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Employee Listening: Crucial for True Staff Engagement

Employee Listening: Crucial for True Staff Engagement

21 November 2017
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In the always-on, always-connected world we live in, it is becoming rare for someone to walk away from a conversation feeling truly listened to as the other person is likely to have been distracted by some form of instant messaging or social media. 

In the workplace, this lack of effective interpersonal communication can be detrimental with a direct impact on performance and workplace morale. As employee engagement surveys only pop up in company email inboxes once a year, one tends to question whether this is enough to understand employees and their thoughts on their employer organisation.

To ensure improved levels of employee engagement and productivity, beyond the annual employee engagement survey, while also making staff feel a connection with the organisation, the concept of ‘employee listening’ has recently entered discussions among business leaders – particularly those with an interest in HR. 

In this edition of the circulate, we will be discussing this new strategy in the hopes of getting the very best out of our staff and ensure a healthy and happy working environment.

  • Kay Vittee


Over the last few years, the implementation of employee engagement strategies - accompanied by annual or quarterly surveys and questionnaires - have been praised for their ability to assist organisations in boosting morale and improving productivity.

While proving effective in some businesses as a tool for initiating significant change, the surveys disseminated to staff (across all levels of an organisation) are often very complicated to analyse, are open to some level of interpretation, do not provide guidelines on what action should follow, and are expensive for companies to run. 

The expected results relating to engagement scores and performance levels are also not guaranteed and have therefore left some business leaders confused as to why their employment engagement strategy didn’t deliver.

In response, the market seems to be shifting from a focus on annual employee engagement surveys to delving deeper into understanding and listening to employees while sharing their views with staff in a  transparent manner.

This is the strategy known as ‘employee listening’ which surpasses the traditional employee engagement survey by emphasising continuous engagement utilising mobile applications and social groups where employees are able to view each other’s comments, vote on and discuss their ideas, and share their innovative thoughts and suggestions.

A focused solution - commonly implemented with pulse surveys, social media scans and online chats - employee listening allows a company to gather input from employees on an ongoing basis and gain greater insight into the what is on the minds of staff members – helping company leaders make better business decisions and enhance organisational performance.

A successfully implemented employee listening strategy can not only result in increased levels of engagement and productivity but also has a positive impact on staff morale and organisational loyalty as staff feel more valued and connected to the company. 

Set your employee listening strategy into motion

In order to successfully implement an employee listening strategy, here are some basic organisational changes to start today:

  • Make it a priority

You, as the business leader, need to get involved in initiating and implementing (hands-on) the strategy, being connected and active on any forums utilised to listen and share ideas. 

It is important not to come across as if you have all the answers and to communicate that you are open to listening to all ideas – big or small, holistic or specific, operational or team-related. This will make staff feel more comfortable in coming forward and sharing valuable information.

  • Create an environment that is conducive to listening

In addition to communicating the organisation’s openness and transparency, it is important to ensure there are no distractions.

When engaging with and listening to employees, silence your phones, darken your computer screen and put away anything you tend to fidget with. In addition, ensure that it is clear that platforms set up for employee listening are to be used for company-related conversations only.

  • Validate and verify your staff 

It is not enough to open a channel for engagement, leaders who want to be effective listeners need to validate staff and ask clarifying questions in order to have the best possible understanding of their thoughts and ideas. 

It is important to thank employees for their contribution, even if you do not agree with their opinion or do not see their idea being implemented in future – it may strike a creative cord in another staff member who will follow up with something which can be executed.