How an agile employee listening strategy drives organizational success

Arne Barends

Last weekend I spoke to three friends: One manages a large hospital, the second one owns a chain of bars and restaurants, and number three is responsible for the HR at a webshop in consumer goods.

How an agile employee listening stategy drives organizational success

Three friends, three sectors, three stories

Apart from the personal stuff, we, of course, discussed the impact COVID-19 has had on their businesses so far. And it might not be a surprise that they were all in completely different situations.

While the primary concern of the hospital director is to manage adequate capacity and the health of her employees, the friend in hospitality is fighting for survival, and the lady at the webshop is coping with the luxury problem of managing an explosive growth while most of her people are working remotely.

One common denominator

The interesting thing is that these three friends also have one thing in common: during these times of change and uncertainty, there has been a huge increase in communications with their staff: both in listening to the ideas and concerns of their staff members as well as communicating about the strategy and priorities. During times of uncertainty and change, keeping the pulse of your employees is crucial in order to maneuvre quickly.

Adapting your classical employee engagement surveys to the new situation

As the above experience shows, almost all organizations are now reconsidering the way they have been conducting employee engagement surveys, to match a growing need of agility in listening to their people and using their ideas for change.

The benefits of employee listening

The current situation is an accelerator for change for many companies, and your employee listening strategy and set-up can help you make that change:

  • listening more frequently
  • adapting the content to the situation at hand
  • adapting your target group to the situation at hand

How HR can lead business success

HR and employee listening are crucial to business success. Here is how employee insights can help your organization.


Agility in times of COVID-19

Let’s take the current situation as a starting point. Based on the input of hundreds of our clients and the experience of our listening specialists, we have created a simplified framework that might help you plan and design your listening set-up. It consists of two main criteria:

  • The category of the organization
  • The impact experienced from COVID-19

Without being exhaustive, the framework distinguishes three main types of organizations:

Please be aware that this is just a rough categorization. Many larger conglomorates may even have divisions in each of the three categories.

Another main differentiator is whether the business develops positively or negatively during the Corona pandemic. Even within one sector, some companies might do extremely well while others are suffering, because they made different choices in their positioning or business model. And, of course, for many organizations some positive and negative impacts will more or less balance the impact.

Impacts on the employee listening strategy

Based on these criteria you may prioritize different elements in your workplace culture and the way you set up your employee listening program. 

How to gather feedback from your employees

The definitive checklist for creating your employee engagement survey.


Towards a future proof set-up

Of course many grey zones exist between these main categories and if you are working in a larger organization, possibly some of your divisions might fall into different categories, which would require a more sophisticated landscape. In addition, multinationals will also experience significant differences on a region-by-region basis.

Furthermore, uncertainty will probably not only be around for the upcoming months. Many companies and not-for-profit organizations have already made huge steps to become more agile in order to anticipate changes in their competitive environment at a quicker rate.

It goes without saying that this also requires an Employee feedback and Employee listening landscape, which is sufficiently flexible in order to meet the diverse requirements of the different characteristics and regions of your organizational divisions.

Discussing your set-up?

In case you would like to discuss which set-up would best fit your organization, please reach out to me or one of my wonderful colleagues. We are happy to team up with you and can provide you with validated questions, benchmarks, and follow-up tools for every situation.