Organizations have been listening to the voice of the customer for many years. But more recently, they have begun to pay more attention to the voice of the employee (VoE).
It’s easy to understand why. In a world where talent retention is arguably more important than hiring, employee engagement is a major priority.
It follows then that more attention needs to be paid to VoE. And increasingly, that voice is being heard through digital tools.
Digital echoes reverberate
In 2021, VoE solutions are a significant area of focus for many organizations, and the technology industry has responded accordingly.
These solutions collect and then analyze employee feedback and opinions through surveys and other data sources.
In an ideal world, this is a virtuous cycle. Employers act on the VoE to improve the workplace and heighten engagement, retention, and of course, productivity and profit.
Many organizations have been using an annual survey as their principal way of collecting feedback. But the newer solutions are more continuous and ongoing both in their collection of feedback and its analysis.
This is the world of People Analytics, which combines surveys with other aggregated data and demographics to understand better employee sentiment, used by HR teams to improve morale.
Surveys only tell managers answers to the questions they ask. Other feedback collection sources access text-based feedback, social media posts, Slack messages, and emails
Together, these can tell managers the engagement levels of top employees, which employees might be likely to leave the organization, ROI on training programs, and the potential effectiveness of programs in areas such as diversity and inclusion.
OKR comes into focus
In its recent report on VoE, Gartner says that “continuous employee performance management tools enable managers and employees to frequently track progress toward goals, capture peer and 360-degree feedback, prepare and execute one-on-one check-ins, and provide and receive performance and development feedback.”
“Increasingly, they now include objectives and key results (OKRs), coaching, managing one-to-one preparation and follow-ups, and pulse engagement surveys,” the report said.
Done well, this continuous performance management approach “often leads to improved motivation, engagement, employee productivity, and manager effectiveness.”
“When employees are all working toward goals aligned to corporate strategy, better business results generally follow,” according to the report.
“In a fast-paced business environment, given COVID-19 and remote work, regular feedback and check-ins help ensure that workers are focused on the right things, and growing and adapting to the changing nature of their work and environment."
VoE can not only help understand why employees leave but can help adjust hiring criteria. Identifying the best managers can drive the implementation of training programs to replicate what they do.
HR is still a bottleneck
All this sounds great, but VoE is currently underutilized because HR departments are stuck in their old ways.
Once again, siloed data and unscalable processes are slowing down new ways of doing things.
Another drag-on process is manual processing. In 2021, this needs to be done through natural language processing for reasons of speed and to weed out bias. It also makes it easier to aggregate data onto a single platform for easier analysis.
Here’s one case study from a global fast-food chain with over 10,000 employees, which used a VoE provider named recently in the Gartner Hype Cycle.
The company was experiencing very high employee turnover rates, with entire restaurant teams turning over every year.
The VoE solution implemented customized surveys and open-ended comments, adjustable survey frequencies, and personal reports to team leaders with suggestions on improving the employee experience. The feedback was also integrated with the HR portal to deliver deeper analysis.
The quantitative results are still to come in, as it was a recent implementation. Still, already managers are saying they see more camaraderie and fun in key locations, with employees less afraid to be themselves and put their personality into what they do.
If employees are willing to do that, then the least HR managers can do is listen to them.
Lachlan Colquhoun is the ANZ correspondent for CDOTrends and HR&DigitalTrends and the editor of NextGen Connectivity. His fascination is with how businesses are reinventing themselves through digital technology and collaborate with others to become completely new organizations. You can reach him at [email protected].
Image credit: iStockphoto/adrian825