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Edith Scholten is programme manager of ‘Working Contemporary’ within the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sports. Edith: “Some 1,300 employees work at the core department of VWS and when research is done, everyone receives a survey. Employees did complain that they are a bit survey tired, and I can understand that. Still, as an employer, you want to keep testing certain topics. For instance, during the Covid period last year, we asked about their state of mind via various online employee experience surveys and later also about their experiences of working from home: ‘What do you run into when you work from home and what would it take to solve this?’

Working from home: what can or should be done differently?

These online surveys, the last of which was conducted in September 2021, did show that people were still really struggling with Covid and how it affects their work situation. We asked if employees were willing to answer questions about working from home in an online panel and decided to use CircleLytics’ dialogue for this purpose. In February 2021, the ‘Working Contemporary’ programme was launched.

The CircleLytics dialogue process

Our colleague from HR analytics prepared the dialogue in collaboration with CircleLytics. With a limited number of primarily open-ended questions, you want to get to the heart of the matter. Open-ended questions, limited in number, avoid survey fatigue. In doing so, you have to think carefully in advance about what you want to pick up in the second round. That second round is a necessary step because with a collection of open answers, you still don’t know what is considered important by employees themselves. Besides the online dialogue with employees from our panel, we also started a physical information round along our boards within VWS. We slightly adapted the questions we asked during these visits and used them in the dialogue. The dialogue and information rounds ran simultaneously and the latter are still ongoing.

In total, 72% of the invitees (panel of 130 people) participated in the dialogue. We found that the subject provokes a lot of reactions from people, so it is good to engage in dialogue and to keep it going. After all, all sorts of things may change over time that we cannot yet oversee.

Asking the right questions
We started our dialogue on the advice of Circlelytics with a closed question: What are the two most important elements of Contemporary Working? They could choose two themes from the five options. This immediately gave us insight and guided the energy of the participant; you deliberately choose themes about which you are then asked open-ended questions for in-depth study via 2 rounds. The results showed mainly ‘digital facility’ and ‘attention for each other’.

Evidence for support

In the second round of the online dialogue, minority views may still be given more weight by people themselves. It can also happen that positions that were frequently mentioned in the first round are not supported after the second round (in which sentiment/appreciation is asked). This is exactly why I find CircleLytics so appealing; it also shows what employees do not consider important. More than half of the participants rated more than 15 responses from others per open-ended question. In that second round, we see a huge commitment to the topic. Some even rated more than 30 opinions of others. As a result, participants reveal the themes and opinions that they think matter most.

HR analytics then used the analytics capabilities in the CircleLytics platform to take the results to the next level and present them, including supervised topic modelling on top of the weighted, enriched results from the second round. Regular surveys (i.e. with one round) often give you the same answers or different ones but without weighting, whereas with the CircleLytics dialogue these answers have value because they really come from the employees themselves. I see it as proof of what you may have already thought and to build support. However, the group may also surprise you with what it really wants or means, or rejects. By the way, in our dialogue, that second round yielded almost 4,000 ratings! With a one-round survey, you don’t have these enrichments.

Read here what Spaarne Gasthuis says about co-creation, dialogue, collective intelligence, leadership, engagement.

From results to concrete actions

We compiled the final results in a final report and published them on the intranet. Some ‘tension’ also emerged from the responses and weighting by the group on some themes, which is an interesting and a new insight compared to the regular survey without that 2nd round. A high score on being able to schedule own time, but also a high score for having a team day in the office. Each management team can decide what they will prioritize, or alternate or fill in in a different way; they have the opinions and justifications of each other’s opinions as input.

One of the main results concerned ‘digital facilities’ with most supported views. We are making tool manuals more findable as a result.

Furthermore, we started experimenting because one of our major concerns appears to be social cohesion. If you see each other physically less often, do you still feel connected? And when do you still speak to other – not direct – colleagues if the chat at the coffee machine is no longer there?

We have devised and implemented additional activities and more small promotional activities are planned to improve social cohesion. We are also experimenting with alternative setups. For us, the final report has provided insight into what we need to do first and what we need to focus on vigorously. And most importantly, why we need to do it. Most of it is not rocket science and fortunately we already understand our employees pretty well; it now spurs us into action to actually implement it.

Dialogue is highly deployable

The dialogue can be used for many topics. This was a successful dialogue for us, one that we can use more often for this or other topics. Our cooperation with CircleLytics was very pleasant and they shared their thoughts and acted in an excellent way. I can highly recommend them.”

Is dit wat je bedoelt met presenteren ‘op’ de resultaten van de 2e ronde?

Vreemde zin: met meest gedragen standpunten van mensen ter onderbouwing?

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