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Listen to Your Employees, on Your Journey to “Re-Launch”: Qualtrics “Return to Work” Pulse

Listen to Your Employees, on Your Journey to “Re-Launch”: Qualtrics “Return to Work” Pulse

Employee Experience, Wellbeing and Workforce Effectiveness in times of Corona

SAP Qualtrics is offering several free XM (Experience Management) solutions to help organisations manage the changes enforced by the COVID-19 pandemic. The latest addition is the “Return to Work Pulse” meant to provide data and insights for business leaders and HR to prepare and execute the journey to the new normal whilst taking employee feedback and sentiment on board. Supporting, what I call the “Re-Launch” phase with a positive employee experience.

In many countries and organisations, where employees hitherto couldn’t work on-site due to COVID-19, the first, cautious steps to return to “normal” have started. For many people, this period feels as scary as the switch to working-from-home a few weeks ago – maybe even more so. The multitude of different messages your employees will have heard from all directions during lockdown may have created even more insecurity than there was at the start. It is therefore as important as ever to listen to your people to understand their needs and feelings, help them overcome anxieties, and benefit from their ideas.

To monitor workforce well-being and effectiveness during the lockdown, Qualtrics had provided the free “Remote + on-site Work Pulse”. I have followed the development of this solution and provided guidance, tips and updates for organisations to make the best possible use of it in this blog:

I was also involved in supporting several organisations across EMEA to implement this solution together with other colleagues from the Adessa Group Qualtrics EX practice. And I learned a good deal from this. So, here are my tips to maximise the benefits from the new “Return to Work” solution – the first being:

Be Agile! Starting today is so much more valuable than starting next week!

The solution is really designed to be launched within hours. Particularly, when the anonymous survey link is used (see below) and no employee data needs to be loaded into the Qualtrics platform. While I appreciate that in the corporate world there is always a decision-making process and policy discussion, there is no excuse to make this an occasional discussion about general principles. This process has the potential to really help your workforce navigate through a difficult time and delaying a week to discuss items such as ‘font sizes’ or because of assessing internal scoring first, is simply not justifiable. Yes, I’m looking at you, too: works councils and union reps.

What does the Qualtrics Return to Work Survey do?

It is a lean, quick-to-deploy solution that comes with pre-configured questions and a report. The survey will provide you the insights into:

  • Employees’ concerns and expectations about returning to on-site work.
  • What you can do to make them feel save.
  • Employees’ perception of policies and job changes.
  • Communication needs.

Use this link to take a sample survey online. It shows the standard questionnaire provided by Qualtrics with minimal customisation (Layout) in English or German.

Unlike the “Remote and on-site Work” pulse, this solution has only one version. There is no short version like the quick check-in that came with the “Remote and on-site Work” solution. However, it would be a good idea to still use the quick check-in to complement the “Return to Work” pulse to see how employees are feeling.

Check out my earlier article for more details.

How do we Get Access to the Qualtrics Return to Work Survey?

You have all the information about Qualtrics’ COVID-19 solutions including those related to employee wellbeing and effectiveness under this link.

Refer to this link to get to the free “Return to Work” Pulse directly.

The same page also describes the “Back-at-Work Employee Experience” solution, which is more comprehensive but not available for free. This is part of the “Employee Experience” (EX) platform (instead of the more basic “coreXM” as the free “Return to Work” pulse), where you have more powerful tools for data management, dashboards and action planning. However, this article focuses on the free solution.

If you are already a Qualtrics customer you’ll have access to this survey in your brand: log into your solution (in English language!) and navigate to “Projects”, click “Create new Project” and choose “Core XM” (It’s not under Employee XM!). Then you’ll see the section of COVID-19 related solution and you can pick “Return to Work Pulse“.

If you are not a Qualtrics customer yet, no problem. Following the “Get Free Solution” button under the link mentioned above, you’ll be able to request access to a brand (the Qualtrics name for an instance) in a two-step process:

  • Provide email and purpose.
  • register after receiving the confirmation email (check your junk-folder!)

What’s needed for setting up our Return to Work Survey?

Qualtrics provides a comprehensive guide under this link, so I won’t repeat that, but only share a few tips or point the spotlight on the most important parts.

Most importantly: if you are not a Qualtrics expert or if you want to be quick, just follow the wizard. You’ll be surprised, how easy it is.

