Sustainable business is one post-pandemic trend that’s here to stay, especially among global market leaders like Veolia ANZ, a long-time champion of ecological transformation. With approximately 4,600 employees in Australia, and 182,000 worldwide, Veolia ANZ has extended its sustainable business commitment to both customers and workers.

The company’s COVID-19 crisis response team in Australia and New Zealand began using Qualtrics pulse surveys this past year to stay connected with workers and address their challenges.

“It’s critical that we constantly communicate with employees to understand their challenges, and act quickly to address their needs,” said Alexandre Moreau, chief people and safety officer at Veolia ANZ. “We needed a quick and easy solution to keep people connected, whether it was managers and their teams, or customers. Qualtrics helped us make sure that our people were okay, and receiving the support they needed.”

Sustainability is in Veolia’s DNA. The company’s business portfolio includes providing environmental solutions across water, waste management and energy. With operations and treatment facilities nationwide, they serve customers of all sizes – from local cafes and food chains to industrial facilities. One of their business units helps municipal water customers provide safe drinking water for their communities and industrial clients to more sustainably manage water in their operations, while their energy division helps companies build energy resilience and become carbon neutral.

Listening translates employee feedback into engagement

As a designated essential service during the pandemic, Veolia ANZ provided the same level of support for customers despite significant challenges, including social distancing, schedule disruptions, and lockdowns. During the height of the crisis, they needed even more flexibility to respond to highly changeable situations. For example, workloads increased in the health sector because of pandemic-related activities. Meantime, some employees were working remotely, while others had to be in the field. The company used Qualtrics to stay in touch with employees.

Kate Moonen, head of marketing and digital experience at Veolia ANZ, was part of the company’s pandemic response team. Speaking during a recent SAP The Best-Run podcast, she discussed how short, but targeted surveys helped the company stay in touch with its diverse workforce that includes truck drivers, machine operators, engineers, lawyers, and sustainability experts in urban and remote locations.

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“We really wanted to understand that our people, particularly essential workers, were feeling supported,” she said. “Did they have enough PPE equipment to do their jobs safely? What were their concerns about their mental health and well-being…Based on that feedback, it helped our team formulate…what we were going to communicate…and what actions we needed to take to continue to support our people.”

Initially, the team was surprised at the high employee engagement levels with the surveys. Over time, the company rolled out new activities based on the feedback. These included regularly scheduled anywhere, any device communications with senior leadership through live webinars and question and answer sessions. In response to employee requests, executives also sent short video messages that employees could watch on their mobile phones, with personalized stories from company leaders about their lives outside of work, and how they adapted to the changed working environment.

“People felt they wanted to take the opportunity to be heard,” said Moonen. “We would often share regular communications with them about what came out of the latest pulse, and what we were going to do about it. If you’re asking people for their time, it’s critical to demonstrate what you’re doing with that feedback to meet their needs.”

Continuous dialogue through employee surveys

Just like any aspect of sustainable business, employee engagement is not a one and done effort.

“We’re seeing strong employee engagement every time we roll out a new survey,” said Moreau. “Instead of waiting a year to connect with employees, Qualtrics has given us a more agile response tool with a quick pulse check that our people appreciate, and we can rely on for updated feedback to make better decisions. We want to know how people are feeling in a fast-changing business environment.”

Go digital for fast action

Moreau said companies should be explicit about what employees have shared and how it’s taking action. Even if there isn’t an immediate answer, people appreciate the transparency.

Moonen also advised employers not to overthink the survey process.

“Sustainable business is all about agility,” she said. “Collecting the feedback and acting quickly is far more valuable than spending months iterating questions. Digital technology gives us the ability to constantly evolve and adapt as customer expectations, market conditions, and employee experiences shift.”

Future of work is in employee experience

In the wake of the pandemic, many employees yearn for a greater sense of belonging. They want more help with their individual career goals, and to have pride in their workplace. Getting the employee experience right is part of every organization’s transformational journey to sustainable business.

This article also featured on SAPBrandVoice on Forbes