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Is Your Organization Really Listening to Employees?

March 10,2020 Employee Experience
By Dom Nicastro

The majority of chief human resources officers do track and measure employee engagement, but only 12% of them do more than the traditional survey and use more data sources, according to a study KPMG. And, predictably, the large-scale employee engagement survey dominated responses for employee engagement programs: 75%.

“Voice of the worker is still not tapped nearly enough in organizations,” said Dion Hinchcliffe, VP and principal analyst of Future of Work at Constellation Research. “But it's hard to do: While periodic surveys are still the lead way of capturing employee sentiment, they are used so often by so many groups, that there is real survey fatigue, especially in large organizations.”

So what are some good ways to capture voice of the employee and make sure they’re not only being hard, but that their feedback is leading to action? It’s still challenging to manage no matter you slice your voice of the employee program, employee experience pundits say.

Open and Trusted Feedback Channel

Brett Caldon, CEO of Workgrid Software, told CMSWire that surveys have their place. However, he added, they’re over-leveraged. They also look too much in the rearview mirror rather than in the moment.

Generic surveys give an indicator but response rates are always low and results questionable, according to Jon Cairns, vice president of global solution consulting at Nexthink. He suggested targeting specific groups based on problems or experiences they’ve just had in real-time to drive engagement and response.

Caldon echoed that real-time feedback approach. Capture employee sentiment at the most opportune moments: essentially, when something happens and the employee needs to be heard at that very moment, according to Caldon. Employees need to be empowered to provide feedback immediately.

“The optimal approach would be to have an open and trusted feedback channel that’s always available for employees to provide comments when those ‘moments of truth’ are top of mind,” Caldon said. “The process needs to be trusted by employees though and that trust must be earned.”

Related Article: Why Employee Experience Is Crucial to Successful Digital Transformation

Build a Strong Pathway to IT Design

Organizations should proactively reach out to employees to make them part of the IT design cycle, Cairns said. Don’t force new services on them that don’t meet their needs. “We all know that if you do this they’ll just turn to Shadow IT for an answer,” he said. “All too often company leaders with the need to drive innovation assume they know what’s best without involving employees.”

Take a proactive approach to managing employees’ digital experience, Cairns said, by adopting a strategy for measuring and improving how they experience their technology tools to reduce frustration levels and increase productivity.

“Understand the experience employees have with the different IT services to know where to focus innovation,” Cairns said. “Stop relying solely on all the IT management tools with green traffic lights, saying everything is OK as the service is running fine. These are only half the picture; the other half is the experience employees have when they try to consume these IT services." Fix problems before the employees become aware and have to raise them themselves, and benchmark and show to employees digital employee experience improvements, Cairns said.

Ensuring Execution on Employee Feedback

Design thinking and a servant leadership approach is key, but while bold action would be ideal, incremental action, even if small, makes a difference in both delighting employees and building trust with them, according to Caldon. “In the past, we’ve acted on feedback with a continuous delivery mindset aligned to agile methodology, driven by employees as the customer,” Caldon said. “However, it’s important to have a backlog of employee feedback that’s continually prioritized and delivered on with a disciplined approach to communication and closing the loop."

Feedback for improvement, like innovation, is useless without executing on the idea. Organizations should implement a system to solicit ongoing feedback from employees, Caldon said, because that approach is more likely to generate the detailed feedback that’s useful to an organization. It can also be acted on quickly. “Plus, it allows for a much more open, engaging and continuous feedback loop for employees who had the opportunity to provide thoughts in the moment,” he said.

Merely listening isn't enough, Hinchcliffe said. “Taking bold and swift action on what you heard,” Hinchcliffe added, “is the only way to drive real change for the worker.” However, it’s challenging. Even when IT wants to know more or learn if what they did improved the worker's job, they have a hard time checkpointing regularly, according to Hinchcliffe said.

Related Article: Why Employee Experience Is the New Customer Experience

Nothing Will Change Without Strong Leadership

Approaches like talent analytics and design thinking only help. Design thinking closely involves a representative sample of workers in an agile manner for a defined amount of time, according to Hinchcliffe. But the real issue, he said, is workers find it easier not to wait to improve whatever it is they need to do their jobs better. “They can easily self-create most of the employee experience they want today,” Hinchcliffe said. “And they are: Shadow IT is at an all-time high. Until the worker voice is listened to and acted upon consistently, in the context of what the business needs as well, this state of affairs won't change. This is why strong leadership is key."

Transparency a Must

The bottom line here? Transparency. It all comes down to listening and taking action, Caldon said. “Yes, employees want to feel heard, but they also want to see companies mobilizing to address their needs,” he said. “That means implementing a holistic strategy that includes feedback channels for soliciting and receiving feedback, a disciplined approach for acting on that feedback and communicating that action has been taken.”

Caldon also noted that organizations won’t always act on employee feedback. That, too, is important to communicate. ”Be transparent and communicate when action won’t be taken, while still reinforcing the value of the feedback received,” Caldon said. “Establishing the right measurements based on desired outcomes is a key component of the strategy as well.”

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