Employee Listening: How Has It Changed?
By Brandon Riggs, Brittany Head, PhD., Lauren Beechly, PhD., Sarah Johnson, PhD., and Kara Laine - September 04, 2020
Interest in employee listening has dramatically increased over the past several years, driven by a desire to improve experiences for both employees and customers.
Businesses rely on customer satisfaction and loyalty, where success is often measured in terms of lifetime value. If a customer is satisfied with the product or service, they will engage with your business and continue to be loyal to the brand, buying more products over time and encouraging their friends to also adopt.
What is expected from employees is no different. Your organization requires engaged, productive employees—providing their own lifetime value to your organization throughout their employment and then acting as brand ambassadors once they have left—all part of the employee lifecycle. Providing employees with the same level of service quality you would deliver to your customers is the key to improving employee loyalty, productivity, and lifetime value.
In this article, we discuss several factors driving the ever-growing interest in employee feedback. It goes without saying that COVID-19 has dramatically changed the conversation around providing a positive work experience for employees, but beyond this we have seen how the principles applied to effective customer engagement have extended to engaging your employees. While the most important organizational effectiveness tools have always been effective communication, listening, and feedback, technology has significantly changed how we communicate and share information.
COVID-19 & Emphasis On Employee Well-Being
Most organizations now recognize that understanding employee thoughts, beliefs, attitudes, and ideas is more important than ever. Prior to COVID-19, the focus of many organizations was to regularly monitor engagement levels, identifying the strongest drivers of engagement as well as where the constraints existed across the employee experience. This was particularly important in improving employee retention—especially in regions and industries with low unemployment—giving organizations the insight necessary to win the “talent war.”
Understanding employee sentiment is still a priority to the organizations that have historically conducted engagement and employee listening research, but COVID-19 has enhanced interest beyond this area of study, emphasizing employee wellness. So why is employee well-being important?
The forced and immediate transitions that many organizations had to make in the wake of COVID-19 has revealed to many business leaders that employee surveys are more than just tools to gather engagement feedback on an annual basis. Employee listening programs backed by a well-designed employee wellness survey serve as a means to communicate care, listen and respond to employee concerns, prioritize investments, and quickly take action, all in real-time. Organizations are now looking to increase the frequency and usefulness of employee data, reduce the time between listening and responding, and improve the number and types of feedback sources. Wellness surveys are also used to build competencies around leveraging data-driven methods for studying people, processes, and systems in order to elevate the employee experience, enhance employee wellness, and drive sustainable business growth.
The Feedback Economy & Focus On Experiences
We live in an era of ultra-digitalization, where customers are able to connect with businesses like never before. Anyone can interact with a business through a simple tweet. Customers may also want to instantaneously express feelings about their experiences with a product or service (particularly if those experiences are either poor or spectacular) by posting feedback on social media platforms or review sites, compelling businesses to respond and “close the loop” with these customers. These product or service experiences are now available for public retrieval and consumption, and the potential for these collective experiences to shape perceptions of any given brand, customer loyalty, and ultimately customer lifetime value is closely monitored and managed.
This same framework for thinking about the expectations of customers within the feedback economy now extends to employee expectations and experiences at work. Employees expect the same high-quality support and feedback tools in the workplace that they have come to expect as customers.
Just as customers have several channels to provide feedback in open online forums, employees now have opportunities to provide their experiences in online open forums such as Glassdoor, Indeed, or Blind, which are external and out of the control of their employers. If employers do not provide feedback options to employees within the business and take meaningful action on the feedback, employees will recognize and internalize that their feedback is not valuable to the business. This will drive employees to share negative feedback to external forums, tarnishing your talent brand and limiting interest from prospective top talent joining your organization. Collective feedback internally is a rich source of insight into the employee experience, and can be leveraged to make crucial improvements that impact the bottom line.
The Employee Experience As A Driver Of Customer Loyalty & Financial Success
The employee experience is at the root of the service-profit chain, a causal framework introduced in the Harvard Business Review nearly 30 years ago. The service-profit chain establishes relationships between profitability and customer loyalty, and employee experiences, loyalty, and productivity. The links in the chain are as follows:
- Profit and growth are stimulated primarily by customer loyalty.
- Loyalty is a direct result of customer satisfaction.
- Satisfaction is largely influenced by the value of services provided to customers.
- Value is created by satisfied, loyal, and productive employees.
Employee satisfaction, in turn, results primarily from the employee experience -- the quality of support and policies that enable employees to deliver results to customers.
Essentially, customer experience is driven by the delivery and experience of products/services the customer deems to be valuable. If employees are not engaged/empowered to have a positive, productive experience, the products and services they build and support will also suffer. If employees do not feel connected to the mission and values implicit to their organization’s brand, they are less able and motivated to deliver the external brand experience to customers. Where employees benefit from a positive experience, they are more likely to extend that experience to customers, ensuring a meaningful boost to the organization’s financial success both short- and long-term.
Accessibility Of Data-gathering & People Analytics Technology
Only recently have technology and people analytics matured to the point where gathering employee feedback and taking action at an enterprise scale can be owned and managed by smaller teams with tight resources. As listening programs, real-time data, and analytics-driven insights become the norm, the ubiquity of these data have compelling implications for the future.
The average HR practitioner now has the ability to collect, store, and clean vast amounts of data in a multitude of forms pulled from disparate systems. We now look at employee listening and acting as pieces within a larger business ecosystem, with sensors gathering signals in the form of data across the entire employee lifecycle, eventually connecting those signals with customer and financial data. Combined with the availability of powerful analytical tools and the right level of knowledge and expertise, HR and People Operations practitioners now have the tools to provide relevant insights around the employee experience as a central part of strategic decision-making within businesses of any size and industry.
Organizations that commit to data-driven, evidence-based programs to listen and respond to employee feedback enjoy enhanced performance, market competitiveness, and healthier cultures. Those who neglect investing in the employee/employer relationship may haphazardly try to adapt (often missing the mark), or simply waste resources through brute-force improvements driven by gut feelings and anecdotes rather than high-quality people data.
The Shifting Role Of HR As A Strategic Partner To The Business
Technology has armed HR practitioners with a new set of tools for gathering, analyzing, and acting on employee feedback. While HR has always been critical in managing essential talent functions, HR teams are now capable of providing even more valuable insights to data-driven organizations. For HR managers who have never had an audience with the C-suite, they now come with the data ensuring they will be welcomed with open arms.
Many organizations have developed specific functions focused on People Analytics, the data-driven approach to managing people at work. Perceptyx partners with several HR teams who are oriented toward the strategic application of employee feedback combined with objective behavioral and business metrics. As a result, those teams can now easily and quickly help senior leaders see the way forward, and make decisions about their people based on deep analysis rather than relying on gut feelings and relationships.
See the way forward to higher engagement.
The Perceptyx platform gives you the flexibility to develop a listening strategy that fits the needs of your organization and identify the barriers blocking engagement. Combined with support from our analytics experts, our platform can help you keep your finger on the pulse of your people’s perceptions, so you can provide the support they need to become fully engaged. Get in touch to see how we can help your organization increase engagement—and profitability.
If you are interested in learning more about organizational response specific to COVID-19, there are several articles on our blog with insights about helping employees navigate this unprecedented situation.