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Employee listening – key to turning the tide on The Great Resignation?

First published on HRD

UK organisations are experiencing attrition and retention issues on a critical scale, making the so-called ‘Great Resignation’ a priority for HR leaders. In fact, WorkBuzz’s ‘The State of Employee Engagement 2021’ report revealed that ‘improving retention’ is one of the top five priorities for HR and business leaders right now. The assumption is that the Covid-19 pandemic has given workers the time to reflect on whether they are happy or not in their jobs, and many are recognising that they aren’t satisfied with their role, the opportunities open to them, how they’re looked after (or not) and their work-life balance.

When faced with employees leaving in droves, it’s not good enough to blame the fall-out from the pandemic, organisations must look inwards at how their people are treated, incentivised, and managed. And to get to the root causes of employee unhappiness, it’s never been a more important time to listen to your people. Employee listening must become part of the very fabric of an organisation’s HR strategy as Steven Frost, Founder and CEO of employee engagement expert, WorkBuzz, explains.

The urgent need for employee listening

In a recent survey of more than 30,000 global workers, 41 per cent were considering quitting or changing professions this year (Microsoft 2021). There’s speculation around the root causes of this ‘Great Resignation’ with Covid-19 putting poor leadership under the spotlight. However, organisations that don’t seek ongoing employee feedback cannot know for sure why their employees are leaving in droves. Only by listening and then responding to employee concerns and wants can the exodus be reversed. There is therefore an urgent need for an effective employee listening programme that uncovers what employees’ truly need and expect from their employer. During times of rapid change, the employee voice has never been more important.

So, what is employee listening and what does it involve?

Simply put, employee listening is ensuring that there are mechanisms in place to find out, in real time, what employees think, how they feel, whether they are considering leaving and the reasons why. Using these insights, HR leaders can act to make organisational improvements to engage their people and stop their best talent from moving on.

The most forward-thinking HR leaders will already be familiar with the “why” and “how” of gathering employee feedback and will have been prioritising employee listening during the pandemic. They will have an understanding of how their people adjusted to enforced, sudden remote working; if they had the right tools to work from home; what employee wellbeing support they needed to prioritise; and their peoples’ views on hybrid working.

Such HR leaders are constantly “listening”, rather than relying on annual employee engagement and exit surveys for gathering employee feedback. They understand that these occasional surveys only provide brief snapshots in time. Instead, they gather employee feedback frequently and in a number of ways and then quickly act upon the findings. Here are the three key employee listening tools HR leaders should employ:

Regular pulse surveys – Pulse surveys are intended as a quick and easy way to capture regular employee feedback, providing real-time insight into the health of a company and its employees. They can be sent out as regularly as the HR leader sees fit – weekly, every two weeks, monthly or quarterly. However, experience suggests that running weekly surveys, unless during a period of heightened change, often leads to low response rates. HR and business leaders simply do not have enough time to digest and act on feedback for employees to see any change. And managers are often overwhelmed by ever-changing dashboards. This is perhaps why running pulse surveys on a monthly or quarterly basis works so well for most organisations. And fewer than ten questions is ideal so that employees don’t find completing the survey a time-consuming hassle.

On-demand polls – Gauge how employees are feeling about a particular issue, such as diversity and inclusion, and find out the current state of wellbeing in the organisation by using ad hoc employee polls. Such polls are invaluable during times of change and uncertainty and were a lifeline for many organisations during lockdown. Engagement technologies with in-built templates allow a range of polls to be created and sent out quickly.

One-to-ones with leaders – Regular one-to-ones in which employees can provide verbal feedback to leaders must always complement employee surveys and polls. Managers must put time aside for regular catchups with their team members to build relationships and assess their mood, concerns, needs and wants. The best one-to-ones are always two-way, allowing the employee to input into the agenda and making both leader and employee accountable for follow-up actions.

The positive impacts of employee listening

Employee listening should be at the heart of any HR strategy. After all, if you don’t know what your people think and feel, how can you be sure that any decisions you make will be met with success? It’s also absolutely crucial for understanding how to retain your people. The Great Resignation has highlighted that companies haven’t been working hard enough to create a thriving workplace culture that has carefully considered what its people need. It’s a stark wake-up call for us all.

It’s time to learn and move forwards. And recognising how employee listening can turn around the Great Resignation so that workplace cultures become more ‘sticky’ is an important lesson. In fact, an employee feedback programme can deliver a range of benefits from improved engagement and higher retention rates through to improved diversity and inclusion.

A final thought

When faced with on-mass resignations, it’s all too easy to apportion blame to circumstances out of our control – a global pandemic that has turned the world upside down. However, not every company will be experiencing the same level of resignations and so what sets some companies apart?

Now’s the time to dig deep and to spend time understanding how employees feel, why they may be considering leaving and what can be done to keep them. And by prioritising the employee voice now, this will help to build a resilient workplace culture for the future.

Learn more about employee listening

WorkBuzz’s engagement platform supports regular employee listening strategies. Email the team on hello@workbuzz.com or book a demo here.

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