How to Show Your Workforce that You are Really Listening

HR Tech Outlook | Tuesday, February 09, 2021

FREMONT, CA: Continuous listening refers to a strategy that incorporates multiple survey programs, such as onboarding, exit, all-employee engagement census, pulse surveys, ad hoc surveys and even multi-rater feedback. This approach to employee listening allows organizations to understand the employee experience at multiple points in the employee’s career journey with the organization, and also provides a continuous flow of insights from employees in the course of a given time period, typically a year.

Perceptyx researchers examined survey scores from two groups of organizations. The first group is called the “Ask, Ask, Ask” group. This group surveyed employees frequently (at least three times per year using a pulse approach) but did very little team-based action planning, as measured by the use of the action planning tools provided to report users in the survey reporting platform. The second group was called the “Act, Act, Act” group.  This group not only surveyed employees multiple times, but with 70% of managers creating an action plan, also made far better use of the action planning tools than the “Ask, Ask, Ask” group. Thus it is clear that action speaks louder than words.

The “Ask, Ask, Ask” group of companies saw little improvement in engagement (8% of the companies in this group saw improvements, versus 74% in the “Act, Act, Act” group), and far fewer of the “Ask, Ask, Ask” companies had above-average levels of employee engagement when compared to a 50th percentile norm (25% of the “Ask, Ask Ask” group were above the 50th percentile, versus 78% of the “Act, Act, Act” group.)

While there is no doubt that listening is good, it is clear that acting on what we hear is even better. This particular study focused on actions taken at the team level, but it is important to note that actions taken at any level, particularly higher levels of the organization, are both necessary and valuable. An organizational culture that has an expectation of continuous change to reflect what employees need is bound to result in higher engagement.

The challenge with any actions that are taken in response to survey findings and insights is helping employees understand what drove those actions.  There must be continuous messaging of “we took this action because of what you told us on the employee survey” so that employees can connect the dots between the input they provided in the survey and the company’s subsequent actions.

In organizations, it must go farther than just encouraging employees to unburden themselves. There is an expectation that if the question is asked, there is an intention to do something about it. If not, then why start the conversation?

Listening will only take things so far. We have an obligation to share results with employees, and act in good faith based on what they have told.  Avoid the “Ask, Ask, Ask” trap.  Be sure to “Act, Act, Act” as well.

When people are dissatisfied at work, they can feel as though they have two choices: quit or voice their concerns. Organizations can prevent turnover and retain more employees by creating work environments in which people want to choose the latter.

One way to help employees feel heard is to regularly conduct anonymous surveys that allow them to give feedback on various aspects of their roles. When people can speak up about their frustrations without facing consequences for it, managers can gain valuable insights into what their employees want and need. Share the results of these surveys with the leadership team; you may want to address common concerns in a companywide offsite or team meetings. It’s also important for managers to show employees they are acting on prominent issues. You may not be able to solve every problem or fix every dissatisfaction, but demonstrating that you’re willing to listen is a good step toward improving work for everyone.

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