israel, Gaza, and Ukraine. 

How should your organization and your leaders engage with employees on global political news? 

The ongoing war in Ukraine was replaced in the headlines after Hamas carried out a deadly terrorist attack in Israel on Oct. 7. Israel has responded with airstrikes and military operations in Gaza and thousands have been killed on both sides of the conflict. 

For business leaders, what should the message be to employees? 

Edelman’s Trust Barometer research shows that employers are the most trusted institution, and employees expect their employer to have a societal impact on issues that matter to them. 

That suggests employers ignore global crises at their peril. 

“Trust is really important,” says Tony Bond, chief diversity and innovation officer at Great Place To Work®. The biggest message you should send to employees: “We are taking care of our people.” 

“It takes one thing off their mind,” Bond says. 

Pat Wadors, chief people officer at UKG, advises focusing on listening more than talking in comments during a Fortune roundtable about the future of leadership. 

“From an employee lens, acknowledge what is happening, because they are talking about it,” she says. “Let’s listen to what [employees] are saying. If you feel heard, you feel cared for. If you don’t feel seen and heard – it is really hard to move forward in a healthy direction.” 

Find the right forum

Is a townhall the right venue for a discussion about something as sensitive and deeply felt as the conflict in Israel? 

Bond advises checking in with your people. Employees might not be in a place to have the discussion in a big, open forum. 

“You have to survey employees, but you also have to find a systematic, measurable way to surface the voice of the people — to continuously take their pulse,” he says. “The last thing you want to do is create a large program when people aren’t in a place to participate.” 

“If you feel heard, you feel cared for. If you don’t feel seen and heard – it is really hard to move forward in a healthy direction.” – Pat Wadors, chief people officer, UKG

One place to get that feedback is from your employee resource groups (ERGs). 

Bond recommends creating a “super ERG” — curating voices from all of your different ERGs to get a full picture of the current mood for workers. 

“Check in with your employees proactively,” says Wadors. “If you know that a community is struggling, don’t ignore it. I know it’s awkward, but lean in.” That could be as simple as asking the question “How are you?” Wadors adds.   

Building robust ERGs can also be helpful for giving employees small groups to process their emotions when they aren’t ready for an all-company discussion, Bond says. 

“It gives people a community to be a part of and feel connected,” he explains. 

Trust builds resilience

When workplaces have invested in their leaders and built trust across the organization, individual teams can respond more rapidly to crises. 

Bond cites the research of Jori Kalkman, who studies frontline workers in crisis response organizations, like fire departments and the military, and how these organizations must have decentralized authority to respond to and solve problems. 

“How can you create a strong culture that provides support and empowers people to eventually take action and respond to crisis?” Bond asks. It’s a critical question for leaders facing a world that offers new crises year after year. 

Bond recommends finding ways to empower mid- and lower-level leaders to respond to the needs of their teams. “At the executive level, communicate where you stand, how you support people, and what you stand for,” he says. 

Wadors brings it back to a message of support for employees across the company. 

“We think about: What can we do as an employer to help you feel safe, cared for, and supported in your daily lives,” Wadors says. “That is where we can effect some change.” 

Rules for listening

When creating listening programs to allow employees to share how they are feeling about global crises like the events in Israel or Ukraine, it’s important to prepare leaders properly. 

One example of the groundwork needed to make listening programs a success is the effort Cisco put into its Proximity Initiative program. Leaders must be coached on how to create the space for employees to feel safe to share. 

Great Place To Work developed a set of ground rules for listening sessions during the unrest following the murder of George Floyd in 2020. These rules offer a helpful guide for running a listening room that feels safe and encourages open dialogue: 

1. No interruptions, please. Let people finish their thoughts. 

2. Listen carefully with an open mind. Breathe, and be altered by new ideas. 

3. Speak for yourself not others. Everyone has a voice. Help them learn to use it.  

4. No crosstalk or commenting about what another participant says. Positive comments start to form subgroups of thought, which can shut some people down and embolden others. Negative comments will shut people down and establish a power imbalance in favor of the person making the statement. 

5. It’s OK for participants to have nothing to say. This is not group therapy. Silence can be the best way to listen and learn about oneself. 

6. Allow people — all people — to say the “wrong thing,” while reminding them to be aware of the impact of their statements. 

7. Prompt apologies are good, such as “Sorry, that came out wrong because I am stressed and nervous.” 

8. Questions that are true attempts to clarify (vs. statements) are welcomed.  

9. Make the meeting confidential. If leaders in the room are OK with being quoted, organizers should make clear how any quoted material would be used. 

Here are some questions leaders can use to help guide a listening session:

1. What has been confusing for you? 

2. What has made you angry, frustrated, hopeless, or sad? 

3. How do you keep moving forward? What do you do to keep you and yours moving forward?  

4. Over the last few days, what has made it hard to sleep, work, live, or interact with others? 

5. What would you like to understand or learn more about? 

Get more insights

Learn more about the difference in employee experience in the areas of collaboration and communication among workplaces in Singapore and how Best Workplaces™ Create a For All™ experience. 

