Employee Listening Is a Must For a Great Employee Experience

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I originally wrote today’s post for CMSWire. It appeared on their Reworked site on August 10, 2022.

In July 2022, it was reported that Glassdoor had been ordered by a United States court to provide to Zuru, a toymaker in New Zealand, identifying information about employees who wrote negative reviews about the company. Zuru claimed the reviews were false and defamatory.

That story leaves me with a lot of questions. Is this how to best address negative reviews? Isn’t employee (surveys, reviews) feedback best when it’s anonymous and there’s no fear of recourse? Don’t those who use Glassdoor to facilitate their job search want to hear both the good and the bad? Why did the employees leave? What was/is the culture like at Zuru? What did leaders do to ensure employees were taken care of? Was there a common theme in the negative reviews? Did Zuru leaders know about the issues and do nothing about them? How did they listen to employees (proactively)? Or did they? What feedback mechanisms were in place? If any? How was the feedback used and acted upon? I could go on and on.

It seems to me that I could answer all of the questions with the questions themselves: Leaders didn’t care for employees, and the culture was toxic. There was fear of recourse within the organization, and it isn’t a great place to work. But if you look at the Glassdoor reviews today, they have 4.3 out of 5 stars. There are some negative reviews and comments scattered throughout. (I’m not sure if they’ve removed the “offending” reviews.) As we know, that doesn’t always tell the full story. There are pros and cons to every work environment.

What am I getting at here? Well, a couple of different things.

  • How would you describe the employee experience at your company?
  • What’s the environment (culture) like in your workplace?
  • What do your employees say – both inside and outside of the company – about the company and the experience? Is this important to you?
  • How do you respond to your Glassdoor reviews?
  • Would you file a lawsuit to compel Glassdoor to turn over names of anonymous posters who provided negative feedback about their time at your company?
  • Is anonymous really anonymous? (That’s a big question for most employees when it comes to providing feedback.)
  • Do your leaders care about employees and want to hear their thoughts and opinions about the experience?
  • How are you ensuring that employees are listened to and that the feedback is put to good use?
  • Do your managers have regular 1:1s with their employees – and, when they do, don’t just talk about projects but also about people (e.g., the experience, getting to know the individual, etc.)?

Employee Experience is a Priority, But…

According to the Deloitte 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report, 80 percent of executives rated employee experience as very important, but only 22 percent said their companies excelled at designing and delivering the experience.

That’s a big gap and a big problem. Why? There are a lot of reasons, including:

  • It’s not a priority. Instead, it’s simply an annual engagement survey. You know by now that if you are going to survey an employee or a customer, you need to take action on what you learn! I once worked with a client who surveyed their employees quarterly (which was much too often, especially because they never made/had time to make changes and didn’t communicate the changes they did make), only for employees to tell me they started saving their comments from one quarter and copy-and-pasting them into the survey in subsequent quarters. Yikes! Also, years ago, I started adding a question at the end of employee surveys along the lines of, “Do you believe your leadership team will use your feedback constructively?” Or, ultimately, will they do anything with it?
  • No executive owner/ownership. For customer experience, the C-suite executive is typically a Chief Customer Officer. For many companies, there’s no real equivalent for employee experience; the work isn’t championed by – or hasn’t been assigned to – anyone (in the C-suite). Roles like People & Culture Officer or similar tell you that the organization has an employee champion. More companies need to have this role.
  • Siloed HR departments. They’ve traditionally been relegated to taking care of benefits and payroll, recruiting, hiring, etc., and they can’t seem to get resources to address an integration of those roles, designing and delivering a great employee experience, plus culture, and more. These same folks also don’t necessarily have the skillset needed to run a full employee experience “program.” You’ve got a dedicated customer experience team and strategy – why not have the same for the employee experience.
  • Need updated listening tools and processes. It’s time to listen to employees in a variety of ways, not just that annual engagement survey. There must be pulse or transactional surveys, stay interviews, employee roundtables, listening tours, 1:1s, and other listening posts to understand and to engage with employees on an ongoing basis. And get some guidance on survey design and deployment. I’ve seen some employee surveys that would make your head spin – make it make sense; make it actionable; and do something with what you hear.
  • Disparate functions and disciplines. The report states that HR tends to have a single focus or point-in-time engagement, as they call it, that has HR teams focusing on performance, diversity, wellness, workplace design, etc. as singular initiatives throughout the year rather than as integrated disciplines that must work together. Develop an employee experience strategy that includes understanding employees, their priorities and preferences, and their desired outcomes so that you can design a well-rounded, integrated  experience that meets their needs.

Employee Listening is a Must

Getting feedback from employees should never be in question; it should be on the priorities list, always. But someone needs to own that. Not having an executive owner is problematic. Not having an executive owner who is focused on the whole employee, not just on pay and benefits, is also problematic. Consider these questions as you forge ahead:

  • Who’s the executive in charge of your employee experience?
  • If you don’t have one, why not?
  • If you have one, how is that individual supported in ensuring that the employee experience is a priority?
  • How does he/she listen to employees?
  • When and where do you ask employees for feedback?
  • Are you providing various channels and opportunities for employees to provide feedback?
  • Can they provide feedback anonymously?
  • Are you listening for those canaries in the coal mine?
  • Are you able to identify emerging issues or trends that need to be nipped in the bud before it’s too late?

How You Respond Makes All the Difference

Listening to employees and taking the time to understand their needs and expectations is so important, but it’s critical that you also act on what you hear – and not months or quarters down the road. Now. As I mentioned in my last article, I’ve been talking about the importance of this for years, but the problem is, either companies weren’t listening or, if they did, they did nothing with it. Acting on feedback is critical. Had businesses taken that employee feedback seriously years ago, we might not have such a messy talent situation right now. Don’t put it off.

Ask for feedback, and then do something with it. Don’t take it personally; take it seriously. Close the loop with employees – whether it’s with an individual employee regarding feedback given during a 1:1 or a stay interview, or it’s communication to all employees about feedback given through one of your listening posts – letting employees know they were heard (and what they said was acted on) is critical to the success of designing and delivering a great employee experience. Employees obviously appreciate it and will continue to give feedback. Once the action stops, so will the feedback.

The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people. ~ Woodrow Wilson

Image courtesy of Pixabay.

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