Are you listening? Giving employees a louder voice
If employees feel that their opinions aren’t being heard – that their voices don’t matter – then it’s a short hop to disgruntlement and lower performance. Why put the effort in, if your employer doesn’t do the same?
Until relatively recently, the key way organizations listened to employee viewpoints was with that bluntest of tools: the annual employee engagement survey. The information was out of date from the moment it was collected and even more out of date before it was acted upon – if it was acted upon.
Capgemini is piloting a continuous listening initiative, gathering employee feedback often on a weekly basis. The aim is to improve the employee experience and engagement (and ultimately boost the bottom line) by giving employees a platform to regularly put their true views across. Maja Luckos, head of people analytics, Capgemini, expands:
Our objective at the beginning of last year was: how do we change that process of listening, so we can understand our employee voice from the enterprise point of view and enhance their experience and change their experience for the better, in real time?
While traditional annual employee surveys or pulse surveys have their place, Capgemini wants something that is far more immediate and responsive and also something that is consistent across the organization. Luckos explains:
We had a lot of micro-listening here and there – there might be focus groups or surveys on different technologies round the world – but we could never benefit from it from an enterprise point of view. We could do it in pockets, but not holistically.
Eight pilots began in September 2017, involving about 10,000 employees – 5% of the total workforce – across different countries and departments to provide a good mix of people.
Each pilot group was given the technology and a basic framework of questions to ask employees, but had free rein to choose the frequency of questions they posed employees. Some chose to pose one question a couple of times a week, while others tried out a more conservative approach, asking employees a few simple questions, once a month. Luckos adds:
We had a lot of flexibility because our objective with those pilots was for us to learn. We are now ramping up the pilot phase and moving to what we call model 2.0 which is what has been borne out of the lessons learned.
One of those lessons learned is that a bi-weekly frequency has proved the most popular among pilot groups, although Luckos stresses that does not mean this will become a blueprint for everyone; it’s far more complex than that.
The key learning, however, is that continuous listening needs to be embedded into management practices for it to work effectively. In particular, managers’ behavior has to change.
If managers behave as if this is an annual survey and take time to read, digest and cogitate over the comments before getting back at a later date, they will miss the point. The format sets expectations among employees that if they respond quickly, so too should managers.
Luckos is clear that the level of change from managers required should not be underestimated:
It’s a revolution because all the behaviors you had previously in the way you been listening to people all have to change, or 90% of them have to change. So, areas where they used the technology but behaved in the same way as an annual survey very quickly had to adjust the way they adopted it, because they realised it didn’t work like that.
While it is still early doors, Luckos says they are beginning to see how this new approach is having a positive effect. One early high-level finding – and something Luckos hopes the company will build upon – is identifying the qualities that mark a highly effective manager.
Across the pilots, a pattern has begun to emerge of the qualities of great managers, which was reflected by the high engagement levels of their team members.
Distilling the information, the company found four key elements that define these high-performing managers:
- they give clear goals so people know what is expected of them every day.
- they offer staff challenging work.
- they support their staff.
- they give staff freedom to express their opinions.
We need to do some more analysis, but this makes us think about how we create a great employee experience and what things have an impact…The manager’s role in our organization seems to be shaping up and pointing at these four important things more than anything else.
Analysis of employees’ opinions can be done both at the micro or team level, as well as a higher, macro level for senior managers. The level of detail on the dashboard for each group will be different.
Importantly, all employee comments are anonymous and they can comment on anything that’s an issue for them, not just the specific question asked.
Thanks to the system, one manager spotted that staff at one location seemed to be having some issues. He was able to change his plans, arranging to visit that location the following week and arrange to talk to people about the issue in person, if they wanted.
In another example, a manager found out that the fact he was always running late for meetings was irritating his team. Although people would politely say it didn’t matter at the time (and he was a well-respected and liked manager), the reality was different.
In a platform like this, you have the ability to be authentic and say, we would really like the manager to attend meetings on time. And then you realise how important it is to people.
It was an easy thing to correct, but it would have a positive impact on the team. A thousand small tweaks can add up to a massive change.