Active Listening – taking action on employee feedback

While company assets are often defined as the ‘four Ps’ – product, place, promotion and price – the fifth P – people – is perhaps the most critical in terms of their ability to ‘make or break’ an organisation (McEwen, 2001). As we have seen time and time again, the success of a company is directly linked to the satisfaction of employees who embody that company, with the ability to retain talented people critical to the success of a company, regardless of the economic climate (Freeman, 2005). Asking for feedback and ensuring employees feel heard is an important part of maintaining a productive working culture. As important, but an aspect that sometimes gets missed, is taking action on this feedback to make a quantifiable difference to employee experience. This blog will explore an original and innovative process of collecting employee feedback, as well as some of the potential benefits of using chatbot technology to probe and explore employee experiences in more detail.

The process of getting employee feedback about important aspects of their work life, such as communication, colleagues, pay and the general office environment is complex.

First, it is necessary to capture the right data, by asking the right questions, in the right way, at the right time. One issue that often arises in these kinds of assessments is the closed nature of responses – by asking questions such as ‘please rate the quality of leadership in our organisation from 1-5’ means we can miss out on the nuance of employee experiences with leadership, or their perception of how leaders are doing. Closed and quantitative questions are useful, but we can often end up finding what we were looking for – rather than exploring what is actually there.

Open ended responses can reveal a deeper insight into organisational issues than categorical responses and it is only in the last few years that we have the technology to synthesise this information quickly and translate it into something actionable.

The Evolved Group has developed a new survey companion, the Evolved Voice Engine, or Eve, so people can say what is important to them in their own words. Eve asks follow up questions based on what people are saying and these conversations are auto-classified into defined topics of interest using the Focus Words application. Topic definitions can be updated over time to reflect new themes relating to the employee experience. Again, this kind of analysis – exploratory rather than confirmatory – is a powerful tool in understanding complex areas such as Employee Engagement.

active listening distribution chart

But what should we focus on?

By overlaying an employee’s ‘overall satisfaction’ or ‘likelihood to recommend the company as a place to work’, the Focus Words application can classify topics into areas you should:

  • ‘Celebrate’ – those having a high positive impact and experienced by many
  • ‘Elevate’ – have a high positive impact but only experienced by a minority
  • ‘Fix now’ – have a high negative impact and experienced by many
  • ‘Fix next’ – have a high negative impact but not a systemic issue

As per the example below, these topics can be visualised in impact matrices for both the positive and negative drivers of employee experiences.

active listening impact matrices
Characteristic of this type of assessment is that it highlights how topics can be highly polarized at times (driving both positive and negative sentiment) or have little to no impact on sentiment. For example, career development may be a category having both positive and negative sentiments – while an area such as office equipment may be less controversial.

What next?

We now have an effective and reliable way of measuring employee experiences by listening to them in their own words. That is great – but it only takes us so far. The next step is to take action on the priority areas highlighted and to track progress towards those outcomes. If we identified Leadership or Communication as areas of focus, we should then outline a plan to address those concerns.
This involves reaching out to the right people in the business, agreeing on the specific tasks that need to be completed, and committing to dates. Some of the questions that might be asked are – how should we assess the impact of each intervention? What is currently problematic about, for example, communication, and what have employees conveyed to us about this? Who are the exemplars in our organisation and what can we learn from them?
Each organisation will have its own unique profile of areas to focus on, but it is clear that by tapping into what employees are thinking organisations can focus on the things that matter most when it comes to employee engagement. How does your organisation currently listen to its employees? What are some areas you are interested in exploring, in terms of your company culture or employee engagement? Please feel free to leave your comments below.

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