With frequent changes in work environments, employee listening has become more vital than ever. What does employee listening involve? In short, it means getting employee input on a range of topics that affect them in their daily work:
- The effectiveness of communication and collaboration on their team.
- Their level of engagement and motivation in their work.
- The quality of the training and mentoring they receive.
- Feelings of belonging and being able to be their authentic selves at work.
- Their satisfaction with workplace policies, procedures, and benefits.
Previously, companies might send a lengthy annual survey to gain employee input. Today, that no longer suffices. Instead, smart companies are adopting a continuous employee listening approach.
Let’s examine the main benefits of employee listening. Then, we’ll explore how to design and implement a great employee listening strategy.
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Why Employee Listening Is Important
How does employee listening help companies? It can deliver predictive insights that reveal drivers of employee satisfaction (and, in turn, business success). This means you can spot and address factors that could negatively influence success early on.
This effort can have far-reaching benefits. “Through this continuous-listening process, business leaders can both monitor the pulse of the organization at the moment and create an ongoing dialogue with employees,” explains McKinsey. “Such a dialogue can engender trust and partnership and can spur long-term improvements to employees’ workplace experiences and performance, as well as companies’ ability to retain top performers.”
Let’s examine the benefits of a good employee listening program in more depth.
Today’s employees have high expectations for their employers. 92% of companies recognize employee experience as a key priority. However, just 30% of HR leaders ask employees for feedback on how to enhance their experience, one survey found. And only 17% strongly agree that their employee experience strengthens their talent management and recruitment.
Understanding how employees feel about their daily work can prevent companies from losing them. And employees will show up with more enthusiasm when they feel satisfied with their jobs. In fact, having a positive employee experience makes people 16 times more engaged.
Employee listening can help identify personality clashes and other issues that undermine team success. For example, a manager’s approach may work for some but not all direct reports. Employee listening can identify ways for that manager to adapt. Alternatively, it could reveal ways to pair up compatible managers and direct reports.
Perception of the Company
Employee listening can reveal how workers view their company. Do they perceive it as giving back to the community, which makes them proud to work for it? Do they view it as truly caring for its employees? And do they believe in its mission?
By identifying how they view the company, you can take steps to improve that perception. For instance, you can become more transparent as an organization if their feedback prompts such changes.
Listening to employees continuously instills a positive workplace culture. Each person will feel valued rather than disposable. Employee listening can cover everything from inclusivity to satisfaction with working hours.
Listening to employees can provide great ideas for the organization. Plus, it can highlight problems to address with an initiative, process, or team member. When companies solicit employee ideas, they gain access to more brain power.
A full 87% of employees believe their company should listen to them more, reports Oracle.
“Employers that use continual listening to drive decision-making are making a key investment in employee experience by putting the power in the hands of employees to determine what fulfillment at work can mean for them,” they add. “These companies stand to see payoffs in the form of stronger recruitment, retention, engagement, and productivity.”
Employee Listening Strategy
A continuous employee listening strategy has multiple components. Using a multi-pronged approach, you can gain in-depth insight on a broad range of topics. We’ll discuss core tactics to use in this strategy now.
Surveys provide a valuable way to gather data on how employees feel. Choose a theme for each survey, like employee motivation. Keep weekly pulse surveys short, so employees can finish them in just a few minutes. This will boost completion rates.
The annual survey still has merit, says Korn Ferry: “Unlike pulse surveys, it allows you to collect input across a broad cross-section of employees on a wide array of topics, all at the same time.” Offer it in addition to pulse surveys instead of in place of them. Then you can take a broad yearly snapshot of how you’re performing in various areas that affect employees.
Conduct stay interviews to gain in-depth feedback on how employees feel about their jobs. Stay interviews can gain their thoughts on topics like these:
- Whether they see a future for themselves with your company (and if not, what could change that).
- Whether they feel they’re receiving the necessary training and support.
- What could boost their engagement in their role.
- How they feel about their coworkers, team, and manager.
- How their company could better support their overall wellbeing.
- Whether they feel appreciated for their work.
A stay interview can identify both small and large problems that could cause an employee to leave. After the interview, the company can work to remediate these issues.
Exit interviews gain input from departing employees about what caused them to leave. A departing employee may be more likely to speak candidly about such issues. However, the same issues may be affecting other employees as well. Hence, the company can use this feedback to improve the working environment for all staff.
Set up a virtual idea box where employees can submit ideas and feedback for the organization. Such ideas can relate to policies, processes, and other aspects of business. Employees should have the option to make anonymous suggestions or include their name.
Managers should invite employees to share feedback and ideas with them directly, too. During one-on-ones and team meetings, employees should feel free to voice input. Leaders can hold “listening lunches” with employees to hear their ideas and feedback as well.
Focus Groups and Town Halls
In these special events, employees can dig into a specific topic as a group. Focus groups include a smaller number of employees who engage in a round-table discussion. Town halls often include an entire organization.
