5 Reasons You Need to Continuously Listen … with a Purpose

A trend in the HR Tech/Assessment space is measuring and surveying employees all the time. Vendors that push this strategy hook leaders with the question: “How can you effectively manage people if you don’t know how they feel all the time?” On paper, having a constant look at what your people are thinking and feeling could be informative and getting more data can be a good thing. Unfortunately, none of these vendors have put forward an actual business case that shows that surveying all the time actually helps you to ultimately make more money, better serve your customers, etc. The vendors also forget that attitudes take time to change; can fluctuate for unrelated reasons; and it takes a lot of time to get data, digest it, and (most importantly) actually DO something with it. So, we’re not opposed to continuous listening; we’re opposed to doing so without a purpose. If you’re still not convinced, think through these five reasons.

  1. Vendors’ bottom-line isn’t yours: The dirty secret? The pulse survey approach is driven by the vendors’ business models. Apparently surveying once a year (with maybe a mid-year pulse) isn’t generating enough recurring revenue for the vendors—so they invented a new need where they can charge you more to get more data all the time—and convinced HR leaders that this was a good thing. Is the vendor’s business model aligned with YOUR organization’s business model?
  2. Struggling once a year?: A further definition of crazy: many organizations have a hard time getting leaders to work on survey data once a year, so the vendors’ answer is that you need to do MORE surveys to solve this issue? And, if doing surveys all the time is so great, is your vendor guaranteeing that this new process will significantly improve your business results?
  3. Constantly survey=constantly analyze: Now, we aren’t saying all vendors are money-grubbing snakes making stuff up. The idea of “continuous listening” sounds good. Don’t we want to keep a constant “pulse” on employee experiences? Sure, but the problem is this is just another idea that doesn’t pan out. Many vendors aren’t even going back to look at those clients they started this process with to determine if it’s providing results that validate the time, effort, and money of near constant surveys. With constant surveying you must consider if you are ready to constantly analyze results, put actions into place, follow up, and reassess, all before you launch the next survey. If you don’t, employees are going to get jaded with the process very quickly and begin to disengage, stop responding, and lose faith in leadership to really care and address employee concerns.
  4. What do employees think?: To tag onto issue #3, not only will employees hate taking lots of surveys that don’t create any change, but they will also disengage from the survey process and lose trust that leaders really care about what they think if they start seeing this as a continual occurrence. According to a 2018 study we conducted: when directly asked about preferred frequency of surveying, more than 86 percent of respondents stated they wouldn’t want to be surveyed any more than 4–5 times a year. The most preferred frequency of surveying was twice a year. More on that study here.
  5. How is your annual survey?: Ask yourself, “How successful was our last annual survey?” If you had managers get results, evaluate their areas for improvement, and successfully implement action plans to drive real change, then why would you need to pay more money and do this more frequently? If your survey initiative was not so successful, what makes you think increasing the frequency of the process will suddenly make it work?

So, what is a good pulse survey strategy? The figure below illustrates a timebound and strategic approach that will not overwhelm your employees. Creating focused pulse surveys while also capturing the attitudes of new hires will get you the data you need to drive outcomes … not continuous data collection.

Timebound, strategic data collection

Or, are you struggling with your annual survey? Take the following advice to tie your employee survey to true business outcomes and yield results.

  • Connect your survey results to actual business outcomes so that real value/ROI is shown.
  • Make it easy for leaders to take action on real business drivers but showing them exactly what to work on and providing customizable best practices and tips to put into place.
  • Conduct an actual ROI study one year after your survey to PROVE the impact.

And, listen to our recorded webinar, Examining Your Employee Survey Process, for more details on this process.