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Designing an Effective Employee Listening Program: Five Questions to Consider

Design an effective employee listening program by considering strategic priorities, emerging trends, employee preferences, and ensuring follow-up action.

In the last few years, there has been a surge in organizations adopting employee listening programs to gain a better understanding of their workforce and work environment. Considering the current workforce challenges and the power of listening, this makes sense. Researchers have found that listening can improve everything from employee commitment and well-being to collaboration and job performance. 


Designing an effective listening program is not easy. According to one recent study, only one in three senior leaders is very confident in the efficacy of their employee listening efforts. Listening programs can underdeliver for many different reasons:

  • Focusing on the wrong topics can distract decision-makers from pressing issues.

  • Utilizing the wrong methods can produce useless data.

  • Launching a ceaseless stream of surveys can annoy staff and swamp managers with feedback.  

  • Asking employees for their ideas and input without following up with action can undermine engagement and erode trust.


When developing an employee listening program for your organization, it is crucial to carefully assess the most effective way to meet the listening needs of your stakeholders. 

Here are five questions to consider when designing your employee listening program:

  1. What are our strategic priorities?
    Some organizations build their listening programs based on advice from consultants and vendors. While expert advice and best practices can be helpful, they can also miss the mark if they do not address your most pressing business and people challenges. The best listening programs provide meaningful insights into mission-critical goals and objectives. If you want to ensure your listening program is relevant, make sure it is aligned with your strategic priorities.

  2. What emerging trends do we need to understand?
    We live in a world of wicked problems. In recent years, organizations have faced disruptive challenges on multiple fronts—everything from a global pandemic and weakening economy to political turmoil and an ongoing climate crisis. And now, new concerns are emerging. What will the future of work look like? What is the best way to manage a remote workforce? How will generative AI impact jobs? The best way to navigate these challenges is to maintain an ongoing dialogue with stakeholders inside and outside your organization. That requires a listening program that allows leaders, managers, and employees to share the trends they are seeing and identify opportunities and threats that are emerging.

  3. How often do our employees want to participate in listening events?
    In recent years, the concept of continuous listening has become popular. The basic premise is clear: in a world of constant change, organizations need to stay attuned to their stakeholders. While this makes logical sense, continuous listening campaigns can turn into continuous sources of frustration for employees if they are not well executed. As you develop your employee listening strategy, it is critical to ask employees how often they want to participate in listening events.  

  4. What listening methods and mediums do our employees feel comfortable using?
    The success of any listening program depends on trust and candor. Even the most carefully designed survey or focus group will not yield useful insights in the absence of psychological safety. If employees do not feel they can express their honest opinions, the quality of their feedback will be limited. One way to build a trustworthy listening practice is to ensure you are using methods and approaches that your workforce feels comfortable with. We have found that employees are more likely to express their honest opinions when they are confident their anonymity is protected.

  5. How will we ensure listening leads to action?
    In a workplace setting, inquiry creates expectations for change. Researchers have found that when employees are asked to provide feedback about important organizational topics, they expect something will happen. If feedback does not lead to some change or improvement—if results are just filed away somewhere—employees are likely to feel unheard. Before launching any listening event, it is important to ensure there is an organizational commitment to follow up and take action. 

The best way to answer these questions is to get feedback from your stakeholders. How do your employees want to provide feedback? What do your managers need to know? What are your senior leaders’ most pressing concerns? By exploring these questions with your workforce, you can ensure that your program is aligned with their listening needs, preferences, and priorities. Here is how you can ensure that your employee listening program is aligned with your stakeholders’ needs.

  • Through a series of online conversations with leaders, managers, and employees, ask a series of closed and open-ended questions.

  • Then, using our AI-powered analytics, Remesh can help you identify a number of important key themes and recommendations based on participant feedback. For example, perhaps you learn that senior leaders want to ensure that listening efforts focus on their top two strategic priorities—cross-functional collaboration and innovation--while managers and employees want to make sure they have the opportunity to provide feedback on work-life balance and mental health.

  • Through these conversations, you can also learn about desired listening cadence and stakeholder preference for listening channels. For example, we’ve seen customers discover that the right frequency for their organization was quarterly. More than that was considered a burden. And their stakeholders preferred listening channels that were online, easy to use, and allowed them to provide anonymous feedback.

  • Armed with this information, design an employee listening program that’s tailored to your audience and goals and helps you move beyond a traditional survey program. 

By involving stakeholders in the process and leveraging tools like Remesh, organizations can create customized and impactful employee listening programs that provide actionable insights and drive meaningful change.
  

 

Ready to see Remesh in action? Reach out to our team and will connect you with a dedicated product expert. 

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