Organizational psychologist, chairman at QuestionPro Workforceenabling employers to build Empathy at Scale in their organizations.
Imagine having 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 realize that your company forced everyone to return to the office, and that caused a huge wave of layoffs. And because you work in HR and are responsible for hiring staff, you realize that you will be working 12 hour days to fill all these open positions.
This recurring nightmare could be a reality for many HR leaders. The news has been reported record high divorces well over a year now. Even in the face of recession fears, most organizations still struggle to fill open positions, often faced with fierce competition from companies with flexible working arrangements or ever-increasing compensation packages.
Continuous listening is key
If you’re an HR professional and find yourself overwhelmed with where to start solving the human resources and culture challenges, you’re not alone. I attended a conference in May and the number of CHROs and HR People Analytics leaders discussing the importance of continuous listening was impressive. Continuous listening means collecting feedback throughout the employee lifecycle, 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 a nice thing to have, it should be the foundation of everything you will achieve 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 and gives all employees a voice at once, but it also delivers robust data and insights that make it much easier to buy across the organization.
So, when it comes to employee surveys as part of an employee experience and continuous listening strategy, what are the key areas to focus on? According to my company philosophy, there are three pillars of continuous listening: employee connection, survey technology and surveys as a strategic pillar.
Connection with employees
It is critical to have a solid, data-based understanding of employee experience throughout the different stages of their employee lifecycle. Most organizations are onboarding and offboarding employees faster than ever before, trying to manage the experience in between.
A recent Korn Ferry study emphasized that for a continuous listening program to be truly successful, having the right technology is important, but it is critical that that technology be linked 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 constantly ask their employees for input on how to improve their experience. And only 17% strongly believed that the employee experience they currently provide is a source of competitive advantage in terms of hiring and retaining high-quality talent.
When it comes to survey technology, it’s critical for HR to have the flexibility to quickly connect with their employees when an important event happens. Yet only 22% of the companies we surveyed strongly agreed that the technology they use allows them to quickly gather employee perspectives and ideas as major events impact their business.
In their interview about continuous listening, David Green and Laura Stevens point to problems with conventional HR survey technologies. They argue that using the rigid templates that many HR technology companies provide can have as many pitfalls as there are benefits, as predetermined metrics often don’t fit different company cultures. The technology must be agile and flexible enough to allow organizations to focus on the ‘why’ behind measuring specific concepts and how the insights gained can be applied within the unique corporate culture.
Surveys as a strategic pillar
According to most CHROs, continuous listening is an important part of a successful employee experience strategy. But in my company’s survey, 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 in seven countries struggled to balance too many projects and responsibilities, with burnout and exhaustion becoming widespread. Given today’s reality, it’s perhaps not surprising that only 9% of respondents to my company’s survey said their HR team works effectively with other business units to drive actions and initiatives based on insights from employee surveys.
Where do we go from here?
While limited resources and competing priorities certainly present a challenge, most organizations agree that having a continuous listening strategy is a must. So the question is not whether one should be implemented or continued, but how to run it most effectively and efficiently.
Recently I had a conversation met Al Adamsen, founder of People Analytics and Future of Work (PAFOW), where we both shared our vision for the future of effective continuous listening strategies. As Al states, the effective implementation of these can help organizations “quickly and accurately learn how employees think and feel in response to internal and external shifts, and how employers in turn can make versatile, integrated adjustments” to their employee experience approach.
Continuous listening is not a “one size fits all” strategy for organizations. Pausing to answer the key “why” outcome of having one is critical, as is establishing what you expect to be able to do with the data to help transform your organization. Armed with these key insights, you’re ready to make a significant, positive impact on your colleagues.