Listening is at the core of culture building and creating meaningful actions that drive business outcomes. In HR, we’re adept at listening. We know listening (or rather, lack of) can be a reason people leave. Listening is a simple but powerful strategy to help you understand employee needs and adapt quickly. Yet, it is often under estimated for its ability to drive positive transformation. As leaders, everything we do encompasses people development, and listening is a critical skill that drives specific people solutions.

Now more than ever, we can no longer use a one-size-fits all approach to our people solutions. Our ability to create and implement solutions that are meaningful to our employees requires us to understand their needs and desires. For example, the knowledge (white collar) worker and the blue-collar worker needs are converging. Through listening, we’ve found the main driver of retention for both white- and blue-collar workers is more flexibility. The pandemic drove some of this change, but companies are also competing with a gig economy and alternative work arrangements. To be effective, retention strategies need to address the specific needs for all roles. People solutions need to be more modern, and programs need to be flexible no matter the size of the organization.

Done well, listening strategies should have a global footprint with a local feel to address specific issues. Listening to all employees instead of a small sample of managers who speak on their employees’ behalf is so empowering but requires a well-structured listening strategy with quality data to support it. Getting listening strategies right is essential to implementing the right programs that will attract and retain the best employees for your organization.

We’ve found that a tech-enabled listening platform that is simple with the ability to scale it as you grow to help you reach your employees more efficiently was the best approach. Ideally, you want a listening platform that is customizable, quick, and able to capture and synthesize the data to deliver actionable insights to your leaders.

A bonus is a listening platform that includes a self-service component for leaders to have direct access to their teams’ results. A self-serve platform empowers leaders to stay close to their team and to apply a personal touch to address more systemic issues. Amplifying every employee’s voice and enabling leaders to be responsive through the data, in turn, will equip your organization to be more agile and eager to lead through change and drive transformation.

Listening is only the first step. What you do with the information is key. Collecting and analyzing data are not enough – the information shared must make its way back to the employees who gave the feedback. As you develop your listening strategy, be explicit about what you expect from your leaders and how you’d like them to leverage the information .Leaders who consistently act on the feedback will build trust and show employees that they truly care about them as people.

“A Well-Defined, Tech-Enabled Listening Strategy is Key to Differentiating Talent Strategies and Staying Competitive.”

And while all feedback is welcomed, all feedback does not warrant action. A platform that helps you extrapolate actionable insights (for example, word cloud features for comments) can save time. When there are actionable insights, think about how leaders can personalize the actions to make it meaningful. Ideally, you want leaders working directly with their employees on the action plan to address their specific feedback. Leveraging existing communication vehicles to do this can be effective and keep interactions authentic.

Leadership development that highlights listening as a core skill will help you retain the top talent you need to drive transformation. Whenever a top performer leaves unexpectedly, I always ask the leader: When they spoke, did you listen? Every single interaction leaders have with their employees is an opportunity for a stay interview. Leaders can ask, what keeps you engaged? — and then take action to show the employee they were heard.

Your organization will be empowered to build a more productive and collaborative culture that delivers on its goals and adapts to changing needs with a listening strategy that includes a platform capable of collecting data globally and skilled leaders who listen and act locally. A culture where intentional listening is valued will help you reap the rewards of higher engagement and retention to remain competitive. Effective listening will show employees how valued they are. Because at the end of the day, don’t we all want to be heard?