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Why you should stop relying on annual staff surveys, and start listening authentically

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"I feel powerless. My company asks for my feedback. My leader asks for my feedback. They do nothing with it. It is like they just want to say they asked for feedback."

"...There's a lot of questions to answer...and I don't even answer it anymore. It is like they want to tick the box, but they don't care what I have to say."

When people around the world were asked in separate focus groups, about how their organisations listen to feedback, that is what some of them had to say, according to O.C. Tanner's 2020 Global Culture Report.

It was further revealed that employers have for too long focused on annual employee surveys as the 'listening modality of choice', and even pulse surveys. This, however, has become a little more than a mechanism for rating and ranking, but not the most important thing - listening.

In fact, having in place just an annual survey to gather employee feedback, was found to lead to greater dissatisfaction and damage the employee experience - just 51% of employees currently think their organisation is great at listening to them, while 66% revealed they would leave for a similar job.

Thus, what employers really need to do is move away from merely gathering employee feedback and instead, start listening authentically and acting on what they've learnt.

Based on findings cited in the report, implementing a comprehensive listening programme also impacts employee burnout. Simply having a multi-method listening strategy in place can decrease burnout incidence by 28%.

Additionally, a strong listening strategy with multiple methods, communication, and action decreases the odds of employees experiencing moderate-to-severe burnout by 54%. On the other hand, when leaders dismiss employee opinions and ideas, 38% of employees become unmotivated.

How then, can employers, managers, and HR leaders implement effective ways to listen authentically to their employees?

The key lies in an active, multi-method approach.



#1 Have more than one modality in place to get staff feedback

According to an IBM study cited in the report, HR leaders who used multiple listening methods rated their company's performance and reputation as 24% higher than those who don't.

In line with that, through analysis, the report identified having ideally five modes of listening implemented, to significantly impact employee perception. That said, having more than five could decrease the probability of favourable results.

Which ways have the greatest impact?

For one, focus groups have a 105% impact on the probability of employee satisfaction with the feedback process, followed by listening through a dedicated employee (88%).

On the other hand, one-on-one interaction had the least impact on this probability (56%).



#2 Use multiple modes to communicate results publicly

About 70% of organisations are communicating the results of employee feedback, but only 30% are using multiple modalities of communication.

Seeing how open communication can make or break a company culture and employees' engagement, it was revealed that when results are communicated to staff, the probability of them feeling like their firm is 'great' at listening to employees increases by 148%.

It also brings a 112% increase in the probability of staff feeling like their leaders do stay in touch with their needs, and finally, increases the probability of feeling appreciated by 189%.



#3 Take action within three months of receiving feedback

Once you've listened, what comes next? Acting on this, of course. Taking proactive steps to address your employees' feedback is critical, in letting employees know that their feedback is valued.

In fact, when companies do take action and make changes based on feedback received, employees are 358% more likely to be satisfied with the feedback process, and 133% more likely to have a favourable perception of leadership.

In doing so, do ensure a quick turnaround - three months was found to be an ideal time-frame, to result in drastic improvements in the employee experience, engagement, and company culture.



More interestingly, making changes within just one month of receiving feedback can indeed increase the probability of staff feeling like their ideas are taken seriously, by 203%.

Lead image and infographics / O.C. Tanner

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