Feedback maturity: the art of listening

Merel van der Lei

Babies cry to tell us what they need. New parents quickly learn what the difference is between crying because of hunger, cold or a bad dream. This helps them do the right thing: give the baby a bottle, wrap it in a warm blanket or smother it with kisses.

Feedback maturity: the art of listening

As an organization, the more mature your response is to what you hear, the more you will learn from listening.

Acknowledging small changes

Listening well is important in many areas of our lives. For example, I once heard about a technician who visited the engine room every morning to listen to the noise of the machines. Sometimes he would here an irregularity in the rhythm, a change in the vibration or a ticking sound. In some cases, this was a harbinger of a fault with potentially major consequences. Just imagine the lost productivity his organization would suffer if he hadn’t noticed these tiny sound variations and raised the alarm on time.

Feedback maturity

I’m sure you can feel it coming: listening to employees is also important. And because you never know beforehand what will happen – 2020 is proof of that – you should always have the right tools at the ready. Continuous listening doesn’t mean bombarding your employees with questionnaires on a daily basis. However, an intelligently designed listening landscape does mean asking the right people the right questions at the right moment – and then doing something with what you hear. The extent to which you are able to do this is your feedback maturity.

The reward is great

Organizations that use feedback to improve their operational processes notice that their employees’ efficiency increases in subsequent checks.


Their enthusiasm also increases.


This is good news, because enthusiastic employees have greater adaptability, are more productive and are less likely to seek a new job. This makes employee surveys a win-win-win action.

Maximum learning from feedback


You can use pulses to investigate various themes in specific ways, within the right job group, region or department. You can use them to monitor merger processes, the success of culture changes or the quality of leadership in your organization. You can also achieve a great deal by passing the results of pulses back to employees. This helps encourage discussion and involves everyone in change processes. You can also help teams improve their team dynamic with team pulses. Finally, they help you carry out follow-up research that is as focused as possible. As an organization, the more mature your response is to what you hear, the more you will learn from listening.

Realizing your opportunities


Every organization goes through phases. During each phase, the organization has different goals. The extent to which you reach these goals determines your success. If you also keep a close eye on the employee experience, you can achieve more in every area.

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Employees who perform better

By listening, you can increase the capacity to perform of employees during every phase of the employee life cycle.


Take onboarding. New employees like to tell others about their new job. Have they been given all possible help and resources to get off to a flying start? What could be done better? This helps you make targeted improvements to the onboarding process. The same also applies to offboarding, for example: if you learn why employees leave you can do a better job of retaining high achievers.

Responding rapidly to a crisis


During major external events, such as the corona crisis of 2020, you can use flexible pulse checks to discover quickly if your crisis management is working well and if your employees can perform effectively. By zooming in on the right topics, you can overcome sudden chaos sooner as an organization.

Flexible employee listening landscape

This year, a growing number of organizations discovered that a carefully considered employee listening landscape offers them the tools to quickly understand major changes in the employee experience, both centrally and decentrally. By making flexible adaptations to the scope and focus of pulses in response to internal and external developments, these organizations could quickly understand the essential aspects of the employee experience and key places within the organization. This shows that by listening better, you can recover quicker in difficult situations and strengthen the bond with your employees.

Every organization has its own listening landscape, 2 examples


A scale-up, with around a hundred employees, is growing rapidly. It’s important that their employees grow with them. As such, they carried out an alignment pulse across the organization every three months during 2019. This revealed a problem: everyone was working so hard that there was too little time to onboard new people. They therefore began carrying out onboarding surveys among new employees. What did they need most of all? As a result of that same growth, this scale-up also wanted to monitor the team collaboration. In team pulses, teams were given the freedom to choose topics themselves, from role clarity to workload. In 2020, COVID pulses for the whole organization were added. These have helped this organization respond rapidly to current developments for the past two years. And successfully: the organization grew once again in 2020.


A multinational with around five thousand employees was formed in 2018 as the result of a merger. To establish a baseline, the company initiated an organization-wide employee survey. In the following year, enthusiasm proved to have fallen. The most important cause was cultural confusion. In response, the organization’s values and standards became an important part of the onboarding of every new employee. Because it is a large organization and because a lot happened during the corona crisis, this organization carried out both a response pulse and a recovery pulse in 2020 in response to the corona crisis. During the response pulse, they discovered how they could immediately help employees perform better. In the recovery pulse, they collected ideas to improve operational processes under new circumstances.

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