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There are a lot of steps involved in getting your organization running the best it can be, many of which rely on having the right people in the right jobs. Not only do they need to be in the jobs, but they need to be engaged, committed, and invested in the organization.
With the shift in employee expectations over the past several years, it’s not as simple as it once was to figure out how to secure and motivate the talented employees you need. The economic, societal, and familial pressures employees continue to face result in steadily shifting priorities, desires, and wants. It would be nearly impossible to guess what those employee expectations might be, so why not ask your employees directly?
A powerful strategy that has emerged is the practice of employee listening. By actively listening to your employees' concerns and ideas, companies can create a culture of trust and collaboration. What will make them value their role in your organization and want to contribute to your success? What is the best way to motivate them?
Here are 5 steps to get you started with effective employee listening and how it can boost workforce engagement.
Over the past 4 to 5 years, employees’ fundamental assumptions about work have shifted. Sure, some of the change is directly related to the pandemic, but several other events have caused employees to rethink their priorities as well. Frankly, there’s no going back, either.
In the past, competitive pay and benefits were sufficient for retaining employees. However, in the last two decades, engagement contracts have emerged, focusing on intrinsic motivation and psychological fulfillment. These contracts expanded the rewards beyond monetary compensation to include career experiences for organizational engagement. This led to the rise of thrive contracts, emphasizing learning and well-being. The COVID pandemic further accelerated the prioritization of these contracts.
As employees recovered and returned to work, the lifestyle contract emerged, taking center stage. This is a human-centered partnership, built on choice, connection, and contribution. Why?
The takeaway? Workers want their work to fit around their life, not their life to fit around their work. Companies now need to consider how to balance the organization's needs with what employees want and need. One thing is for sure: it is not a one-size-fits-all exercise anymore.
With the excitement of taking on this new project, you may dive into gathering feedback on an ongoing basis with the hopes of gaining a deeper understanding of employee attitudes, concerns, and observations. Too often, though, organizations rush into research without first identifying what they need to learn. Having a clear understanding of your strategy before you begin is key.
The table below outlines the common challenges organizations like yours are grappling with today. Identifying those challenges that are specific to your company can help you think carefully about what you really need to learn as an organization. It also gives you the basis for more tactical decisions about instrument design, sample selection, administration techniques, and report and action plans.
Due to the relative ease of deployment and familiarity of the method, organizations often assume the best way to listen to their workforce is to conduct a pulse survey, but that’s not always the case.
Pulse surveys are effective for measuring attitudes about topics that are well known and empirically established. However, for new, emergent, or ambiguous events, exploratory research techniques using qualitative methods often generate better insights.
With the world we live in today, and the competing priorities for employees and employers alike, we think the best way to listen to your employees is to take a multi-method approach; for example:
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The way you listen to your employees matters. As Michael Nichols writes, “Being listened to spells the difference between feeling accepted and feeling isolated.”
Now is the time to conduct research in a way that makes your employees feel accepted, supported, and understood.
Employee listening is not about giving the “squeaky wheel” the attention. For it to be successful, you need to make sure you are listening and collecting data in a way that is actionable. You need meaningful feedback to inform your decisions — from understanding the needs of your workforce and why they join or stay at your organization to long-term retention and hiring.
The data you collect from employees should then be analyzed to identify trends and areas of improvement. This data-based approach not only provides a comprehensive understanding of employee sentiments but also enables your organizations to track progress over time and benchmark the impact of your initiatives. Ultimately, it enables you to create a more inclusive and supportive work environment that fosters employee growth and productivity.
One program will never fit everyone. When it comes to surveys, there will always be things you see that are not surprising, confirming what you already “know.” But the reason you do surveys is to find those moments that give you deeper clarity into where you need to direct resources to really make a difference for your workers.
As employees continue to seek more from their employer, those who receive a broader range of programs, not surprisingly, feel more cared for, more supported, and more energized.
Ensure that your programs are fine-tuned and think strategically about how you can fill gaps and meet the needs of what they really want.
Source: MMB Health on Demand 2023
Simply listening is not enough. You must communicate what the next steps are to address the concerns, showing your employees that you value their input and feedback.
Many of your employees are likely facing increased workloads and heightened stress levels, which can take a toll on their mental well-being. It's important to listen to their concerns and understand that they are seeking benefits that support their mental health, such as access to counseling or wellness programs. This is especially crucial for Generation Z, as mental health is a top priority for adults aged 18 to 25. By finding ways to meet these needs, you can keep your employees motivated and engaged in their work. Source: MMB Health on Demand 2023
Start by exploring Mercer’s suite of employee listening tools and services. Whether you’re about to reach out to employees for the first time or already have a multi-pronged approach in place, we’re here to work with you to get the actionable outcomes you need.
Reach out to talk to one of our associates via email or call 1-855-286-5302.