Building an Employee Listening Strategy: What It Is and Why It Matters

employee listening strategy

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 organizations understand what’s happening within their workforce so they can take action to improve their experience and ultimately boost employee engagement.


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Today, it’s more important than ever that you effectively listen, support, and engage your employees through every step of your journey.

In this article, we’ll explain what employee listening is, why listening to your employees is important, and how you can start building an employee listening strategy.


What is employee listening and why does it matter


Employee listening is how you capture and understand the employee experience. This is typically accomplished through employee engagement surveys, performance reviews, and general employee feedback. 

While all of these activities are important on their own—when you develop an employee listening strategy you can really drive meaningful engagement and impact your goals. When you understand your employees’ experience, you can identify what strategies and programs are working well, and opportunities to move the needle on what matters most to your employees. 


Why listening to your employees is important 

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 head down a path of success, it's time to change how you listen to your employees and take action on their feedback.

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 is strong and competitive against benchmarks, it’s important to give your employees a microphone. As you survey your employees remember:

  • 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 improve the employee experience
  • Where things might need to adjust or flex to accommodate new work environments


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:


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

For your business to thrive, you need to be adaptable and stay agile. And this doesn’t necessarily mean business as usual.

Asking for feedback 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 uncertainty or change to setting goals, recovering, and thriving.

While their focus may shift over time (to 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.


How to build a successful employee listening strategy


The key to unlocking the potential of employee listening is having an integrated, strategic approach. Use these tips to develop and implement an employee listening strategy that works for you and your employees.


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.

Use your engagement surveys to uncover important insights into your employees’ current needs, goals, and pain points. Surveys can also be especially valuable during times of change, transition, or disruption, helping you to understand and address employees’ concerns empathetically.


2. Add in frequent pulse surveys.

As time evolves, your employees’ perceptions will too. Implement a pulse survey strategy in addition to your regular annual engagement surveys to take the pulse on employee experience—especially if your business is experiencing change or disruption.

Pro Tip: Try our Pulse Survey Templates to capture real-time insights for a variety of topics and moments in the employee lifecycle.

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.

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.

Significant changes in these metrics can indicate if you need to refocus your efforts on specific engagement efforts and rebuild a foundation from which employees can thrive.

Building a robust employee listening strategy takes time and commitment. But as you invest in your employees and their experience, you can create a thriving business where employees are empowered and motivated to do their best work.



An employee listening strategy is the foundation of an engaging employee experience. Get started building a robust strategy for collecting employee voices with our ebook, the All-Encompassing Guide to Pulse Surveys.

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Published April 15, 2021 | Written By Anne Maltese