Organizational Psychologist, President at QuestionPro Workforce, helping employers build Empathy at Scale in their organizations.
Imagine you have a recurring nightmare: you walk into the office for the first time after the pandemic and all the desks are empty. At first you think everyone is still working from home, but then you remember that your company mandated everyone return to the office, and that caused a huge wave of resignations. And because you are in HR, and in charge of hiring, you realize that you will be working 12-hour days trying to fill all these open positions.
This recurring nightmare may be a reality for many HR leaders. The news has been reporting record high separations for over a year now. Even with a fear of recession upon us, most organizations are still struggling to fill open positions, often facing fierce competition from companies with flexible work arrangements or increasingly high compensation packages.
Continuous Listening Is Key
If you are an HR professional and you are finding yourself overwhelmed about where to start solving the staffing and culture challenges, you are not alone. I attended a conference in May and the number of CHROs and HR People Analytics leaders who discussed the importance of continuous listening was impressive. Continuous listening means gathering feedback across the employee life cycle, not just through traditional employee engagement surveys. While this concept is not new, it has become more important than ever. Today, a continuous listening strategy is no longer just nice to have—it should be the foundation of everything you’ll accomplish as an organization.
While continuous listening can be operationalized in many ways, one of the strongest foundations is through employee surveys. Not only is this scalable, offering all employees a voice at once, but it also provides sound data and insights that make buy-in across the organization much easier to get.
So, when it comes to employee surveys as part of an employee experience and continuous listening strategy, what are the most important areas to consider? According to my company’s philosophy, there are three pillars to continuous listening: connection with employees, survey technology and surveys as a strategic pillar.
Connection With Employees
Having a solid data-based understanding of employees’ experience during the different stages of their employee life cycle is critical. Most organizations are onboarding and offboarding employees at greater rates than ever before and trying to manage the experience in between.
A recent Korn Ferry study highlighted that for a continuous listening program to be truly successful, having the right technology is important, but it’s critical that that technology be tied to a purpose.
In research conducted by my own company, we found that when it comes to continuous listening, only 30% of HR leaders strongly agreed that they continuously ask their employees for their input on how they can improve their experience. And only 17% strongly believed the employee experience they currently deliver is a source of competitive advantage in terms of hiring and retaining high-value talent.
When it comes to survey technology, it’s critical for HR to have the agility to quickly connect with their employees when a key event happens. Yet, only 22% of the companies we surveyed strongly agreed that the technology they use enables them to quickly collect the perspectives and ideas of employees as big events impact their business.
In their interview about continuous listening, David Green and Laura Stevens highlight problems with conventional HR survey technologies. They argue that using the rigid templates many HR tech companies provide can have as many pitfalls as advantages, as often pre-determined measurements do not suit different corporate cultures. The technology should be nimble and flexible enough to allow organizations to focus on the “why” behind measuring specific concepts and how the gleaned insights can be actioned within a company’s unique culture.
Surveys As A Strategic Pillar
According to most CHROs, continuous listening is a key part of a successful employee experience strategy. Yet, in my company’s study, only 61% said they were able to effectively make surveys a key part of their employee experience strategy. Why is this?
In a study earlier this year SHRM shared that 42% of HR teams across seven countries were struggling to balance too many projects and responsibilities, with burnout and exhaustion becoming widespread. Given this current reality, it may not be as surprising that only 9% of respondents to my company’s study said that their HR team collaborates effectively with other business units to pull through actions and initiatives based on insights drawn from employee surveys.
Where Do We Go From Here?
Although limited resources and competing priorities certainly pose a challenge, most organizations agree that having a continuous listening strategy is a must. So, the question is not whether to implement or continue with one, but rather how to execute it most effectively and efficiently.
Recently I had a conversation with Al Adamsen, founder of People analytics and Future of Work (PAFOW), where we both shared our views on the future of effective continuous listening strategies. As Al puts it, implementing this effectively can help organizations “quickly and accurately learn how employees are thinking and feeling in response to internal and external shifts, and how, in turn, employers can make multi-faceted, integrated adjustments” to their employee experience approach.
Continuous listening is not a “one size fits all” strategy across organizations. Pausing to answer the key “why” outcome of having one is critical, as well as establishing what you expect to be able to do with the data to help transform your organization. Armed with these key insights, you will be ready to make a significant, positive impact on your colleagues.