Employee listening

If you ever travel through London Heathrow airport, you've probably seen the quick push-button customer polls after security asking ‘how your experience was’. In Geneva airport, they take it a whole step further – these instant polls are everywhere from food counters and even in the toilets! Imagine simply having one by the door when your employees leave each day to go home, asking 'how we did today'. I’ve heard of a couple of companies doing this, and it’s certainly an interesting idea!

 Geneva airport quick poll

Geneva airport quick poll

Not surprisingly, most companies do a fantastic job collecting and looking at customer data nowadays and working to improve products and services based on that data. Yet, many of these same companies collect very little feedback from their own people in order to improve workplace culture. 

A feedback survey once or twice per year to get the pulse of your organisation doesn’t really cut it. Imagine if you only got data from your customers once or twice a year! In this day and age, you'd probably go out of business. And, how can you expect your people to accurately recall how they’ve felt over the course of the year at one point in time? 

That said, there is a place for these surveys - the key thing is knowing the types of questions to ask, and the way that they are best asked.

However, it's really important to also be getting continuous feedback and constantly listening - both qualitatively and quantitatively - in order to improve workplace culture. There are a lot of ways to listen and gather data that work both for employees and customers alike. 

Quick polls

Quick polls - only a couple questions and timely in relation to the subject matter - are an easy way to listen more regularly. You can have them on your intranet, in your newsletter, anywhere really these days (such as in the airport examples!), and there are plenty of tools and applications that make them easy to create and more interactive. It doesn’t necessarily have to be serious all the time either – anything from a topical subject in the news to what they thought of the recent townhall presentation or new product launch. Make it so people enjoy it and want to engage. 

When I headed up comms at Research Now, we constantly ran quick polls with our people and tracked data over time to look for trends and changes. We also conducted surveys before launching new employee programmes, like our giving back initiative. We made the results of the feedback transparent immediately – and if a theme did come out negatively, we addressed it quickly. Negative employee feedback is not an uncomfortable secret to be kept from the very people who gave it to you. Often, it's simply clear communication of context which helps people to understand why something is a certain way. 

Behavioural/Passive data

The availability of passive data is becoming more and more prevalent. So, for example, you can look at what sort of things people are reading/engaging in from e-newsletters to internal websites. You can measure how different spaces (cafes vs conference rooms) impact productivity among groups and so on.  You can monitor office ‘buzz’ at different times of day. Just as with customer insight, the trick is to combine different forms of data effectively in order to derive ever more sophisticated and timely conclusions. 

Social media listening

Ten years ago, most companies were unsure about the implications of customer feedback via social media - how to collect it, monitor it, respond to it. Businesses need to think differently on how to approach social media and policy in terms of their employees as well. There are lots of tools which can allow you to get a pulse on the conversation in social media. There are also some great applications which encourage your people to help play a role in sharing your company's content digitally. 

Feedback forums

Finally, don’t discount just spending time talking with people across the organisation to gain understanding - such as employee feedback forums/lunches and good old fashioned ‘management by walking around'. Qualitative feedback allows you to go deeper in terms of context. 

These are just a few of the many ways to listen -- of course, it's ideal to use a combination of several different methods. The more information you have, the better understanding you can start to have (and can link this info to customer data too!). 

Employee listening is a huge part of engaging your people – and ensuring they are both happy and productive. Take a note from some of the best companies to work for who are always testing to find ways to optimise their people, both in terms of happiness and performance.

Ashley Walker is Founder & CEO at Culture Engineers, and advises clients on internal & external communications strategy, branding, employee experience and management practices. She spent nearly a decade of her career working for businesses in the market research industry including Research Now Group (the world's largest online data collection business) and Hall & Partners (Omnicom Group's largest research agency).