A few tips to remember, while following the wizard:

  • The company name you provide will be used in addressing the participants in the survey, so use the colloquial name rather than the full legal name to make it sound nicer.
  • You’ll be asked to provide regions / locations and organisational units. That’s for participants to choose from, so you can get a better picture in the reporting to get insights like “Colleagues in Germany tend to be more confident to return” or “The customer service team in the UK is missing PPE“. This is necessary, if you are using anonymous links, so the system will not know, which employee has provided which answers (you could use non-anonymous as well, we’ll get to that later).
  • When amending the regional and organisational choices, make a quick list on paper first to decide on the sequence (alphabetical is easy to use). Then start by overwriting the given choices. Delete the last ones, if there are too many. Use “add” button, if you need more. This way you won’t need to go into the survey edit mode to change sequence etc. later but can do everything in the wizard.
  • Remember to review all the wording you change in the wizard (including company name) or directly in the survey later, when you upload translations, as the translated texts will not consider your changes. Also, make sure you don’t re-load the original language together with the translations as it would overwrite it.
  • If the choices you offer are too detailed, it could be possible to identify individuals. Two ways to mitigate that risk:
  • Point it out to people and allow them to skip these questions (or add an NN option), if they don’t feel comfortable.
    • Make sure the choices are high level enough to avoid this problem.
  • When you get to the survey distribution, I recommend generating the single generic link and send it out through your corporate email system with some appropriate introduction text. This way, you also save yourself the often time-consuming task of preparing data to load into Qualtrics.
Anonymous Survey Link
  • If you capture some test answers (and that includes answers captured with the survey preview function), we recommend deleting them, before launching the survey, so you have a clean start and they don’t interfere with reporting. You can do this under “Data and Analysis” in your Survey Project. Select all answers by ticking the upper Right box on the list of answers and then use the menu “Tools” > “Delete Data” > “All Responses”.
  • Once you’ve sent the first link via email, consider reminders after a couple of days. Make it very clear in the reminder email that the survey shouldn’t be filled in twice (this is only necessary, if you use the anonymous link). The same applies, if you offer the link elsewhere, e.g. your intranet page. In my experience, these surveys get high response rates quickly. If you don’t get 50% after 3 working days, reconsider your communication strategy (though it might also point to deeper cultural issues or the experience from the past where feedback was requested but not acted upon – this is something that needs to be tackled separately. Feel free to reach out to me for help.)
  • It is recommended to follow up with so-called pulses. You could even use the “quick check-in” from the “Remote & on-site Work” survey (see here) rather than the full survey. Use some signposting to tell people about this at the beginning, so they don’t think the follow-up pulse is just a reminder for the original survey and delete it.
  • Once the results are in, check out the standard report. There is a lot of valuable analysis available out of the box. Here’s just a brief glimpse of some examples with sandbox data:

Is this Qualtrics Survey localised?

At the time of writing, the solution is available in English (US) only. We usually expect the main Qualtrics UI languages (including, but not limited to Chinese, Dutch, French, German, and Spanish) to be available soon, but there is no official communication from Qualtrics so far.

Once other languages are available, you’ll only get one language automatically: the one you have set as account language at the time you create the survey. Other languages need to be downloaded from the Qualtrics Support page and then uploaded to your survey. We have set up a page to deal with translations in particular for the “Remote and on-site Work” survey. To learn more about translations we recommend checking out this page as the recommendations apply to the “Return to Work” survey as well (please note that the translations offered for download on that page are only for the “Remote and on-site Work” survey).

Beyond language, there are no further localisation efforts announced. Qualtrics allows for amending the survey flow based on existing information, so you could ask different questions for, say, France. However, that requires some configuration and to some extent defeats the purpose of a quick to deploy out-of-the-box solution.

Personally, I find the free standard survey comes with an American touch. For European customers, I recommend two amendments to the survey (you may find other points to add), if you have the capacity to do this quickly:

  1. Add a third demographics question to understand the current situation or the employee. In most European countries, being on furlough or a similar scheme (Kurzarbeit, chômage temporaire,…) is almost as likely as working from home, but may lead to very different needs, anxieties and expectations.
    Based on the results of this question, you may add further questions targeted at a particular group. Note that you’ll need to amend the report to make the best of these extra categories, but just using the filter option in the report can also do the trick. Remember: being fast is more important than being perfect.
  2. As international travel is much more common in Europe, I’d recommend considering that in question number 10:

What about Loading Participant Data into Qualtrics?

