Designing Employee Listening Initiatives

When does your organization gather employee feedback? What questions does it ask? How often?  

Organizations that ask meaningful questions at specific moments in their employees’ lifecycles have a strategic edge. That’s where thoughtful design comes into play. Program managers need to explore the timing and the topics that:

  1. Unlock employee voice
  2. Give their organizations actionable information

 In short, great timing and relevant content are essential to successful design.

Designing the timing of your employee listening initiatives 

Think about your employee’s journeys. At most organizations an employee lifecycle includes key moments like: 

  • Onboarding
  • Anniversaries
  • Promotions
  • Exits

But there may be important moments unique to your organization, too. For example, maybe there comes a point when every employee matches with a mentor. Perhaps the end of probation is meaningful. Or maybe there are annual kick-off events or team offsites.

Map out any moments that may feel significant, transitional, nerve-racking, or exciting for employees. These are great opportunities to ask relevant questions that allow you to analyze the impact of answers on tenure.

Timing is also important when considering broad listening programs like surveys. If you run a monthly, quarterly, or annual survey or focus group, you need to avoid holiday seasons, end of quarter rushes, or other times when a large number of employees will feel absent or stressed.

It’s important to meet employees where they are by listening when and where employees share. However, requests for feedback at carefully chosen times should also be an important part of your strategy.

Designing the content in your employee listening initiatives

One benefit of establishing specific times to listen is that your organization can select the topics about which it wants feedback. Successful programs design questions and conversation starters that meet at the intersection of employee and organizational needs. Why? Because:

  •  Employees are likelier to engage and share if topics are relevant to them.
  •  Organizations are likelier to take meaningful action on topics that are relevant to their goals.

So what does your content design look like?

Focused – Our EX experts maintain that short, focused content is most effective. This may mean a one-two minute survey, a single slide for a manger to discuss with their teams, or a ten minute focus group.

Trackable – When it comes to topics where your organization needs to determine whether they are moving the needle, you’ll need to ask for feedback on the same content over time. This may be as broad as “Do you enjoy working at X company?” asked in a quarterly pulse survey. Or it may be more complex, like an annual focus group devoted to how well the company is performing on its DEI initiatives.  engagement teams need to be particularly careful selecting topics that achieve both aims.

Measurable – How will your organization analyze employees’ feedback? Before launching a listening strategy, design with your organization’s capabilities in mind  If you don’t have the tools or resources to code qualitative content, don’t leave questions open-ended. Alternatively, if your organization is more interested in case studies and stories, you may favor in-person interviews over mass surveys.

Unbiased – Eliminating bias is often the trickiest part of listening program design. Most of us go into listening with unconscious bias: ideas about the “right” answer or hypotheses about what we’ll learn. For surveys, it can be helpful to use survey platforms that contain libraries of preset questions. This ensures alignment with survey science best practices. If you are building your own questions, or creating facilitated conversations and focus groups, our EX team recommends seeking guidance from a survey expert to reduce bias that could skew results.

Together, carefully designed timing and content go a long way toward more effective, inclusive listening.

Raise awareness and raise excitement for your next employee listening initiative with great design. If you need support with this, or any element of employee experience, reach out to HRIZONS EX here

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