Enough with the big survey event! If you’re looking to improve employee engagement (and who isn’t, these days?), a simple annual questionnaire doesn’t cut it. Employees expect to have a voice in their organization, and smart companies realize that listening to their ideas can improve business outcomes: a win-win. Creating a culture where the Voice of the Employee (VoE) is valued and used continuously is a must.
The most successful companies do this by adopting an agile listening approach, where companies learn more from and about their employees through continuous conversation. These programs are proactive, encouraging employees to start conversations, and dynamic, constantly feeding this insight into decision-makers at all levels. If your VoE program isn’t as proactive and dynamic as it should be, it may be time to reconsider how it was built.
Step 1: Reframe Your Approach
Are your employees happy? Ideally… but that’s not the right question to ask. Smart employee engagement strategies focus on whether employees have emotional ties to their job. This is a more relevant metric since employee dissatisfaction or disengagement comes from feelings of not being heard. This is where engagement programs can make a difference.
When looking to drive engagement, you must develop a responsive approach to listening. Successful programs combine proactive, solicited surveys at key stages of the employee lifecycle with unsolicited, reactive methods like online comment boxes and social media sources. This makes continuous feedback easy for employees. This process is critical to understanding your employees’ impact on your business at every stage. For example, those in frontline call center positions have the most knowledge about the customers they speak to daily. They have a clear view on how they can elevate CX, and their understanding of customer pain points is greater than, say, C-suite executives, who are removed from direct customer interaction.
Employees might feel like they can make an impact, but if they do not believe they have the opportunity, they will not be engaged in the process. And what a huge waste of insight that would be!
Step 2: Build a Feedback Culture
You’ve got a team of employees, a new suite of tools, buy-in from leadership and a rollout plan. But do you have a strong VoE program? Maybe not. Until you’ve built a culture where employees feel empowered to share their feedback—and see the impact of their ideas—your program won’t be doing enough to drive the business forward. Here’s what a successful program, eliciting continuous feedback that informs business change, looks like:
- It encourages proactive participation: Ask for ideas. Short surveys can be a great way to kick-start the process and get employees used to sharing their input.
- It’s a safe space: Allow employees to give feedback anonymously, at least initially, so people feel protected and have trust in the process.
- It inspires real talk and creativity: Encourage people to rock the boat and make it clear that any ideas are welcome, even if not all feedback is positive.
- It prioritizes active listening: Show employees it is worthwhile to share ideas by communicating feedback and telling employees what you have heard from other sources.
This approach works even better in team-centric models—where people group up and then disband as initiatives come and go—because it provides the structure and framework to capture and act on the continually changing dynamics of the business, from multiple points of view.
Step 3: Turn Knowledge into Action
A common complaint from frontline managers is that feedback is not actionable, is outdated or that the outcomes are not within their control. This is frustrating for everyone: the managers, who feel ill-equipped to drive change; the employees, who feel that their voices aren’t being taking seriously; and especially for you, with no real outcome to show for all your effort. The harsh reality is that your programs only deliver value when they can deliver change.
As you gather more data from more sources—and more frequently—you must prioritize making feedback actionable. Consider three important factors:
- Frequency: Do you have to wait until the end of a project to share feedback? Not necessarily. Keeping decision-makers in the loop throughout the process allows them to act quickly on important issues, and makes it easier to tackle suggestions piecemeal, instead of in one large chunk.
- Delivery: Effective programs use feedback management platforms and analytic dashboards to automate the real-time delivery of data. If your change-makers can keep a pulse on feedback throughout the process, that gives them even more autonomy to address problems.
- History: Don’t forget about the insights you’ve already gathered! Connecting the dots between earlier feedback and new suggestions will give you—and your change managers—a better idea about sticking points that remain top-of-mind for your employees.
This isn’t an easy process: A successful approach takes time, effort and often a fundamental change in culture, but you’ll find that actively engaging employees leads to smarter decisions and better business outcomes. Continuously tapping into your workforce’s powerful knowledge helps you secure high-performing employees, elevate CX and improve the entire organization.