The beauty of the anonymous solution, where you send the same link to everybody through your corporate email system, is that it saves you from the biggest barriers for quick deployment:

  • No data cleansing or data loading.
  • No data privacy arrangements and discussions, because there is no data attributable to an individual kept in the solution.
  • No problems with emails going into the “junk” folder or extra effort to whitelist the Qualtrics domain on your email servers.

Of course, you can load participant data (if you are familiar with Employee XM, note that it’s not taken from the employee directory, but from the contact directory). This has some benefits, as you don’t have to ask the demographic questions and have more relatable data to use in reporting. You could also configure the system to respond with direct automated actions to individual answers. But this would all contribute to an extended implementation time and take us away from the single day deployment, which is easily feasible with the out-of-the-box solution.

Can we Amend the Standard from Qualtrics to Match our Bespoke Work Context?

Yes, you can. However, as stated above, try to go lean on this as it may just delay the launch beyond the time, where it’s actually still useful. It may also require a lot of documentation reading and comes with the risk of messing up, or alternatively, it may be necessary for external consultants to help with Qualtrics certification.

However, if you have the resources to get it done quickly, some amendments may add value. Examples include:

  • Changing the layout – most notably adding your company logo.
  • Adding or removing answer choices.
  • Making some answers mandatory.
  • Hiding some questions not relevant for certain departments or locations.
  • Adding steps dynamically that ask questions or suggest actions based on answers in previous questions. E.g., if someone answers they are feeling not well at all, you might suggest a phone number to call.
  • Adding diagrams to the report to break down the answers a bit more by geography, department or by the current work status as suggested in the localisation section. Note that you can launch the survey before finalising the report so this would not hold you back.

Finally, a tip for existing Qualtrics EX customers: if your licence allows, the best way forward for you may be to create an engagement survey and import the questionnaire from the Return to Work Solution. That way, you can make use of the dashboard builder with anonymity threshold, the hierarchies, and the employee directory.

Help, I’ve hit a License Limit!

As this is a free version, it is to be expected that there are limitations to make sure there is enough capacity for the thousands of organisations actually making use of this offer and to avoid it being exploited for other purposes. There are two limits we’ve spotted, but those may vary over time depending on load:

  1. Number of Surveys:
    In our examples the number of active surveys was limited to one, but that may be different in your environment and also shouldn’t be a problem, as you would close the initial survey anyway before sending out a follow-up pulse, so, if you get this message, when publishing a Change in your Survey, it’s time to close the last survey:
    That’s done in the survey list, choosing “close” in the menu that opens, when clicking the 3 dots on the right hand side:
  1. Number of emails sent
    Under “Account Settings” à “Account Usage”, you can see a maximum number of emails to be sent from Qualtrics. If you are using anonymous links sent from your own email system, this limit doesn’t matter. If you are sending emails from Qualtrics, check with your Qualtrics contact, if this becomes an issue:

When, If Not Now?

I appreciate that there is a lot of uncertainty and workload on HR teams at the moment. But when, if not now, is the time we should understand the experience our employees have working in difficult circumstances, and strive to improve? For those organisations, who still need a tool to make this listening exercise efficient and effective, the free solution Qualtrics provides is an option to achieve that with minimum time and resources. Therefore, I encourage you to look into it and deploy it with minimum amendments to be quick and without spending money on external consultants.

Let’s make sure we understand the needs of our colleagues and that there is a helping hand, when it’s needed.

Bonus: free German translation

Follow these steps, to upload it into Qualtrics – for more details, please check the documentation on our translation page for the “old” survey.

  1. Select German in your survey translation section
  2. Amend the Survey ID in the file to match your survey (you’ll see it, when downloading any translation)
  3. After upload, manually amend the texts you have changes (e.g. company name, geographies, departments)
  4. The uploaded translations only affect the survey questions. Messages and fixed parts in the report – if any, need to be translated manually. Most notably, this also applies to the thank you message at the end of the survey.

Post by Sven Ringling – SAP HCM solutions expert


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