September 18, 2023
In order to support a thriving workplace, HR must turn its attention to employee engagement and retention regularly. After all, if employees aren’t engaged or staying for very long, it’s hard to create any kind of positive work culture. Part of making sure that employees are engaged and want to stay around is setting up a consistent and effective employee listening strategy.
Employee listening strategies can involve a variety of methods of collecting employee feedback, taking the time to truly understand their perspectives, and take actions that show employees that their opinions matter to the organization. There are a variety of ways to accomplish this, each with its own pros and cons.
On the latest episode of Team Building Saves the World, we spoke with the driving force behind Quantum Workplace’s groundbreaking workplace research on employee engagement and employee listening, Shane McFeely. Listen as they talk about what research shows employees want from their organizations when it comes to employee surveys and what organizations can do to create and improve upon their employee listening strategy.
In this article, we will go into further detail about the answers to the question, “What is employee listening?” We will also discuss why employee listening is so important, how to build an effective employee listening strategy for your organization, and additional resources that may help you in this journey.
The Power of Employee Listening
Employee listening strategies are all about making sure that every single member of your organization feels seen and heard, as well as showing them that their feedback can result in measurable improvements to the workplace. This can take a lot of work up front, but when it’s executed well, employee listening strategies add lots of value to an organization by encouraging employees to be motivated, fully present, and truly engaged in each aspect of their work.
Here are some specific examples of the benefits of employee listening programs and how they can help your organization thrive.
1. Improved Job Satisfaction
Part of feeling satisfied at work is knowing that your contributions matter and feeling that you can be effective in your role. After all, who wants to go to a job where they feel like they contribute nothing meaningful and can’t do a job well?
Without a strong employee listening strategy, it can be easy for frustrated employees to fly under the radar, slowly impacting your culture with decreased job satisfaction. By proactively asking employees for feedback and taking the time to act on it, you’re able to counteract these effects and build a workplace where everyone feels effective and satisfied in their roles.
2. Increased Productivity
When employees are able to share feedback about what is and isn’t working in their roles, it allows management and HR to adjust procedures accordingly. For example, maybe your current meeting schedule makes it difficult for employees to accomplish the deep work required for their roles, but you won’t know that if you don’t ask. Once you receive feedback, you’re able to make adjustments to daily routines and procedures across the organization that encourage effective work and help people truly do their best, as opposed to operating in a system that really isn’t setting them up for success.
3. Enhanced Innovation
In addition to getting employee feedback on what isn’t working, a good employee listening strategy creates an opportunity for feedback and ideas about what is working well and what could create more opportunities for growth. Each role will have a different perspective on the challenges facing the organization and how to tackle them, so including employees in various roles and teams in the process of innovation can help create impressive results. The faster your feedback loop is, the more you’ll be able to innovate.
4. Better Communication
A strong employee listening strategy will encourage open communication among employees, as well as channels of communication with HR and management. It can also help build a sense of trust between employees and HR, as it makes HR a consistent part of employee work life as opposed to someone that only shows up when there’s a problem.
5. Boosted Morale
You know the pride you feel when an idea you had is made a reality, when you get to point to it and say “Yes, I came up with that!” Solid employee listening strategies with quick execution can help share that feeling with employees at all levels, boosting morale and creating a sense of empowerment among your teams.
Effective Employee Listening Strategy
Now that we’ve gone over some of the reasons you’ll want to build or improve upon your current employee listening strategy, it’s time to talk about how to actually do that.
Here are some strategies that you may want to consider adding to your HR department’s employee listening program.
- Recurring surveys. There’s a reason that employee surveys are such popular employee listening tools. They are a great way to build regular feedback cycles into your employees’ day to day lives. You may want to include some of the same questions every time, such as “How do you feel about your work-life balance on a scale of 1-10?” and rotate some questions with each survey based on current projects and goals.
- Employee resource groups. Creating employee resource groups can be a great way to encourage engagement. These groups may involve committees that are tasked with decisions or providing feedback on how the company works with people from certain marginalized groups. Here are some shared interests that employee resource groups may be centered around:
- Gender identity
- Parental status
- Anonymous feedback channels. While in an ideal world, every employee would feel comfortable speaking directly with a manager or HR, that isn’t always the case. Anonymous feedback channels can empower employees who are newer, under stress, or managing challenging circumstances they may not want to admit to publicly to still share feedback that can make life better for everyone in the organization.
- Check in questions. These can be a great way to open up a meeting with casual conversations that still provide managers with valuable information. Some good check in questions for meetings include:
- What’s the best thing that happened to you this week?
- What’s one skill you’d like to learn this year?
- Are there any signs of burnout or stress that you’ve noticed in yourself or others?
- One-on-one meetings. These can help encourage consistent feedback between managers and their direct reports, including discussions on career goals, current struggles, and ways they can develop their skill set. Feedback should be able to go both directions in these meetings so that everyone can gain something from the conversation that will improve their working relationship. Because these meetings are usually recurring, they provide a great opportunity for continuous employee listening.
- Active listening training. Listening skills are a crucial part of managing any team, but this isn’t a skill most of us learned in school. Consider providing a variety of trainings to help leaders learn how to make sure their employees are feeling heard and understood as they work through their day-to-day tasks. You may also want to have workshops on specific active listening skills, such as asking clarifying questions and using open body language.
- Town hall meetings. This can be a great way to foster a sense of community and transparency at every level of the companies. These meetings usually start with an update from senior leadership on various initiatives, followed by a Q&A. Ideally, these meetings will be recorded or have thorough notes taken so leadership can build an action plan based on the questions the team brings forward.
- Exit interviews. Talking to people who are leaving your company can give you a valuable opportunity to gain insight into their experience, why they are leaving, and what you can do to get other employees to stay. Because they are already on the way out of the company, they may provide more direct constructive feedback than employees that are actively trying to keep their jobs.
- Feedback training. We all have feedback to share, but learning to share it well is a skill. Consider offering training opportunities to both managers and individual contributors on how to improve the way they give, receive, and implement feedback. Techniques that may help people with feedback include:
- Concentrating on the behavior, not the person
- Offering continued support
- Balancing both positive and negative feedback
- Action planning. Once you’ve gathered feedback, the next step is to organize, analyze, and implement it. Consider building a consistent routine around when to develop action plans based on recent feedback and how to let employees know as you’re making progress.
All of these strategies can play a part in an overarching plan to gather and incorporate employee feedback. If you see a few things on the list that you’d like to implement, be sure to prioritize them and focus on implementing each one well, even if that takes a lot longer than jumping into all of them at once. A poorly executed strategy can backfire and make employees feel unheard, making it that much harder to gather accurate information in the future.
Check Out Our Recent Podcast on Employee Listening!
For more information on engaging your employees and building a positive culture, check out our recent podcast episode on optimizing engagement with employee listening strategies. We have been organizing corporate events for over 20 years to help increase job satisfaction, employee engagement, and other crucial metrics so everyone can do their best work.
If you’re considering setting up an engagement-focused event at your workplace, check out the types of events we can do here or contact us here. We are always excited to work with organizations to engage employees and build a positive culture!