Data shows covid has accelerated the shift to greater employee listening

22nd November by Lee Robertson

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New research conducted by WorkBuzz shows that the covid-19 pandemic has accelerated the shift to greater employee listening as employers have prioritised remote working and employee wellbeing ahead of profit and high performance.

Based on unique insights from over 300 HR professionals and organisational leaders, The State of Employee Engagement 2021 report reveals HR’s biggest priorities right now, the challenges ahead for hybrid working, and uncovers the great employee engagement divide.

In its findings we see that more employers are moving away from annual engagement surveys and beginning to favour more frequent pulse surveys. This is enabling organisations to pivot more easily as employee feedback helps them understand how their people have adjusted to home working. It is also determining how employers respond to wellbeing needs and shaping decisions on things like hybrid working and product development.

The move to regular pulse surveys is complemented by more onboarding and exit surveys. The report shows that high performing organisations also supplement company-wide surveys with feedback across the employee life cycle, helping them to improve the employee experience during all stages of this. Although more organisations are conducting exit surveys (61 per cent), the biggest impact on improving employee engagement is from onboarding surveys, with just under half (48 per cent) running these, saying engagement levels had risen over the last year.

Karen Smart, head of consultancy with the AoEC observes: “This is an important trend and as an element of your people strategy, offers a lot of benefits for the businesses actively increasing the level of engagement they have. It is also one of the main hallmarks of a coaching culture where time and effort is made to talk, to have proper conversations and check in with one another.”

She continues: “The advantage of taking a more human or coaching approach and investing in regular conversations and feedback, is that you are creating a greater sense of belonging for the employee and a deeper sense of ownership for them of their work and place within the team. Communication is much clearer too, so there is automatically a better understanding within the company of what is going on and why, especially during times of change. Furthermore, it enables organisations to be more agile because they have superior grasp of what is happening in real time within the organisation because of the better-quality dialogue managers and their direct reports or teams are having.”

The shift in focusing their listening strategy on employees’ needs is reflected in HR’s top priorities with improving engagement and the overall employee experience topping their to-do list. The covid pandemic has had a substantial impact on people’s personal and professional lives and resulted in many reassessing how they feel about their jobs. Employees’ values have also changed with regards to work-life balance, career aspirations along with wanting more meaning and purpose from their roles.

Employers have had to battle their way through the ‘Great Resignation’ too as workers have made life-changing decisions on where and for whom they work. In a candidate-driven market, attracting, and retaining the best talent has become an even bigger challenge for recruiters and HR teams. Many organisations have had to revamp their employee value proposition (EVP) which has required them to place greater emphasis on listening to what their workers and prospective hires want or expect when it comes to flexible working, benefits, pay, and ultimately, the opportunity to contribute to an organisation’s output and success.

The pandemic may have brought huge upheaval and uncertainty, but it has also delivered the opportunity for positive, lasting change. The employer/employee relationship is on a new footing with mutual respect and equality an achievable and desirable goal. Those organisations that invest in listening to their employees and acting on their feedback will benefit from better informed decision making to guide the business and emerge stronger as we head out of the covid crisis.