Back Close Menu

Welcome to Terryberry where we transform employee engagement with one powerful platform. Get started today!

How to Build Employee Listening Strategies That Drive Change

July 14, 2023

Your employees are your company's most valuable asset, but it might not always feel that way.

Without a comprehensive and effective employee listening strategy, you may be taking your workers for granted—and that could be pushing them towards an avoidable early exit.

Experts say that the foundation of a healthy relationship is communication, and that's true for your employees' connection with your business.

You need respect, patience, listening, and conversations to create a productive environment for everyone, but that doesn't happen overnight.

Employee listening is more than just surveys and data gathering—it's gathering meaningful insights and inspiring data-driven actions.

It's shifting away from gut decisions and industry best practices towards personalized approaches and decision-making tailored to your employees and their unique needs.

Done right, employee listening can help:

  • Attract top talent
  • Retain employees
  • Engage your workforce
  • Create a best-in-class employee experience
  • Identify weaknesses
  • Proactively solve problems

New to an employee listening strategy? We've got you covered.

Below, we'll walk you through everything you need to know to build an employee listening strategy custom-made for your business and employees.

What Is Employee Listening?

Employee listening is a strategic method of hearing your employees' thoughts, opinions, and concerns.

It's about transforming communication into a two-way conversation—where employees can comfortably voice their wants and needs in a safe and supportive environment.

You might hear "employee listening" and think something along the lines of George Orwell's Big Brother always watching you. That's not the kind of employee listening we're talking about here.`

Your workplace is more than just a location for workers to show up, put their hours in, and take home a paycheck.

It's a place for friendships, productivity, thought-sharing, and career development.

However, when employees feel isolated and unheard, they can turn off and become unengaged. They'll either stick around and grind out the monotony of their work, or they'll abandon ship for another business with brighter prospects.

Either way, it's a loss for your business.

Fortunately for many organizations, employee listening isn't rocket science. It's a bit of natural back-and-forth—an open dialogue between employers and employees.

Your employee listening program gives workers stages, situations, and tools to safely share their thoughts, and then it's up to you to listen and proactively take steps to address their concerns.

Here are a few employee listening tools you can use to encourage employees to speak up:

  • One-on-one meetings
  • Focus groups
  • Anonymous suggestion boxes
  • Online chats
  • Pulse surveys
  • Engagement surveys
  • Experience surveys
  • Performance feedback
  • Social feedback

Does Your Company Need an Employee Listening Program?

Every business could benefit from an employee listening program.

Without direct feedback and conversations with your employees, you'll just be throwing resources at your workers and hoping something sticks.

While that might work from time to time, it's not a sustainable strategy for attracting, retaining, and engaging top talent in the workplace.

You need insights and analytics to make data-backed decisions concerning your employees.

Here are a few things to consider:

  • What benefits should you include in your package?
  • Do employees feel like they're being fairly compensated?
  • Does your workforce feel safe bringing up controversial ideas?
  • Can all your employees bring their authentic selves to work?
  • Is anyone subject to unconscious bias or discrimination in the workplace?

These sensitive issues go unaddressed without an effective employee listening strategy that identifies (and solves) them.

86% of employees feel that people at their workplace aren't heard fairly or equally, and 47% of workers believe the voices of historically marginalized communities aren't represented.

And for those that do feel heard, 40% of them don't feel their feedback leads to actionable change.

You might feel like your workplace is different, but you'll never know for sure without a comprehensive employee listening program.


Why Use Employee Listening Tools?

The workplace is changing quickly, and your business can't afford to wait (or rely on) industry studies and data. You need actionable insights to know how to boost employee engagement, and you need it as fast as possible.

Employee listening and feedback tools help you collect real-time insights from your staff. You can poll them as often as you want and create a work culture of transparency and accountability with open communication.

Here are a few examples of things you could learn with employee listening tools:

  • Discover if managers are under (or over) performing
  • Learn how the morale at the business is doing
  • Find out which benefits your employees want
  • See if diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) training is working
  • Uncover if there are any issues, discrimination, or unconscious bias
  • Learn if employees are engaged with their work

Discovering this information proactively is better than waiting to hear it during an employee's exit interview.

Your employees' wants and needs aren't set in stone. What's important to them in January might not be important in September, and your business needs real-time insights to make the best decisions.

How to Build an Employee Listening Strategy

A comprehensive employee listening strategy involves more than just sending out sporadic surveys to see how your employees are doing.

It requires goal-setting, regular check-ins, appropriate listening channels, accountability, and action.

Here's how to build an employee listening strategy from the ground up:

  1. Set Clear Goals
  2. See What's Working
  3. Choose Your Listening Channels
  4. Analyze Your Data
  5. Act on Feedback
  6. Build a Safe and Inclusive Environment

1. Set Clear Goals

It may sound simple, but one of the most important steps in employee listening is clearly defining your goals. So, take the time to outline what you hope to accomplish with your employee listening program.

Do you need to solve cultural issues, or are you looking to boost employee engagement? How will you measure success, and what does success look like?

These goals will be what you refer back to over time to gauge how effective your employee listening methods really are.


2. See What's Working

Look at the tactics and strategies you've used to gauge your employee engagement survey feedback in the past. Do you find more engagement from focus groups or surveys?

