Building Your Employee Listening Strategy: A Framework to Success

by Srikant Chellappa Nov 21,2023

The People Strategy Leaders Podcast

with Srikant Chellappa, CEO

Your employees are the most valuable assets of your company, but do you always make them feel that way? Believe it or not, your workforce wants to be listened to. Ignoring their opinions and concerns can adversely impact employee engagement, customer satisfaction, and ultimately business success.

We are now in the era of employee-entered workspaces, where true business leaders listen to and care for employees to create a thriving work environment. The global workplace is changing  with a shift in social values, personal values, and employee expectations. According to a recent study, 86% of employees aren’t treated equally, and 47% consider that their voices aren’t heard within the organization. 

Hence, employers should invest time in actively listening to their employees, enabling them to tailor their policies accordingly. Here’s how an effective employee listening strategy comes into play. It helps HR professionals connect personally with their workforce, feeding a supportive and productive culture. However, you also need the right tools and guidance to gather meaningful insights. Keep reading to discover more!

What is an Employee Listening Strategy?

employee listening strategyThe Employee Listening Strategy represents a proactive approach to understanding an employee’s thoughts, concerns, and opinions within the workspace. It transcends the limitations of an annual employee survey, focusing on transforming communication into an ongoing conversation. This concept encourages employees to express their needs in a secure and comfortable environment. Embracing a holistic approach, this strategy involves continuous action planning to gather feedback, fostering a dynamic cycle of understanding, validation, and improvement in the overall employee experience within your workspace.

What is the Purpose of Employee Listening?

A workplace is more than a physical space for employees to clock in, work their hours, and collect their salaries. It should be a dynamic environment that fosters productivity, encourages career development, nurtures team bonding, and facilitates idea-sharing. However, when employees feel unheard, it leads to disengagement in work, conversations, and their overall contributions to the organization. This disengagement may result in employees either enduring the monotony of their work or seeking opportunities elsewhere with brighter prospects.

Fortunately, a growing number of companies are recognizing the importance of implementing effective employee listening approaches to establish open communication between employees and employers. Through structured employee listening programs, workers are provided with the necessary tools and platforms to express their feelings and thoughts. Leveraging insights from the gathered data, organizations can take the necessary steps to address concerns and proactively improve the overall employee experience.

Consider the following reasons to invest in a successful employee listening program:

  • Demonstrating genuine care for employees.
  • Obtaining real-time feedback for data-driven, meaningful actions to enhance their experience throughout the employee lifecycle.
  • Cultivating trust in your leadership by empowering HR and managers to actively engage with employees.

How to Build an Employee Listening Strategy?

A strong relationship is typically founded on mutual trust, effective communication, and respect. Similarly, a crucial aspect of cultivating robust workplace relationships involves actively listening to employees’ sentiments and ensuring they feel heard. A comprehensive employee listening program should encompass goal-setting, regular analysis, and meaningful action.

Here’s your step-by-step guide to crafting an effective employee listening strategy from the ground up:

A. Set Your Goals

Identifying your goals is one of the most challenging yet crucial steps in the employee listening strategy. These goals and objectives will establish what you want to achieve from the program and how you want the strategy to work on different levels.

Goals for creating an effective employee listening strategy:

  • Enhance Employee Engagement: Foster a sense of belonging and commitment among employees by addressing their concerns and improving their overall experience.
  • Improve Organizational Culture: Establish a workplace culture that values open communication, inclusivity, and continuous improvement.
  • Boost Performance and Productivity: Align employee feedback with actionable strategies to enhance performance and productivity across the organization.
  • Reduce Turnover: Identify and address factors contributing to employee dissatisfaction to reduce turnover rates.
  • Enhance Leadership Effectiveness: Provide leaders with insights to make informed decisions and demonstrate responsive and empathetic leadership.

B. Choose Your Listening Channels

Effective and continuous employee listening requires the utilization of multiple channels. Various channels enable the collection of valuable data on employees’ sentiments, thoughts, and expectations within the workspace. Explore the following major types of listening channels to enhance your engagement strategy:

C. Employee Surveys

A survey from Gartner found that more than 59% of organizations use employee engagement surveys. These surveys collect feedback by asking employees questions about their challenges and obstacles. It can be assessed annually, quarterly, or as pulse surveys.

Pulse surveys are real-time surveys implemented to provide instant feedback on focused topics from employees to the organization. They serve as an excellent tool to take meaningful action, drive employee engagement rates, and create a culture of transparency.

D. Performance Reviews

Performance reviews provide an optimal platform for gathering employee opinions during one-on-one meetings. Employers can pose strategic questions, such as inquiring about employees’ aspirations to enhance their skills, suggest improvements to organizational procedures, or advance in their careers.

