The power of listening: a strategy for challenging times
Does your organisation really listen to its employees? How can you be sure? And what can you do if it doesn’t? Our new World of Work Trends Report 2023, now in its sixth edition, presents the latest developments in people strategies and practices, based on data and insights from over 2000 of the world’s leading organisations. And this year one of the key drivers for a better world of work for the year ahead is the need for HR leaders to develop and drive integrated listening strategies. Why?
In 2023 business leaders are effectively having to 'double-screen' their working world. They need to think simultaneously about two things at once: long-term business horizons, so that they can build their business’s capacity to thrive, and the reality of short-term disruptions that will threaten their ability to survive in highly uncertain trading environments.
To even reach the long term they need to win the emotional commitment of their teams to meet a series of short-term challenges. And for this to happen they need to redouble their efforts to “listen to the heartbeat” of the organisation, as we have called it in our report.
HR leaders from certified UK Top Employers have already made some progress in this area, with listening strategy and practice now at the core of their high-performance cultures. Take these insights from our latest report, in which UK Top Employers consistently have:
- An employee listening strategy (55%)
- An integrated approach to listening techniques (73%)
- Employee engagement data integrated into their line manager’s dashboards (78%)
So how can all organisations listen to their employees? In 2023 leaders need to listen in two main ways. Firstly, they must continue to listen, as they always have, for the signs of a rapidly changing external environment, to be able to plan - strategically and flexibly - the organisation’s talent needs. Secondly, they need to become utterly dedicated to continuous and intentional employee listening within the organisation. To bind leaders more closely with their teams in this way is essential, because it prepares the latter for the short-term challenges that lie ahead - and the engagement needed to buy in to sometimes painful decisions.
How do organisations make sure they listen – and keep listening – to their employees, especially during these short-term periods of change? Certified UK Top Employer LTI Mindtree created a three-pronged approach to listening capturing:
- Overall employee feedback through annual surveys and regular feedback
- Process/programme-based feedback
- Continued dialogue: Its intranet, “@workplace”, is a source of continuous dialogue and feedback.
True listening, however, is not just about hearing what employees have to say. It’s about taking the right actions as a result. And here certified Top Employers are making feedback more meaningful by consistently:
- Providing a voice to employee champions to feed back to leaders (55%)
- Welcoming feedback from employees on the leadership they experience (71%)
- Giving follow-up guidance to leaders on how to handle such feedback (78%).
To ensure it acts on feedback, LTIMindtree has a platform that consolidates feedback across sources in order to prioritise the required actions. This also acts as a ‘tracker board’ where cross-functional teams can mark actions and progress, which are then visible to everyone. This level of transparency turns a system for listening into a culture of continuous improvement, honesty and openness around what it is trying to do. The results are then shared at quarterly virtual town halls, in-person events and workshops. And the real gain for the business has been that it is the employees, not the leaders, who are effectively proposing, presenting and participating in the change they want to see.
All of this has important implications for HR. New leadership listening strategies and techniques make it imperative to change the nature of leadership development. HR therefore needs to ask itself whether it even has a listening strategy, whether its leaders are truly listening to the 'heartbeat' of their organisation, and what are they doing to develop their future leaders with active listening and feedback in mind.
Androna Benadè, pictured below, is regional manager - UK and Ireland at Top Employers Institute. The Top Employers Institute recognises leading organisations around the world for their commitment to their employees and progressive people practices