Employee listening essential tips (during a crisis)

We all know how important it is to focus on the overall employee experience. And right now (during this current crisis), listening to employees and acting on this feedback is more important than ever. But what exactly should your organisation be focusing on, and how can you support managers and teams?

What do we mean by the employee experience?

There is not a single universal definition but, for us, the employee experience encompasses employee engagement, empowerment and enablement. Moreover, and more specifically though, it is about:

  • Peoples’ relationships with their managers, teams, leaders and customers
  • The physical space in which they work and their work, life balance
  • The work people do and how motivating that work is to them
  • The tools, processes and technology that enable the work to get done
  • The general rules of engagement for how work gets done and is recognised in the organisation.

Getting these factors right = better organisational performance. Tied to this, and as revealed by a 2020 LinkedIn study, 96% of talent professionals say that employee experience is becoming increasingly important for attracting and retaining talent.

The COVID effect

For most of us, our employee experience has drastically changed over the last few months as the world was turned on its head by COVID-19. We cannot ignore this or be complacent; ‘normal’ isn’t returning any time soon. So, organisations must prioritise understanding exactly how their employee experience has changed and what actions are needed to support employees to adapt.

For example – how have working relationships been affected? What has been the impact of remote working and the COVID-19 crisis on wellbeing and productivity? How clear are our teams about the work that they should be prioritising right now? Is our technology helping or hindering us and what actions should we prioritise as an organisation to better support people?

5 employee listening essentials

To get the answers we need, to these and other questions, we need to keep speaking and listening to employees in the right way. Here are a few tips on how best to do this in the current climate:

Tip 1: Don’t stop reaching out
Companies that are used to regularly running employee surveys or listening to employees through formal channels might be concerned about over-burdening employees, getting negative results or not being able to act on all of the feedback that comes through. However, now is not the time to stop collecting feedback. It’s so important that your employees feel able to speak up and be listened to. Anecdotally, we’re finding that organisations that are gathering employee feedback now are seeing that feedback is generally positive about the company’s response to COVID-19.

Tip 2: Ask relevant questions
We should all be asking questions that are relevant to today’s context and challenges. In the here and now, stuff about career pathways or rewards and recognition is less relevant. From our recent conversations with HR people, the big questions for many of their organisations are on:

  • Employee wellbeing
  • The quality and transparency of communication in the business
  • Trust in senior leadership
  • The transition to remote working
  • Clarity of roles and responsibilities
  • Having access to the right resources to maintain engagement and productivity.

Tip 3: Don’t over-rely on surveys
Try experimenting with different ways of collecting feedback. While employee surveys are a great way to capture a large quantity of feedback quickly, they do have some limitations when it comes to capturing more qualitative, anecdotal feedback. You could gather more in-depth, qualitative feedback through virtual interviews or focus groups. If using the latter, just be sure to speak with groups that are representative from across the company – so that you get an accurate read on how different teams or functions are doing.

Tip 4: Make sense of feedback and share the findings
It is important that high-level findings are shared widely (and swiftly). Identify and make sense of those consistent themes in the feedback and don’t try to sugar-coat or bury bad news. Pick out the key messages and draw upon your leaders to communicate these transparently. This will help to reinforce trust in senior leaders and in the company – and it will let employees know that all their feedback is being heard.

Tip 5: Prioritise your actions
Translating employee feedback into meaningful action is always crucial. A study by Accenture found that 92% of employees are open to the collection of data about them, but only if it provides some clear personal benefit. So, you need to demonstrate that you will be acting on the insights learned and clearly communicate what those actions and desired outcomes will be – this will help sustain employee trust and engagement in the longer term. And, where there are things that cannot be addressed or acted upon, you must still ensure to acknowledge these before focusing on what can be controlled.

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