The time when businesses could expect to simply dictate the employment landscape has, in many ways, passed by. This is a positive thing. Companies can’t get the best out of their employees if leaders operate in ways that ignore the needs of these vital contributors. Not to mention that workers are less inclined to stick with businesses that don’t pay attention to them. It’s a scenario in which nobody wins.
Connections with your workers don’t just happen, though. There needs to be a commitment of effort on both sides. Your company has to be willing to encourage meaningful insights from your employees on a regular basis and act on the results. Your workers also need to be open to engage with your company about what is important in their employee experience. One of the most effective tools to achieve this is a solid employee listening strategy.
Let’s dig a little deeper into what an employee listening strategy is and how you can best create one.
What is an Employee Listening Strategy?
An employee listening strategy is a method of capturing accurate impressions of employee engagement in your organization. The best way to approach this is always to reach out to them directly and solicit their input. This isn’t just about sending out the occasional general survey or paying lip service by telling your employees that an executive’s door is “always open” to suggestions. Much like any other form of good communication, the “listening” part of employee listening is active and intentional.
It’s also important to note that an employee listening strategy is never a one-and-done situation. Your employee engagement will change over time. This will be caused by natural fluctuations in the workforce and shifts in the company culture, among other elements. As such, your listening strategy needs to be a permanent and agile part of company operations. In essence, to be most effective in gauging engagement, your employees need to know you’re listening to them at all times, not just when it appears that you need something from them.
Why Develop a Strategy?
Developing any kind of strategy is a challenging process and takes a significant amount of time, energy, and investment. So, why should your company commit to this approach to employee engagement?
It comes down to a range of factors, including:
- Employee Trust
Your employee listening methods are unlikely to be effective if there is a limited amount of worker contribution to the process. Among the most important aspects of encouraging your workers to collaborate in your listening is by gaining and maintaining their trust. A strategy is essential for this, because it shows there is a structured and reliable approach to your listening methods.
When your listening practices are designed in this way, your employees can clearly see that you are committed to making the business the most positive possible environment for them to work in. Not only can this lead to employee buy-in with the process, it can also be a boost to engagement in and of itself.
- Program Consistency
The techniques and tools you use when performing employee listening can be effective. But when you utilize them sporadically and independently of one another, you’re not going to get a solid understanding of the true state of engagement. Not to mention that gathering and handling a range of data without any underlying structure can very quickly devolve into chaos. The result being that you invest in methods that don’t really give you much actionable insight.
However, when you have a clear listening strategy in place, this provides a strong set of guidelines by which your listening activities run and repeat. Your strategy means everyone understands the intentions of each action and how it relates to the order of operations. As a result, it is an easily repeatable cycle. This consistency also makes it simpler for relevant stakeholders not just to analyze the data gathered in the strategy but also the long-term efficacy of the strategy itself.
- Intelligence Relevance
One of the primary reasons to develop an employee listening strategy is that it tends to provide you with the highest quality and most relevant engagement intelligence. As it is a consistent and repeatable part of your organizational practices, it means you’re never going to be analyzing or acting on outdated information. You get to see what is happening within your organization at the time it is occurring so you can respond accordingly.
This idea of timely response is key to your success, too. Your agile strategy means you can shift to lean into the methods that are most relevant for the circumstances. A result of this is that your staff can see you taking action on immediate problems or concerns, rather than delaying in a way that allows issues to become exacerbated. Indeed, your human resources (HR) or data analytics staff can monitor the engagement trends over time to predict issues and address them early on.
How Do You Create a Listening Strategy?
We know that a listening strategy is the most beneficial approach to understanding engagement. But what goes into building the right one for your business?
Some of the key steps include:
- Establish Your Goals
Any strategy should be built on a clear set of goals. These help you and your stakeholders better understand what the project — in this case, your employee listening — is driving toward. You’ll also find clarity in your aims helps keep everybody involved on the same page and better motivated toward the most positive outcomes. Not to mention it allows you to identify the most appropriate use of the tools at your disposal.
Your goals could take a variety of forms when it comes to an employee listening strategy. It may be that you’ve noticed a dip in engagement or productivity and you must clarify the reasons behind this. Some of your goals may be easier to assess quantitatively, like reducing dysfunctional turnover. Others could be more qualitative in nature, like improving the experience and perception of company culture among stakeholders. Your goals for your listening strategy are likely to change over time, but it’s important to identify current aims, nonetheless.
- Employ Various Survey Formats
Anonymous surveys are your most powerful tool within your employee listening strategy. However, it’s important to recognize that surveys don’t take a single shape. As with any great tool, there are a range of formats you can select to fit your listening needs and intentions. Utilizing a variety of survey types can also prevent your workers from experiencing survey fatigue and failing to participate meaningfully as a result.
Employee engagement surveys can be tailored to your target demographic and allow you to perform focused analytical deep dives afterward. Pulse surveys, on the other hand, are a method you can utilize periodically to track progress in certain areas of change and gauge real-time insights into employee perspectives. While employee conversations are a form of anonymous suggestion box that workers can access at any time to provide feedback, in a manner and frequency your employees find the most convenient. The key here is to examine the goals of your strategy and design your survey approach to match these.
- Communicate with Clarity
Simply sending out surveys with requests for your workers to complete them isn’t conducive to an effective employee listening strategy. Rather, you need to make certain there are appropriate communications protocols in place throughout each cycle of your activities. It’s vital you keep all stakeholders clearly informed about what the intentions of your listening strategy are, how it will take place, and what the benefits are for everybody involved.
It’s worth planning a timeline for communications. Provide an introduction and overview about your methods at the beginning of the project and during new hire onboarding. When you’re about to issue a new survey tool, make sure you set expectations for how your employees should interact with these. Perhaps most importantly, ensure you openly communicate the outcomes of your analysis along with how you intend to move forward with that information and solicitations for feedback.
- Perform Frequent Reviews
An employee listening strategy should be treated as a cycle. The content of each cycle can and should differ or develop over time, but it is still at its most useful when there are clear beginnings and ends to each cycle. This allows you to perform effective reviews following each period of listening. Your attention to this ensures that your strategy remains relevant and your actions are appropriately responsive to the data you receive.
Involve relevant stakeholders in these reviews wherever possible. Different department heads will be valuable experts in the assessment of certain engagement goals. Your workers themselves can be invaluable resources when it comes to examining the efficacy of your listening methods.
Employee listening is a vital approach to accurately gauging engagement throughout your company. Strategizing your approach can ensure you gain the most positive impact from your methods. This involves creating a transparent and repeatable cycle that establishes the goals of your listening process, utilizing agile survey tools, communicating clearly with stakeholders, and performing assessments. With a solid strategy in place, your company, your workers, and your consumers can benefit from a strong, stable, and innovative company culture.
This process can certainly be challenging and can benefit from a little guidance. If you’d like to gain a better understanding of how a listening strategy and the right survey tools can impact employee engagement, book a free 30-minute consultation with a Workify engagement expert.