April Event Review: How does your workforce know you’re really listening to its feedback?

Our April event was a workshop that focused on a key strategy used in organisational development, Workforce Listening, and was facilitated by ODA Leadership Group member Heidi Vestergaard with Kaliopi Tsousis hosting.  

We’ve been considering the Global OD Competency Framework, and the competencies most relevant for an OD practitioner to have when designing an facilitating workforce listening centre on those of Efficient Designer, Data Synthesizer and Process Consultant, (See Global OD Competency Framework 

The workshop was highly interactive with a balanced blend of content, sharing of our experiences and collaborative thinking. We explored the importance and impact of workforce listening, different contemporary approaches and the principles we need to consider when designing and implementing listening processes in our organisations.  

We reflected on the benefits of listening to employees such as higher productivity, helping employees feel valued and heard, and acknowledged that one of the most important elements of workforce listening is actually taking action after hearing employees’ feedback. As Heidi stated, it’s not so much that people in organisations have survey fatigue but rather, ‘lack of action’ fatigue. 

Heidi provided us with opportunities to share our experiences and insights in small groups about the following elements of workforce listening, and here are some reflections. 

What we have learned from listening to workforce feedback 

  • It is important to understand the intent of listening. For example, sometimes organisations conduct listening activities for compliance reasons. 
  • Organisations need to manage the timelines between collection of data and sharing results, e.g. six months later is too late, losing the momentum for hearing, sharing and acting. 
  • Plan in the design stage how to share the data and make sense of it with staff. 
  • Important to act more than you ask and ensure that action to be taken is based on robust insights. 

Different listening strategies 

  • People discussed focus groups, 1:1 interviews, surveys and digital channels such as information kiosks. 
  • Modern technology emerging and enabling data gathering and integration at speed and scale, especially in the post-covid market. One community member mentioned a platform that enabled large-scale, live virtual focus groups (500 people invited).  

Current and emerging trends in workforce listening 

  • Technology was mentioned again as a great enabler of listening. 
  • One community member reflected that since Covid, people want to be seen as ‘whole’ people, not just employees, and to feel valued. Listening activities can contribute to this. 
  • Thinking about the stages of the employee lifecycle where workforce listening would be useful, members noted that planned listening is often used in the off-boarding stage, for instance, exit interviews, and that perhaps there should be more listening to the feedback of new people who come to an organisation with ‘fresh eyes’. 

Ethical considerations important for workforce listening 

A number of ethical considerations were identified, including: 

  • The importance of context when designing, implementing and communicating listening activities 
  • Consent – who will see the data, how will it be used and shared; anonymity and confidentiality 
  • The role of trust 
  • What to do with data received that may need to be reported, e.g. harassment  
  • Protecting psychological safety 
  • Ownership of the data, who gets to see it, and sharing the data honestly and transparently. 

We also discussed the importance of planning responses to workforce feedback in the design phase and to consider the organisational culture and how that might impact our approach. 

Heidi shared a couple of easily accessible frameworks that can be used for planning workforce listening work, including the Deloitte model “The 4 Cs of Continuous Listening”, found on LinkedIn. It was good to work through the Deloitte model together, identifying the key capabilities required for each of the four components. 

Workforce listening forms such a major part of the work we do. The workshop was very helpful and pragmatic, and included many useful frameworks, ideas and insights about how we can design, plan and implement workforce listening strategies effectively.  

~~ Yope Vagenas, LG member


Note: Members can log in and watch the video of the session here. 

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