E. Focus Groups

Focus groups stand out as one of the most effective listening channels to foster inclusion in the workspace. This contemporary platform facilitates the exchange and collation of insights among a diverse group of employees, creating an environment where individuals feel not only heard but also a strong sense of belonging.

F. Be Transparent in Your Communication

Clearly communicate the purpose behind initiating the employee listening program to your employees, emphasizing your commitment to enhancing their workspace experience. Without transparent communication, they might speculate about negative possibilities, such as being in trouble or anticipating significant changes in management or policies. Open dialogue will not only dispel uncertainties but also encourage employees to actively contribute to your improvement efforts.

G. Assess your Data

Collecting employee information marks the initial phase of the employee listening program, but the crucial task lies in transforming this feedback into actionable insights. For example, with the introduction of a new benefits program, there’s no need to wait until the end of the year to gauge its impact on employees. Instead, promptly distribute simple survey forms to assess how employees feel about the recent announcement. This proactive approach ensures timely and relevant insights for continuous improvement.

H. Act on the Feedback

​​Employees often perceive that their complaints or queries go unaddressed by employers, leading to reluctance and disinterest in expressing their opinions further, which undermines management’s efforts. Therefore, leverage the analyzed data to drive meaningful action that positively influences the employee experience.

Highlight the core aspects requiring immediate attention and implement essential steps to address them. Communicate the plan to your employees, assuring them that their voices are genuinely heard and taken seriously. For example, modifying company policies and regulations for greater inclusivity demonstrates to employees that their input is valued.

I. Establish a Safe and Inclusive Environment

Instill a culture of psychological safety in your company where your employees can feel comfortable expressing their concerns without fearing adverse consequences. If they feel too afraid or hesitant to voice their concerns, implementing an employee listening strategy will not drive positive changes in your workplace.

Hence, build a secure and inclusive work environment that encourages open communication. It should provide equal opportunities for employees at every level to share their feedback.

J. Measure the Progress

After implementing these strategies via your employee listening program, assess the comfort level of employees in expressing their thoughts and concerns. Analyze which listening channel exhibits a higher engagement rate—whether it’s pulse surveys or focus groups.

By employing these tactics, you can optimize your resources and build an efficient framework. If there’s no noticeable improvement in employee engagement, experience, or productivity, consider adjusting your approach accordingly.

Summing Up

Employee listening strategies should remain consistent throughout an employee’s journey, from onboarding to the exit interview. This approach not only aligns with your business goals but also contributes to a positive employer branding reputation. However, it’s essential to note that the key to an effective employee listening strategy lies in taking actionable steps based on feedback rather than treating it as a mere formality.

At Engagedly, we value employees’ needs and concerns to be heard. From pulse surveys to 360-degree feedback, we help you adapt to a more efficient, contemporary, and continuous employee listening strategy. We help you capture positive and negative voices throughout the employee lifecycle and shape your organization better.

​​At Engagedly, we prioritize the importance of hearing and addressing employees’ needs and concerns. Through tools like pulse surveys and 360-degree feedback, we assist you in adopting a more efficient, modern, and ongoing employee listening strategy. Our aim is to help you capture both positive and negative voices throughout the employee lifecycle, contributing to the continuous improvement and enhancement of your organization.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. How do I develop an employee listening strategy?

Implementing an effective listening strategy can enhance productivity and foster a sense of importance among employees within the organization. Here are key steps to integrate an employee listening strategy into your business practices: identify specific problems, prioritize transparency, analyze survey results, take actionable steps based on collected data, and consistently measure the results.

Q2. How can organizations ensure confidentiality in the employee feedback process?

Maintaining confidentiality is a key aspect of successful employee listening. Organizations can utilize anonymous surveys, third-party platforms, or establish clear communication about the privacy of employee responses to encourage honest and open feedback.

Q3. What are the barriers to successful employee listening?

Barriers to successful employee listening can include a lack of trust, fear of retaliation, unclear communication channels, insufficient anonymity in feedback processes, and a failure to act on collected feedback. Overcoming these barriers requires fostering a culture of openness, ensuring confidentiality, and demonstrating a commitment to addressing employee concerns.

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Srikant Chellappa
CEO & Co-Founder of Engagedly

Srikant Chellappa is the Co-Founder and CEO at Engagedly and is a passionate entrepreneur and people leader. He is an author, producer/director of 6 feature films, a music album with his band Manchester Underground, and is the host of The People Strategy Leaders Podcast. He is currently working on his next book, Ikigai at the Workplace, which is slated for release in the fall of 2024.

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