Why Employee Listening Is Your #1 Crisis Management Strategy

employee listening crisis managementAs this global pandemic unfolds, it is undoubtedly impacting your organization, the people inside it, and the customers or communities you serve.

As an HR leader, you’re likely taking on new responsibilities that didn't previously exist and your leadership team may be facing difficult business decisions or creating contingency plans for the future.


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Like many organizations, you may be concerned about the unknown economic impact of COVID-19 and unsure how to move forward. As your organizational priorities continue to shift, it’s more important than ever that you effectively listen, support, and engage your employees through every step of your journey.

Investing in employee listening and prioritizing performance is not only critical to employee and team success—it's also beneficial to your business. In order to get back on track to a path of success, it's time to change how you listen to your employees and take action on their feedback.


A critical engagement moment

Let’s talk engagement basics for a moment—the foundational pieces of engagement. At the root of employee engagement is an employee’s need for a few basic, but critical things:

  • Having the right resources and information to be successful
  • Feeling validated in sharing their opinions
  • Gaining alignment on goals and expectations
  • Feeling support from managers and leaders

Elevating employee listening helps us understand what’s happening within our workforce so we can take action to improve their experience and ultimately boost employee engagement.


4 benefits of employee listening

The idea of surveys might feel a little uncomfortable right now. But it’s important to remember that surveys are ultimately about listening. Employee listening gives your employees a voice. Prioritizing employee listening is critical for improving engagement and benefits your business.


Here are a few more benefits to employee listening:


1. Demonstrate that you care about your employees.

Listening to your employees’ concerns and anxieties shows that you value their opinions and want to understand how they are feeling—that you care about the human being on the other end. Even if your organization’s engagement has been strong and competitive against benchmarks, it’s important to give your employees a microphone, even in turbulent times. But the rules of surveying still apply:

  • Only ask questions about things you can take action on
  • Adopt a feedback mentality versus focusing on your score
  • Be willing to share back with employees what you’re hearing


2. Gain real-time feedback to take action or make adjustments.

Employee feedback can help identify areas of opportunities and risks. You may not be able to solve everything for everyone, but any action is better than no action. Look for low-hanging fruit or bigger opportunities that you can address such as:

  • How often or what you are communicating
  • What resources you are providing to change their experience
  • Where things might need to adjust or flex to accommodate remote work


3. Empower your managers to engage their teams.

Beyond diving into work or a performance conversation, focusing on feedback helps managers make time to connect on a personal level. Additionally, if you share team-level feedback with managers, they will have a better understanding of their team’s challenges and topics that are top of mind. This knowledge will help them coach accordingly.

Equipping your managers with this knowledge can help them:

  • Listen, respond, and escalate major issues
  • Coach to each individual’s needs or concerns
  • Align the team on your goals to move forward


4. Gain intelligence on how to move your business forward.

For your business to eventually thrive, you need to move your business forward. And this doesn’t necessarily mean business as usual. We’re facing an unprecedented crisis and attempting to do business in unusual times.

Asking for feedback during this time not only helps you understand how employees are feeling and performing—it helps you uncover key insights that will allow your organization to move from today’s chaos to setting goals, recovering, and thriving.

While their focus may have shifted from things like career development and high-performance, having this insight allows you to narrow in the areas that need the most help so you can move forward more quickly. Consider how you might address the following situations.

If employees are feeling:

  • Scared How can leaders build trust?
  • Exhausted How can managers help them reprioritize or flex on goals?
  • Overwhelmed How can leaders and managers provide clarity on a common goal?
  • Anxious How can you build trust with goal clarity and priorities?
  • Disrupted How can you recognize great work and inspire more of it?


What should I do next?


1. Launch (or continue launching) your engagement survey.

The employee engagement survey has always been—and will always be—an incredibly valuable way for employees to share feedback and for teams and leaders to act on it. It’s appropriate to acknowledge the pandemic in your communications. As you adjust your internal communications, determine if you need to make changes to the survey content.


2. Add in a pulse survey.

As time evolves, your employees’ perceptions will too. Implement a pulse survey strategy using our Remote Work Readiness or Crisis Management Pulse Templates to capture real-time insights. We recommend keeping these surveys short, both in the number of survey items and the number of days they remain open. Repeat these surveys every few weeks to see how they are adjusting, what questions they have, and where you can create clarity.


3. Enhance your employee listening posts.

Your employees’ realities likely looked very different just a few weeks ago so viewing their feedback through the lens of the current situation is key. Pay close attention to survey questions that measure “engagement basics,” like if employees feel they have the information they need, goals and expectations are clear, their manager cares about them, and whether they feel their opinion counts.


During this crisis, we understand that you are likely in completely different phases of your listening strategy. We want to meet you where you are and help you move forward. Helping you listen to your employees and take action on their feedback is one way we can help you navigate through a time that may feel scary, frustrating, uncertain, or probably a mixture of those emotions at any given moment.



We’re in this together, and we’re here to help. Download our Crisis Management Kit for additional support and resources.

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