Following on from my colleague Kimmo Parkki’s blog focusing on why you might want to use “continuous listening” or more aptly “continuous dialogue”, let’s discuss some of the considerations you need to plan for in doing so.
The first point that needs to be made is assessing how easy it is to contact your people on a regular basis. Some organsiations are just not there yet. Their IT infrastructure simply doesn’t allow for two way communication to a large proportion of their workforce….yet! Workers out in the field, on production lines or undertaking manual work may well not have access to the technology required to access the platforms needed to give their opinions regularly. Relying on access via their personal devices may be hit or miss at best, and even then company policy may restrict it. I have no doubt that this will change sooner rather than later, but it is a key consideration in embarking on a “continuous dialogue” strategy.
So, assuming you know why you want to implement “continuous dialogue” and you can get access to your people regularly what are the next steps? Many professionals make the mistake of then going down a route of appraising multiple vendors on their technology offering. Absolutely this step shouldn’t be missed, BUT we need to always remember that technology is just the enabler for the solution, and never the solution itself. I would strongly advocate looking at the process you intend to implement and some of the human considerations around this, then identify which technology can best support this.
To support in identifying the process, there are some fundamental questions you need to answer:
- What is the business problem we are looking to address?
The is the first and most fundamental question – and comes back to the Why? question. Being really clear about the aims of your programme, and communicating them helps you to focus your thoughts, and helps employees to understand why this is important and “what’s in it for them”. Is it about addressing staff attrition? Or identifying levers for high performance? Are you finding it difficult to attract the best people? Are you looking at a tool that measures the general employee experience regularly, or specific aspects such as onbaording, exit, change management, or all of these things?
- What (and how many) questions do we need to ask our staff?
In many respects this question and the next are interdependent, especially with regard to the length of the questionnaire. When it comes to the questions themselves do you want to ask the same questions every time to everybody, a subset of a larger survey to everybody, or just ask a sample of employees – if so how will you ensure you get a representative strategy?
- How often do we want to ask them?
One of the simple questions that very few people seem to ask themselves is how often do employees want to be contacted? Has anyone actually asked employees if they would be prepared to give a view every week/month etc? This doesn’t need to be a difficult thing to find out, talking to a handful of employees across the organisation will give a good sense as to how much data you are going to get, or if it is being viewed as an intrusion.
- How will we analyse the data?
For me this is one of the most critical questions. It’s great getting lots of data regularly, but what are you going to do with it? Being clear upfront about the process following data collection is really important. When will you use it to set direction and when simply for monitoring existing action and making “course corrections”?
- How are we going to take action on the back of the analysis?
Finally what do you expect leaders and managers to do with the information? You will need to ensure that when action is expected there is enough time for actions to take effect.
Once you have the answers to all these questions then you can assess the market to see what technology and advisory services can support you on this. To reiterate, technology is an enabler not a solution. The solution is something that needs to be designed before identifying the best enabler.