A strategic employee listening plan can have far-reaching benefits. “Through this continuous-listening process, business leaders can both monitor the pulse of the organization at the moment and create an ongoing dialogue with employees,” says McKinsey. “Such a dialogue can engender trust and partnership and can spur long-term improvements to employees’ workplace experiences and performance, as well as companies’ ability to retain top performers.”
Let’s explore some best practices for getting the most from your employee listening initiative.
Employee Listening Tips
Follow these tips to get the best results from your employee listening program.
- Designate a specific person to manage the program. This person should ensure surveys go out on schedule and review the results. If you have sufficient HR staff, you could create a small task force for the program as well.
- Build a coalition of partners from HR and other divisions of the company. Introduce the program to them, enlisting their support for it.
- Create a procedure for taking action based on survey results. For instance, the person managing the employee listening program can set up a follow-up meeting with key stakeholders after reviewing results. Call upon members of your coalition of partners to design changes based on employee feedback.
- When you plan to make a change, decide on how to measure it. Establish a baseline by which to evaluate success.
- Be transparent. Share survey results routinely. And explain why you’re taking particular actions based on these findings.
- Be wary of feedback fatigue, as Korn Ferry warns. Too many requests for employee feedback can feel tiring or lead them to answer questions too quickly.
- Likewise, don’t ask the same questions on every survey, as Rob Catalano writes in Forbes. You can use some of the same questions at times, but mix things up so it doesn’t feel repetitive. This can help you to track important data points without losing employees’ interest.
- Remember that mitigating problems doesn’t always have to be expensive or extremely difficult. Sometimes a schedule change or conscious effort to share appreciation can go a long way.
Now, let’s review some key tools to assist in your efforts.
Software That Helps with Employee Listening
Just 22% of companies say they have tools that allow them to effectively listen to employees through surveys, says Sanja Licina in Forbes. The right tools will propel your employee listening strategy forward and give you a competitive advantage.
How does this work? Survey software allows you to deliver frequent pulse surveys within your employee listening program. For example, Primalogik’s advanced survey software tools allow you to customize questions to your needs.
The following is a sample employee listening survey. Sending out pulse surveys like this one on a weekly basis will deliver rich insights.
Employee Listening Survey Template
The following pulse survey measures team collaboration.
1 = Not at all, 2 = Rarely, 3 = Sometimes, 4 = Often, 5 = Almost always
Do your team members support you in achieving your goals? 1 2 3 4 5
Do you feel energized by team brainstorming sessions? 1 2 3 4 5
Are team meetings productive, resulting in clear next steps? 1 2 3 4 5
Does everyone understand their individual responsibilities in group projects? 1 2 3 4 5
Do team members keep one another up to date on their progress? 1 2 3 4 5
Do team members value your contributions? 1 2 3 4 5
Does your manager provide effective team direction? 1 2 3 4 5
If you could change one thing about your team, what would it be? 1 2 3 4 5
Thanks for your participation! We’ll share results in the next few days.
Employee Listening Examples
Countless companies have benefited from employee listening strategies. During the pandemic, McKinsey sent short weekly pulse surveys to employees. Then, they shared results with employees to create transparency. They targeted interventions to the responses they received. Due to the weekly surveys’ success, McKinsey has continued to use them.
Also in 2020, the pharmaceutical company Organon & Co. spun off from Merck as the pandemic began. Amid this extreme disruption, they relied on employee listening to guide their return-to-office strategy. This allowed them to devise a hybrid strategy that employees appreciated.
More specifically, they ultimately asked employees to return to the office on Wednesdays.
The Future of Employee Listening Strategy
Employee listening techniques will grow more sophisticated in the coming years. Companies will increasingly use smart analytics to measure employee attitudes and engagement. Sophisticated tools will glean data from platforms like Slack to measure their sentiments.
Further, software will be able to synthesize open-ended responses more accurately. Already, AI-powered text interpretation can analyze such responses. This cuts down on the time required for HR to process the survey results.
Now, let’s review a few more questions on this important topic.
Employee Listening FAQs
Here are a few common questions and answers about employee listening.
Are there any downsides of employee listening initiatives?
When done well, no. But if you consistently fail to act on employee feedback, that can lower morale. It will also reduce their confidence in the listening program. In turn, the quality of input you receive will decline. So, work to make necessary changes based on their input.
What if you disagree with employee feedback?
You don’t have to act on every piece of feedback. In fact, since every individual won’t share the same view, you can’t possibly act on it all. But if you hear a pattern of feedback, it probably has merit—and you should take it seriously.
How long should an employee listening initiative last?
This initiative should be ongoing. Continue this effort throughout the year—it should have no end date.
Through continuous employee listening, you’ll make adaptations that benefit your workforce and company. Using the right tools will give you access to up-to-the-moment data. As a result, you’ll have a more satisfied workforce and make timely improvements that enhance your business.
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