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A quick guide to employee listening

January 23, 2023 Andrea Warmington

Employee listening strategies are being implemented by an increasing number of companies to better understand their people and improve the overall employee experience. But what exactly is an employee listening strategy? Essentially, it’s an organisation-wide initiative to gather continuous, real-time feedback and ideas from employees. This feedback goes beyond annual  engagement surveys, however - an employee listening strategy is one that gives employees an opportunity to share their feedback every day of the year -  allowing leaders to track the success of new initiatives and  monitor sentiment changes in real time. Ultimately, says Neelie Verlinden, host of the All About HR podcast and co-founder of AIHR, “having an employee listening strategy is key to driving a positive change within your organisation and retaining your employees.”

4 keys to building a successful employee listening strategy

Lead with empathy

It should go without saying, but a successful employee listening strategy starts with leaders who actually want to hear what their employees have to say. “You need to offer a genuine invitation for them to share what’s under the surface and really listen to the personal experience beneath,” Julie Chakraverty, founder and CEO of Rungway.  When senior leaders lead with empathy, notes Mindy Honcoop, chief people officer at TCP, it’s because they want to understand what employees care about and how it ties to the purpose of the company, allowing them  to “respond in real time to employees, reinforce a company's purpose and create a more aligned and engaged workforce”.

Be transparent

Sharing the insights you’ve gathered with your people is crucial to making an employee listening strategy work. “Acknowledge what you’ve heard even if you can’t action on it quite yet! This is how you build trust and credibility for listening programs which is key for ongoing success,” writes Dirk Petersen, an expert in HR strategy, organisational change, and digital transformation “Close the feedback loop with employees at multiple levels. Managers have a responsibility to their teams, but be sure you acknowledge what you’ve heard at the division, function, or even enterprise level as well.”

Take action

“Make sure that you show your employees that you’re actually doing something with their input,” says Verlinden.  “Ninety percent of employees are more likely to stay at an organisation that gathers and acts on employee feedback.” Lexi Croswell, a writer for Culture Amp, says that listening strategies won’t succeed if leaders listen to feedback but don’t act upon it. “The point of collecting feedback more often across the employee lifecycle is that it enables you to take targeted action.”

Make it easy

An employee-centric mindset is important when considering the tools used to implement an employee listening programme. “The way employers approach this has to show authentic care. It cannot be some impersonal survey, which only gets data on the variables it sets out to measure,” says Ted Sun, president and chief innovations officer at Transcontinental University.  It’s also crucial that leaders consider the easiest way for an employee to share feedback, notes Petersen. “You should aim to leverage technology in such a way that feedback collection can happen seamlessly during the employee’s day-to-day work.”