United States: Get Ready To Hear About Continuous Listening

Last Updated: February 1 2018

Article by Kim Dawson, Director of Employee Experience, YouEarnedIt

One of the biggest roadblocks to a healthy employee experience is feeling like your voice isn't heard. We all want to know that our opinions and viewpoints matter and, in the grand scheme of things, we all want to know we have some input—even a small one—in the success of our company.

Yet, when dealing with feedback, we can sometimes shut off our capacity to listen or we don't make ourselves available to hear what those around us have to say. While feedback is a helpful way to communicate, it can also have a negative connotation. Many employees associate feedback with criticism or an opportunity to vent, rather than a chance to learn, share, and understand.

It is our role as HR leaders to rethink the way we collect and act on feedback in order to give employees and managers the opportunity to voice their opinions and feel heard. It's time we remove the stigma from feedback and change our approach from a negative to a positive with continuous listening.

Continuous listening is the crux of a strong communications foundation that HR professionals need to implement within our organizations. So, what is continuous listening? Think of it as an approach to communication that gives us the opportunity to gather feedback more frequently across the entire employee lifecycle. With a continuous listening strategy, businesses can optimize performance management, increase engagement, improve the employee experience, and benefit the bottom line.

While exit interviews, interview surveys, and annual surveys are commonplace, these three traditional initiatives are the minimum for feedback; they do not constitute a culture of continuous listening. Changing our approach to feedback structures by moving to continuous listening means taking this a step further and implementing options like:

  • Surveys after events and all-hands meetings
  • Consistent one-on-ones with managers
  • Mix of written and in-person listening (everyone communicates differently)
  • Creating a safe space for people to give their honest feedback
  • Provide anonymous feedback, but encourage nonanonymous feedback without any repercussions

Adding in more opportunities to gather information gives everyone within the organization an opportunity to reflect and share both the highs and lows of their employee experience. While continuous listening may seem like a major undertaking, there are ways your existing programs and HR tech can help.

Start by Analyzing Each Phase of the Employee Life Cycle

Since continuous listening happens across the entire employee lifecycle, start by looking at each phase from prehire to alumni to identify where your organization isn't listening and areas you can (or can't) start taking action.

As you go through each phase, ask yourself, "How are we currently gathering feedback in this phase"? and "What actions can we take on the feedback we're getting"? This will give you a baseline of where your organization can grow.

Leverage Your Current HR Technology

Your organization likely has things like recognition tools, surveys, or rewards programs in place already, but are they working together? As an organization, you can glean a lot of insights from the HR technology that you're already using.

Analytics for your current tools can shed light on everything from which rewards employees are redeeming to which managers are being recognized the most. Looking more closely at the data from the tools and technology you have in place is an easy way to jumpstart continuous listening.

Understand the Business Benefits

Companies that collect feedback more than once a year are going to be the companies that see the biggest return on investment and C-Suite buy-in on their employee experience efforts in 2018. HR departments that have a continuous listening plan in place—simple or robust—will not only see less turnover and more motivation among employees, but they'll also be able to say to leadership with confidence, "This is what our employees want and need from us, and we have the data to prove it."

A Reminder to Use This Data for Good

People in general are more on guard when it comes to what they share when it can be used against them. Continuous listening strategies should never make employees feel like they are being monitored or that information is being collected and used maliciously in any way.

That's why it is important for HR to be transparent about when, where, why, and how they're collecting data from their employees and what that information will be used for. And anytime you collect employee feedback, ensure there is a safe space (anonymous and nonanonymous) for people to give their honest response without the fear of retribution.

The future of employee feedback is all about the continuous cycle of information from employees, analysis from HR, and action from business leaders. In 2018, we'll see an increase in HR tools that empower employees with ways to give and get the right feedback while fueling engagement and performance in real-time. Continuous listening will change your organization for the better, you just have to get started.

Kim Dawson is Director of Employee Experience at YouEarnedIt. Dawson thrives when developing a unique and purpose-driven culture. She oversees compensation, benefits, and HR for YouEarnedIt. With a career spanning over 15 years in people-focused HR, Dawson believes putting your employees first is the only way for your organization to thrive.

The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.

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