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New Data Reveals the State of Employee Listening in 2023

New Data Reveals the State of Employee Listening in 2023

In our second annual State of Employee Listening report, Perceptyx looked at what organizations are prioritizing when it comes to employee listening and what leaders are still wondering about, when and how organizations are listening to their people, how leaders outside Human Resources rank the importance of listening, and what steps your organization can take today to improve your own employee listening practices. 

To answer these questions, and more, we interviewed two different populations of leaders about their employee listening practices, their organizational and performance outcomes, and the decisions they are making given current economic conditions. Both samples contained senior leaders from global organizations with 1,000 or more employees. The first was a set of more than 600 human resources decision-makers, influencers, and practitioners who are deeply involved in their organization’s employee listening program. The second expanded to include more than 500 senior leaders from other lines of business in large organizations — finance, sales, marketing, etc. — to capture executive perspectives on listening outside the People team.

The Current Economic Picture

Our current economic picture is one of increasing layoffs and simultaneous talent shortages. Organizations face continuing challenges related to inflation, shifting customer demands, and the need to redefine where and when work gets done. At the same time, employees are applying new pressures to prioritize well-being, increase flexibility, and establish clearer paths for career growth.  

Our current studies, as well as our previous 2022 State of Employee Listening research, highlight that while there is no single best listening approach, there are many similar practices among organizations at all levels across the 4-stage maturity continuum. Matching the listening strategy with the goals set by the organization, listening frequently and in multiple channels, and taking clear action to change the workplace for the better lead to organizations where employees stay longer, innovate more, and advocate for the organization in the marketplace.

Key Findings

In Perceptyx’s 2022 study of the State of Employee Listening, researchers found that the pandemic had accelerated the pace of listening across organizations. That pace continued as the world returned to work and the market experienced a massive employee reshuffling. Current economic tightening has not reduced the amount of listening organizations are doing, nor has it reduced the resources organizations are investing to administer their listening. 

Nearly all of the organizations included in the study have a formal employee listening program in place (95%) and that same percentage say they are listening to their employees about the same or more now than they were a year ago. 7 in 10 plan to further accelerate their listening over the next year. While 40% of organizations intend to keep their 2023 listening budgets about the same as in 2022, more than half of the organizations studied plan to increase their spending year over year. More than 3 out of 5 leaders said that they place a higher value on listening during a recession than they do during more favorable economic times.

For most of the organizations in our study, listening to employees happens frequently, and the frequency of listening only continues to grow. Taking into account all the types of listening organizations are doing, about 70% of the organizations studied are doing some type of listening event at least once a quarter, with more than half of those organizations listening once a month or even more often

Challenges Facing People Leaders in 2023

In 2023, People leaders hope to address a variety of business questions and challenges through employee listening. The most commonly mentioned are: 

  • 44% Employee Performance
  • 35% Employee Well-Being
  • 33% Employee Attrition
  • 21% Financial Performance
  • 21% Employee Safety
  • 19% Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging (DEIB)

Regardless of where they sit, only about 1 in 3 leaders in the organizations studied are very confident that their current listening strategy will help them address these challenges and nearly 1 in 4 are unsure or don’t have confidence that these issues will be addressed in their current listening strategy. Interestingly, leaders outside of human resources have slightly more confidence in their listening strategies than do their counterparts more closely involved with the listening — indicating that those closest to the action may be selling themselves short. 

The single most important measure used by all organizational leaders to gauge the success of their listening program is the follow-up actions taken after feedback is captured. Yet effective follow-through is also cited as the number one thing standing in the way of achieving the goals they’ve set for their listening program. Cracking the code on how to use employee feedback to drive change is what separates high-performing organizations from those that struggle to reach their goals.

The Maturity Model

To help organizations understand where they are in relation to the listening strategies of other organizations, Perceptyx developed a 4-stage maturity model that describes the progression of an employee listening program from its most fundamental to its most robust. Progression through these stages is associated with proven strategies to evolve a listening and action program, enabling organizations to realize the associated benefit.

Although the full report contains more detailed information on each, these stages are:

  • Stage 1: Episodic listeners (20% of organizations surveyed in 2023) conduct one or two surveys a year, and keep ownership of data collected within the HR department. Results are shared narrowly and follow-up actions are top-down.

  • Stage 2: Topical listeners (30% in 2023) conduct deep-dive listening around specific topics or events, such as DEIB, merger and acquisition (M&A) activity, or a pending IPO. They encourage — but do not require — managers to take action in response to employee feedback. Most follow-up activity remains centered in HR.

  • Stage 3: Strategic listeners (27% in 2023) gather feedback on an ongoing basis, including key moments in the employee lifecycle such as hiring, onboarding, exit, and promotion. They also use advanced analytics to understand the relationships between these and other business data. Executives proactively seek employee feedback when making decisions and action occurs at multiple points in the organization.

  • Stage 4: Continuous conversationalists (23% in 2023) use a variety of active and passive listening channels at scale such as calendar analysis, email sentiment, and/or crowdsourcing as well as surveys, and the results of these conversations inform daily business decisions. The executive team leads the strategy in partnership with HR. Leaders and managers at all levels are responsible for understanding and acting on feedback, and for communicating the progress of those actions to employees.

When researchers looked at the characteristics of listening programs for organizations along the maturity continuum, distinct patterns emerged. The Perceptyx team identified four key differentiators: listening channels, speed, agility, and integration. Each differentiator connects directly to specific characteristics of a listening strategy and each one can be matured on its own. When examining your own organization’s employee listening strategy, it’s important to take each into account. Many leaders in the study noted that while they may have mastered one or more of the characteristics, others were still lagging behind. 

How does your listening strategy compare?

Mature listening programs can help overcome specific problems facing an organization, such as talent recruitment and attrition. When fully implemented, they can also help deliver world-class outcomes related to financial performance, innovation, workforce retention, customer satisfaction and retention, and change management. Organizations at stage 4 of the maturity curve significantly outperform their peers in each of these areas.

To dive deeper into the 2023 data findings, download the full report. To diagnose where your organization is positioned on the listening maturity continuum, complete our interactive assessment

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