TED KITTERMAN

Ted Kitterman is a content manager for Great Place To Work®. Ted has experience covering the workplace, business communications, public relations, internal communications, work culture, employee well-being, brand purpose and more. His work shines a light on the unparalleled data and insights offered by Great Place to Work’s decades of research, helping the company share its vision of a great place to work For All™.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying 2.1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting 5.9 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Bahrain, Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Oman, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2022 or early 2023.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000+) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work identifies Best Workplaces in Asia™ by surveying over 1 million employees in Asia and the Middle East about the key factors that create great workplaces for all and analyzing company workplace programs impacting over 4.7 million employees in the region.

To be considered, companies must first be identified as outstanding in their local region by appearing on one or more of our Best Workplaces lists in Greater China (including China, Hong Kong and Taiwan), India, Indonesia, Japan, Kuwait, Philippines, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, South Korea, Sri Lanka, UAE, Vietnam during 2021 or early 2022.

Companies rank in three size categories: Small and Medium (10-499 employees); Large (500+); and Multinational. Multinational organizations are also assessed on their efforts to create great workplaces across multiple countries in the region. They must appear on at least two national lists in Asia and the Middle East and have at least 1,000 employees worldwide with at least 40% (or 5,000) of those employees located outside the headquarters country.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work® Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces™ in Healthcare & Biopharma List. This list recognizes exemplary companies in the healthcare & biopharma industry.

Recognized as a global hub for medical technology and research, Singapore has attracted top healthcare and biopharma talents and companies from around the world. It has become the center for essential healthcare services and innovations with its world-class research institutes, academic medical centers, and industry clusters.

In turn, the healthcare and biopharma sectors play a critical role in the country’s economic competitiveness, sustainability, and innovation. These industries have significantly helped in the overall improvement of public health and well-being of the people of Singapore and its neighboring countries.

The inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma List puts the spotlight on the organizations that are dedicated to providing employee satisfaction and engagement, and their commitment to excellence in the industry.

The companies in our Great Place To Work Certified™ community have the premier distinction that helps attract the best talent, build your employer brand, and secure a competitive advantage. To achieve this, they built a working environment that is purpose-driven and people-first. These companies have demonstrated that showing authentic care, prioritizing employee’s holistic well-being, and building a culture of trust go hand in hand with growth and success.

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Healthcare and Biopharma, Great Place to Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place to Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced.To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place to Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place to Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category.

Methodology

This year, Great Place To Work™ Singapore is proud to launch our inaugural Singapore Best Workplaces in Technology List. This List recognizes exemplary companies in the information and communication technologies industry in four categories:

  • Micro category (10–29 employees)
  • Small (30-99 employees)
  • Medium (100-999 employees)
  • Large (> 1000 employees)

With Singapore’s ambition to be recognized as a regional technology hub, the influx of technology firms (around 80 of the world’s top 100 technology firms have a presence here) and global rankings that place us a leading technology hub outside of San Francisco, the establishment of a Singapore Best Workplaces List in Technology is indeed a timely and needed one. Technology firms in Singapore are characterized by hyper-growth and ambitious expansion plans. This means a continuous war for talent in a highly competitive and rapidly evolving industry.

To maintain our lead as a technology and innovation hub, the ability to attract, retain and sustain skilled talent is critical. We are proud that companies in our Great Place To Work®-Certified community List have built a high-trust culture, engaged employees and maximized their potential to facilitate innovation. They are purpose-driven and adopt a people-first mindset. These are companies that have shown that authentic care and employee well-being need not be compromised for ambitious growth, and that it is possible for businesses to scale up quickly and responsibly. Their culture and core values are embodied in every individual—from senior leadership to rank-and-file employees—and differentiate them from their competitors, priming them to be powerful magnets for top talent.

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore.Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry.The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category

 

Methodology

To determine the 2022 Singapore’s Best Workplaces™️, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing close to 70,000 employees across different industries in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place to Work For All™️. 85% of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do.

Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical in their industry. The remaining 15% of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results.

Companies with 10-29 people were considered for the Micro category; those with 30 to 99 people for the Small category; companies with 100 to 999 employees were considered for the Medium category; and those with 1,000 or more for the Large category.

Great Place To Work® Best Workplaces™ in Singapore 2023 Evaluation Methodology

To determine the 2023 Singapore’s Best Workplaces in Technology, Great Place To Work®️ analyzed confidential survey feedback representing nearly 12,000 employees working in the tech industry in Singapore. Employees responded to over 60 survey questions describing the extent to which their organization creates a Great Place To Work For All™️. Eighty-five percent of the evaluation is based on what employees say about their experiences of trust and reaching their full human potential as part of their organization, no matter who they are or what they do. Great Place To Work analyzes these experiences relative to each organization’s size, workforce make up, and what’s typical relative to their peers in the industry. The remaining 15 percent of the rank is based on an assessment of all employees’ daily experiences of innovation, the company’s values, and the effectiveness of their leaders, to ensure they’re consistently experienced. To be considered, companies had to meet the Great Place To Work-Certified standard. To ensure survey results truly represent all employees, Great Place To Work requires that Trust Index©️ survey results are accurate to a 95% confidence level with a 5% margin of error or better. We review any anomalies in survey responses, news and financial performance to ensure there aren’t any extraordinary reasons to believe we couldn’t trust a company’s survey results. Companies with 10 to 99 people were considered for the small and medium category; companies with 100 employees or more were considered for the large category