How to create a holistic Employee Listening Strategy that is effective for you and for your employees

Laura Potgieter |  31 August 2022

A company’s employee experience is now increasingly recognised as a key enabler of success. As employee needs and expectations continue to evolve, understanding the employee experience is increasingly important. Developing an effective employee listening strategy is essential to connecting with the workforce and understanding them as critical assets for the organisation.

The advantage of active organisational enables companies to acquire facts so that better business decisions can be made. Research to understand perceptions to inform business decisions and a communication audit are always the first step in this process. Active listening is essential to building trust and can reduce conflict. The reputation of a business depends upon listening skills through strategic business communication and internal communication. Listening can reduce conflict, which often arises which individuals feel misunderstood or mistreated. If you fail to listen to a customer, for example, the customer might not receive the service or product s/he expected. When this occurs repeatedly, it can tarnish the company’s reputation. A company develops relationships with other businesses through verbal communication, too. A manager can improve morale and productivity by understanding what motivates each employee. It’s simple really, if you actively listen to employees, you will discover what aspects of the job they find most satisfying and demanding and where improvement opportunities lie. The elements within internal communication are vast but DevCom has broken them down strategically into:

  • Interdepartmental communication 
  • Employer-employee communication 
  • Organisational listening & company culture 
  • Professional development & training

DevCom has developed a dialogue model that works. The communication and marketing professionals (or an external trusted party like DevCom) is tasked with organisational listening activities. We frequently test the application of the messages throughout the organisation using content analysis, conversations, site visits, etc. Audiences have the opportunity to express their interpretation, raise obstacles and risks to mitigate, and provide proof-points and success stories to focus on in future communication. The resulting business intelligence is then presented to top management to both manage it and use it to inform corporate decision-making. The decisions, in turn, inform the work and activities of the project committee, as well as the alignment of messages and behaviour back into the organisation.

The process is an always-on process, looping information to and from all parties in a structured manner. It ensures engaged brand ambassadors who are listened to, who experience the implementation of their success stories through corporate communication, and who achieve more success because their risks and stumbling blocks are actively resolved by an aware and interactive top management. The message and narrative are aligned with operational policies being implemented and, perhaps more importantly, with the way in which the organisation delivers on its employee value proposition and its reputational promise to customers. In addition to the narrative, DevCom delivers a guideline for implementing the narrative through communication activities. Reporting is a key factor that drives results and optimisation.

Sadly, many companies overlook the importance of closing the feedback loop. It is vital for leaders to provide consistent feedback to employees by communicating what they’ve heard and how it will be used to improve performance. The result is that employees feel trusted and willing to provide feedback because of the continuous efforts of repeating this process. There is no limit to the number of listening channels and tactics that can be used. More strategically, annual engagement surveys, online discussion forums to question sessions with leaders but also more informal channels of observation, water cooler talks and creating a space where employees share what they hear from one another. For example, employees may express the challenges they face about receiving information from management, leaving them to rely on one another to share critical information. Using a mix of different listening methods helps to engage different employee audiences but essentially, trust is best built up by frequent face to face interactions and decreases the need for risk management. An added benefit – listening opportunities provide employees with a gateway to build relationships with their leaders, a critical component of operation and change communication strategies that should be developed to avoid crisis communication. 

Still, it boils down to the basic concept of not forgetting to tell people what they told you and what has been implemented as a result. Identify, develop, and stay on course with an effective way of sharing what’s been done as a result of the feedback. Will you use your existing channels or is there an opportunity to do something differently? If you already have a formal programme in place as part of an engagement strategy, revisit it with a critical eye, and measure the impact to see how you can listen more effectively. How is this information captured and recorded, what can you do better? Data and analytics composing of concentrated message testing, reporting and dashboards ensures that an integrated marketing communication (IMC) plan can then be established and mapped out and incorporated into business communication for sustainable business results.

Here’s how to do it:

For more information from DevCom on investing in psychological safety to increase motivation, optimise team effectiveness and improve well-being in the workplace, click here.