Do your employees feel comfortable speaking up in all-hands meetings, or do they prefer to use anonymous suggestion boxes?

Keep in mind, some of your more introverted employees may have great ideas that they're too self-conscious about to share.

Use this information to drive which methods you should devote most of your resources into developing.

3. Choose Your Listening Channels

Determine which channels you will use to collect employee feedback and insights.

Something like a Google Form might help you manage survey responses well, but an employee engagement survey solution can help you turn your survey data into actionable insights.

Ask your employees what tools they'd like to use to provide feedback.

You might feel like your candid work environment is open to frank conversations, but you might be neglecting valuable introverts on your team who don't want to speak up in a group setting.


4. Analyze Your Data

Gathering data is just the beginning—next, you need to convert it into insights you can use.

Measure employee engagement and trends over time to determine your trajectory to hitting company goals.

Consider using pulse surveys to collect real-time feedback about top-of-mind concerns.

For example, if you announce a change to your benefits program, don't wait until the end of the year to figure out what your employees think about it.

Send out a quick-and-easy survey your employees can complete in less than 60 seconds.

Data cuts and visualization charts can help you make sense of your raw data. Sometimes, it just takes an illustration to give your team the "aha" moment it needs to make the right decision.

Employee Surveys5. Act on Feedback

Use these data points to drive action. When making decisions that impact your employees, link them back to your employee listening data.

How will this affect your company goals? What do employees think about this situation?

Prioritize areas that require attention and create actionable steps to address them.

Communicate the action plan to your employees to let them know their feedback is being taken seriously and their voices are heard.

For example, if you close one of your offices in favor of remote work, show your employees how the data inspired this choice.


6. Build a Safe and Inclusive Environment

Foster a culture of psychological safety where employees feel comfortable expressing their opinions and concerns without fear of negative consequences.

If employees are too afraid to speak up, your employee listening feedback will be superficial, which won't help drive change or engagement.

Encourage open and honest communication. Ensure that all employees have equal opportunities to share their feedback, regardless of their position or level in the organization.



3 Must-Have Employee Listening Tools

With so many employee feedback tools on the market, finding the right one can feel like looking for a needle in a haystack. Many have look-a-like features and functionality, while some charge enterprise prices for a slightly upgraded experience.

How do you know which is the right tool for your business, and what should you know before you make a big investment?

Below, we'll walk you through three of the core criteria you should use to evaluate employee feedback tools.

While some are better for certain situations, a handful of tried-and-true methods work for most companies and industries.


1. Employee Engagement Surveys

Use quick, real-time pulse surveys to collect candid feedback quickly. Employee surveys let you easily collect feedback from your employees at regular intervals (weekly, monthly, quarterly, or annually).

While one-time surveys can reveal powerful insights, it's even better when you compare surveys over time to discover trends. Use this data to track trends and measure progress over time.

Then, if you notice a metric dipping (or moving in the right direction), look for recent factors that might have impacted it.

One-time pulse surveys can be another excellent tool for collecting real-time feedback from employees. Need to make an important decision but can't wait until the next scheduled survey?

Send out a pulse survey to gather thoughts and opinions from your employees.

Find an employee engagement survey platform that comes with all the pre-built tools you need. These should include templates, customizable surveys, sending capabilities, analytics, and automation.


2. Social Feedback and Communication Platform

Empower your employees to support each other and leave public feedback about employee and team wins. 360 feedback tools let your employees provide feedback in a private (or anonymous) way, but a social feedback (or peer recognition) tool makes this process public.

Consider it a social platform for celebrating individual and team wins.

Public recognition and feedback help boost employee morale. Individuals like to feel seen for their hard work, and it means the world to them when someone else notices (and speaks up).

Provide a safe place for this kind of open communication with a social feedback and communication platform—it's a private space for your employees to chat and comment at work.

Unlike social media platforms, this information stays private, and other people can't join the conversations.

A social recognition platform lets your management team step out of the picture for a bit while employees naturally provide thoughts and praise about each other.


3. Anonymous Feedback Box

Sometimes, you don't need a thought-out survey—you just need a way to let employees anonymously provide feedback and ask questions. Some employees might want to vent, and others may want to ask sensitive questions that they don't want to be tied to their names.

Let your employees provide feedback on their own schedule with an anonymous feedback box.

Some business leaders may worry that anonymous feedback opens up the floodgates to trolling and negative comments, but that's not always the case.

Employees could be embarrassed about a question they have—whether that's because it exposes too much personal information (like regarding mental health or a disability) or makes them seem unintelligent or weak.

Employees can use this form to leave thoughts and suggestions outside the scope of regularly scheduled surveys.

You can interact with these anonymous notes to have a back-and-forth conversation where employees feel safe from negative consequences or retaliation.


Listen to Your Employees with Terryberry 

Ready to build your employee listening program? Let us help.

Terryberry now offers a complete suite of employee listening tools to supplement your strategy. Whether you need pulse surveys, anonymous feedback boxes, or a social recognition platform, we've got you covered.

These solutions include:

Ready to learn more? Schedule a demo with our team to get a hands-on walkthrough of how Terryberry can transform the culture of your workplace.