Continuous Listening in a Changing Landscape


Kimmo Parkki

Kimmo Parkki

Author Bio

Senior Account Development Manager


Author Bio

Continuous listening is the new buzz word in the employee research world. There is a lot of talk around complementing or even replacing existing annual or bi-annual employee survey programs with more frequent and agile initiatives, such as pulse checks, always-on and life-cycle surveys. This is good news.

What is less good is that the main focus is once again on tools and methods, not on discussing why it is important and why it exists.

Let’s pause. Globalization, technological progress and demographic change are having a profound impact on labor markets. They affect both the quantity and quality of jobs that are available, as well as how and by whom they are carried out. The future of work (another hot topic that we’ll address in a future post) offers unparalleled opportunities, but there are also significant challenges associated with these mega-trends.

Which of the changes below is your business currently navigating?

  • Radical transparency; organizations or managers can’t hide anywhere. LinkedIn, Glassdoor and other sites have thrown open the doors on how employees – past and present – feel about a company. How people interact with each other is a key asset for any organization and a positive, engaging work culture will accelerate transformation and strengthen the employer brand.
  • Post-demographic world; demographic categorization and profiling is less reliable than ever when it comes to enabling us to understand or predict employee behaviors and expectations. For example, lots of damage has already been done in labelling people as “millennials” by assuming everybody in a specific cohort think alike. If you want to truly understand opinions and aspirations individuals may have – you need to have one-to-one conversations.
  • Beyond boundaries; traditional organizations don’t exist anymore, we need to think differently. Companies still exist as legal entities, but functionally they are a combination of various networks and eco-systems that go beyond the legal framework. You need to start to treat them as such.
  • Vertical hierarchies are over-shadowing horizontal ones; formal reporting lines and structures are fading away. Working in a constant project mode or in “tribes”, emphasized by social media and networking impact people’s vision of hierarchies and management. Managers are perceived as catalysts and enablers instead of being authoritative leaders.
  • Me.inc; everybody is a talent. Everybody wants to be recognized as a true, complex and contradictory individual. HR need to support businesses, by being genuine partners, to value each of the talents and support individuals in realizing their personal goals. When individuals thrive, the organization will thrive as well.

Whichever of the transformational scenarios described above you are dealing with (and it’s probably a combination of them all) you need to nurture an engaging work culture that fits with your enterprise mindset. You need to:

  • Create a culture that embraces change from the top down and welcomes risk and innovation.
  • Think outside silos when making decisions. Ensure you understand the ways of working, challenges and cultures of every part of your organization. Learn how those parts fit together and connect with people across the business to broker holistic solutions.
  • Encourage sharing of skills, knowledge and resources across boundaries in a way that benefits the whole company.
  • Distribute responsibilities by trusting people to make the right decisions on the ground. HR can drive the greatest success by empowering people, not clinging to power.
  • Adjust the mindset of how the organization is led and how to drive success.

In this transformative and disruptive environment, a continuous dialog and shared accountability between managers and their direct reports is much more important than formalized “continuous listening” tools and processes. The focus should be on “continuous development” that is forward looking and ongoing, managers that coach rather than critique and that allow suggestions for improvement to flow freely from any direction in the organizational eco-system.

In other words, the agility, that organizations must possess in order to maneuver successfully through the future challenges and opportunities, has less to do with technology and more to do with old fashioned people behaviors.

To make this work, let’s talk less about different ways to do continuous listening and collecting even more data than before. Instead, let’s focus on defining a clear purpose for each initiative, how to maximize the value of the feedback we receive and how we can use the feedback to activate and accelerate a positive transformation.

 


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