In a previous article, I asked whether companies were getting the most from their employee listening efforts and described a variety of types of listening posts companies can use to gather employee feedback. However just because a company turns on these listening posts doesn’t mean it will get value from the insights it collects. In fact, Temkin Group research with Human Resources professionals shows that while 82% of organizations measure employee engagement at least once a year, only 21% of executive teams place a “very high” priority on taking action based on employee engagement studies. This is a problem since our research also shows that employees who feel that their company listens to their feedback and takes action on it is one of the strongest drivers of productive workplace behaviors, such as staying late when something needs to be done, helping coworkers without being asked, and being committed to helping the company succeed.
So how can companies realize greater value from employee feedback? Many of the approaches that make up the discipline of customer experience at large can also be applied to the work of engaging employees in the workplace. So, for example, companies can improve employee engagement measurement and other listening programs by looking at how effective closed-loop voice of the customer (VoC) programs are designed. Temkin Group’s Six D’s are the essential elements of a good VoC program and can be used as a blueprint to design your Voice of Employee (VoE) approach too.
Let’s take a look at how each of the D’s applies to employee listening efforts:
• Detect: Effective listening programs start with being strategic about when, where, and from whom they solicit feedback. While surveying all employees is important for broader employee engagement tracking, companies should also consider the key employee segments they should be listening to in order to understand specific opportunities and issues. This might include new hires at the end of their first 90 days, employees who have just made the transition into a supervisory role, or a specific segment with higher than desired voluntary turnover. Companies can listen to these smaller segments through more than surveys – they can use employee focus groups, 1:1 interviews, even private discussion boards on the employee social network, depending on the topic.
• Disseminate: Employee feedback only helps the organization when it is in the hands of people who can use it to make better decisions. Whether it’s sharing insights to help managers better coach employees through customer experience changes or it’s aiding executives in making investment decisions in tactics to become an “employer of choice,” strong VoE programs make sure the right people get the right information in the right format to take action.
• Diagnose: Many companies expect their employee engagement studies to have all of the answers, yet often they just raise more questions. That’s why it’s important for VoE programs to save some capacity to dig into the potential problems or opportunities uncovered by these studies. Organizations can develop appropriate actions by using supplemental listening tactics – like pulse surveys, focus groups, employee councils, or other ad hoc methods – to explore root causes and hypotheses. To supplement feedback from its formal Employee Voice program, Nicor National uses monthly employee roundtable discussions with 20 randomly selected employees, before working with its executive team and a group of employee ambassadors to address trends and opportunities.
• Discuss: While some employee issues can be handled from within a single department, often feedback uncovers topics that cross organizational boundaries. Effective listening programs create opportunities for cross-functional teams to get together to discuss employee insights and the implications that cut across internal silos. This might involve bringing HR, IT, Marketing, and Internal Communications together to strategize about how to make it easier for employees to access and understand important information and resources. Or it could mean connecting different business unit leaders to collectively discuss strategies to improve the experience of a new employee’s first 90 days.
• Design: Once the organization identifies the opportunities to improve employee engagement, the need for employee input doesn’t stop. Just like organizations tap into user-centric approaches when designing solutions to customer problems, so too should they incorporate employee feedback into the changes they make or the programs they design. For example, when SunTrust Bank designs new experiences, it taps into an online community of employees and captures their input about these upcoming changes at the bank. It brands the changes that have been vetted by this online community as, “reviewed by the Bright Ideas community,” when they are rolled out.
• Deploy: The final element of a strong listening program involves monitoring how well changes were received once they are introduced and then making adjustments where needed. Organizations should keep an ear open for early employee reactions or qestions and be prepared to refine experiences based on what they learn during the deployment process.
While measuring employee engagement and capturing employee feedback is a good start, it’s even more important that companies do something with what they learn from employees. This means using the Six D’s to design an effective listening program and having a process in place for engaging business leaders to review feedback, determine next steps, and keep employees informed about what was learned and what actions are being taken.