In 2015, a Gallup poll revealed that 50.8% of US employees were “not engaged”, while 17.2% were “actively disengaged”. This is a scary thought for the future of our companies. If you think about it, we’re constantly striving for greater customer satisfaction and product improvement, so why aren’t we giving the same vital attention to our strongest asset—our employees? Today we’re going to talk about the evolution of employee voice in helping support our ever-changing needs to listen to and understand our employees to better engage them. It starts with active listening.
Why is Employee Engagement Important?
Taking excellent care of your customers yet failing to adequately engage your employees is like spending all your time caring for your child while failing to prioritize your spouse.
Your employees are your team. More than that, your employees are your success and your vitality. They’re the magic ingredient in everything. The future of your company rides on them. Your customer satisfaction rates ride on them. And the more engaged they are, the more involved they’ll be. No matter what product you’re building or no matter what service you’re offering, your #1 priority should be your employees. It’ll make all the difference in the world.
But you already knew that 🙂
The Evolution of Employee Voice
Our systems are constantly improving to be better and more effective. Just look at the evolution of achievement and award programs–while employers used to reward employees every five years, based on nothing more than presence, achievement ethics today have greatly progressed, with recognition and reward systems working on monthly, weekly, or even daily timeframes, focusing on more specific value-sets and behaviours and inspiring employees to grow. This positive progression in recognition and reward systems has resulted in greater employee fulfillment and engagement at work.
The workforce is becoming more modern in all areas–and employee voice is a crucial area, deserving of both ingenuity and attention. It’s our duty as business leaders to make positive improvements in the evolution of employee voice for the greater success of both employers and employees.
Your employees deserve to feel valued, cared for, and heard. They deserve to be part of the conversation—a conversation that should ideally take place more than once a year. Not only do they deserve it, they expect it. And when they do have that voice, there’s a lot of evidence on the impact of higher engagement. That being said, while annual surveys can give a snapshot overview of the year, employees and your business will flourish with more constant communication.
Just like all elements of the employee life cycle, technology and our approach to reflect the modern workforce and employee has changed the way we do things. We’re seeing this everywhere with items like talent acquisition being different with new technologies and the performance management process changing dramatically.
The way we listen to employees and offer a safe place for feedback is changing as well. We’ll offer an overview of where this process is going.
1. Annual Surveys
Now, more than ever, it’s crucial to continue to engage our employees, yet the way we often measure engagement and give employees a voice is outdated.
The annual survey method is inadequate for employees:
Imagine facing a challenge in the workplace, and then having to wait 365 days until your concern was addressed. Imagine trying to do your job, day in day out, without feeling like you were being heard or appreciated. Imagine if there were no opportunity for you to give your feedback until the yearly annual survey came around, and then having to wait additional months for any change to begin to take place.
The annual survey is also long and generic, making it both a bland and a convoluted process for your precious employees to have to wrestle through. What’s more, it typically isn’t representative of the whole year. Think of how difficult it sometimes is to remember what we ate for dinner last night. How much more difficult would it be to recall specific work experiences from six months ago?
As LearnGeek shares in “5 Problems with Employee Engagement Surveys”: “It is a lot more likely that we’re spending a pile of money to see how employees are feeling about the past few days. The rest of the year could have been amazing, but a bad moment last week could radically shift the feedback for groups of employees.”
Employees do not work in years and quarters; they work in days and hours. And we want to make sure we’re giving them the support that they need, day in, day out. This is why companies are beginning to evolve and either completely remove, or supplement the annual engagement survey.
The annual survey method is inadequate for HR and employers:
When our methods are outdated, it doesn’t make life any easier on the employers in our companies. They’re the ones who are tasked with the nearly impossible job of sorting through huge amounts of data to try and somehow separate out both the specific and overall sentiment of their employees, while working to determine actionable insight, all without modernized tools.
As LearnGeek shares in the same article: “Because the survey is constructed and executed without local context, managers are left to interpret the results and figure out how to turn the data into tangible actions. This often results in responses that are too little, too late or off-target due to the local interpretation of the results and related employee needs.”
