Career Moves



Ryan Broad

Is your organisation really listening to you?

  • by Ryan Broad
  • 10 Nov 2016

Ryan Broad looks at what it means for an organization to really listen to their employees.

Employee engagement surveys are probably the most common way for managers to understand what their teams think of their jobs and the company they work for.

However, traditional employee engagement surveys have proved unsuccessful in measuring what really matters for employees. Most of the time they don’t provide an honest and accurate assessment, they are performed sporadically and often they are not followed up by any real action to change the Employee Experience. Managers have grown so accustomed to counting on the employee engagement surveys for data and to chart their own contributions to the company that they rarely pause to think about how the business can change to enhance the Employee’s Experience.

When employees don't feel like their input is having an effect, it becomes so much harder to stay invested in the company. Why care about a company that doesn't care about you or your opinion?

To overcome this, we need to adopt a new more holistic approach to measuring employee’s engagement. We need to start including the Voice of the Employee in the business’ shaping process.

So what exactly is employee voice?

Employee voice is the means by which employees communicate their views on employment and organisational issues to their employers. It's the main way employees can influence matters that affect them. Employees can have voice directly, by giving management their views themselves, or indirectly through representatives. The Voice of the Employee can be defined as the summarised needs, desires, hopes and preferences of all employees within an organisation. The Voice of the Employee takes into account spoken needs, such as wages, health care and retirement savings, as well as unspoken needs that can include job satisfaction and the respect of their co-workers and supervisors.

Listening to the Voice of the Employee gives answers about what really matters to the people who work in a business. It provides the intelligence essential to develop an employee experience strategy aimed at building better, happy, more productive workplaces.

Employee voice exists where the organisation has put mechanisms in place to enable it to have an ongoing conversation with its staff in different ways and to ensure that every voice is heard. To be successful it has to be a 2-way continuous process where feedback is followed up with real actions.

Creating the right tools to listen to the Voice of the Employee can drive far more results in the long term business strategy than the traditional forms of employee research. Employee voice provides a concise qualitative analysis (as opposed to traditional quantitative data) and it is more accurate and reliable as it minimizes false positive results. It also offers a more extensive data coverage as it can involve the use of different media such as face to face meetings, focus groups, social media and the company website.

The employees’ feedback should be used to empower the organisation, to help redesign processes and drive the change. Meaningful and sustainable actions should be taken to make a difference in the way people see the organisation and in the way the business operates to make it a more purposeful work place.

Engaged employees = happy customers?

By relating the Customer Experience with the Employee Experience and making the Employee Experience part of the business strategy. More and more organisations are coming to the realisation that in order to deliver a great Customer Experience, they must first create an engaging Employee Experience. What motivates employees is feeling connected to the brand promise. Organisations need to focus on purpose beyond profit, hire people that fit with the brand values and encourage rites and rituals as motivational moments to remind employees about their higher purpose.

Research proves that solving customers’ problems has a direct impact on employees’ satisfaction and sense of purpose. Our employees’ satisfaction and engagement are proportional to our customer satisfaction and engagement. Senior managers need to set the example. The way they treat employees reflects how employees will treat customers. Leaders must communicate a sense of purpose and constantly reinforce the values of the organisation. Above all, they must encourage colleagues to observe and challenge the organisation through customers’ eyes and model this same behaviour in their own decision making.

Secondly, managers need to ask the right questions in order to achieve a meaningful engagement that can ultimately lead to better employees’ performances. Don’t focus only on what it may be important for the employees in terms of their experience within an organisation (salary, benefits, working environment & relations with co-workers) but look also at the understating your employees have of the organisation’s goals and how much they feel included. Asking questions like: ‘Do you understand the strategic goals of your organization?’, ‘Can you see a clear link between your work and the company’s goals and objectives?’, ‘Does your team inspire you to do your best work?’, ‘Do you have the appropriate amount of information to make correct decisions about your work?’ can help assess the level of your employees’ engagement and how much they are inspired to do their best.

Once we gather the data, we must focus on internal improvements instead of performing external benchmarks that have little or no meaning to the actual experience our employees are having. In the long run our best benchmark will be with our historical series of meaningful changes to enhance both the Employee and the Customer Experience and ultimately to make the organisation more efficient and drive growth and profits.

Leveraging the power of social media

Recently a growing number of organisations have started leveraging social media as a primary tool to gather the employee voice. By its nature, social media is designed to build community and could help engage employees on key topics such as performance, collaboration, culture and values. Social media can also be used to enhance the experience of remote employees who can often feel left out. Including social media in a Voice of the Employee strategy is shifting patterns of communication, from being one-way or two-way to being multi-directional. For the first time, social technologies are allowing new forms of collaboration that include mechanisms for making collective decisions. This aggregation is crucial in the evolution of employee voice and the result is a new form of collective voice that is mobile, organised and intelligent.

The use of social media can also provide a more authentic employee voice as this has shifted the perspective from giving employees a say behind closed doors to giving them a say in an open forum. Social technologies that allow people to read and rate each other’s comments are able to identify comments that resonate the most within that community and can help the organisation make informative decision based on the ‘word of wisdom’. 

This article first appeared on LinkedIn and has been re-posted with full permision.

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