While the Annual Survey method was the first progression in the evolution of employee voice, our updated knowledge allows us to take leaps and bounds beyond this long outdated method.
2. Employee Pulse
Another recent popular method of gaining employee feedback is through the Employee Pulse. This is a shorter, more focused group of survey questions that can be sent out on a frequent basis, and this flexibility means that the Pulse can potentially be an incredibly effective tool.
When you’re able to consistently connect with your employees, you’re better able to understand the work vibe and therefore take more effective measures to ensure that things run smoothly at work. The trick is to determine and embrace the most effective measure–the most evolved, efficient means for success.
As an employee, receiving an employee pulse is much more comprehensive than a vague annual survey, however, there is still room to improve. One problem is that the employee pulse can be repetitive and impersonal, with the same questions every time. This can cause employees to feel like it’s a process on autopilot and leave them wondering if leadership is actually listening.
If you want your employees to feel fully engaged and understood, there is one option that goes above and beyond both the employee pulse and the annual survey. Its modern methods and cutting-edge efficiency offer the most exciting and successful progression in the evolution of employee voice. It’s the concept of Active Listening.
3. Active Listening
Imagine if you could build accountability and trust with your employees so that they felt safe to open up and share their feelings and experiences. If you were able to build a strong foundation with your team, a team who felt appreciated and valued. If you were able to hear your team’s concerns and reply effectively and immediately.
With the Active Listening approach, employers are able to get a baseline for employees, trend survey results over a period of time, and then ask more tailored specific questions based on the active listening and the results of the previous surveys. This isn’t just the same questions over and over–these are insightful, developing questions that pay attention to the employee’s answers, listen, and then act.
Active listening can be complemented by both the annual survey and the Employee Pulse, and using all of these tools together can enhance both knowledge and understanding. This foundation of trust is what builds relationships, and relationships build opportunities.
Think about your customers. The most loyal ones are the ones who feel supported, the ones who trust you and enjoy working with you. Why not foster the same level of relationship with your employees? They are, after all, your key to successful customer relations and product management, as well as your key to high profitability and company success.
In terms of a structure, active listening supports the following:
- a consistent question on a frequent cadence to support sentiment in the organization that can be measured
- rotating questions that dive into more specific issues or gaps over time after a baseline of key questions tied to main engagement drivers
- asking questions relevant to the business to get real-time insight and feedback about what’s happening in the company today (or going to happen) such as reactions to major announcements or large organizational changes.
But is it working?
How do you know if you’ve won their loyalty and support? There’s a popular method often used to measure customer loyalty called the Net Promotor Score. It’s a simple, easy test that anyone can do, and it’s typically both effective and accurate. We think that this is a great tool, and it reaches even further when applied to employees as well. Here’s a quick rundown:
eNPS – Employee Net Promotor Score:
This is a standard measure that helps you get a sense of your employees’ overall sense of loyalty and engagement. Ask:
“How likely are you to recommend our company to your friends and family?”
Calculating the score is easy—it ranks from 0-10, with 1 being most unlikely, and 10 being very likely. You can then group your employees into three groups based on their scores in order to derive the net engagement:
- Promoters (9-10): Employees who love the company and will recommend it to others.
- Passives (7-8): Employees who are ambivalent.
- Detractors (0-6): Employees who are unhappy and may advise against working with you.
So listen to them. And take action. Nurture happy employees. Nurture company Promoters.
They key here is to create meaningful experiences. To prove to employees that you’re listening and that you care. That you’re on their side, and you’re going to support. There’s so much more involved in employee engagement than mere data collection, as stated in the White Paper Series:
“The ability to convert data insights into practical and impactful action is a critical area where most companies fall short once data has been collected….Organizations have become very adept at administering surveys and collecting feedback from associates; however, they are less adept at what to do with that information and enabling managers to take meaningful action.”
And it doesn’t end at active listening. Listening is only half the battle because employee engagement is about a conversation. It’s about action. Listen first, and then, armed with those insights, take move forwards.
We’ll be writing more on this topic, but until then, an excellent article on the topic is: Five reasons employees are like consumers and what to do.