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Are you even listening? (Perspectives webinar recap)

As a father of three, I can appreciate the adage: “Children should be seen and not heard.” Sometimes you’d prefer to just concentrate on what you’re doing.

But what about our employees? Oh, that’s an easy one.

If we’re not listening, they’re not staying.

Employee voice is a hot topic. After several years of workplace changes, there’s no return to normalcy in sight. Millions of workers are fed up, burned out, and switched off. They want to share their experiences in the hopes that we’ll take action. But are we actually hearing what they have to say?

To find out what’s really going on here and more importantly what we as Strategic HR and business leaders can do about it, I recruited a blue chip panel of experts onto my latest installment of our Perspectives webinar series sponsored by The Predictive Index.

My guests were:

In this post, I’d like to give you a recap of the webinar and some of the most salient points from these experts.

Join us live for the Perspectives webinar.

And learn more about executive and strategic HR work.

Audience poll

Before I kicked off the panel discussion, I posed a few poll questions to our audience. I love our attendees, and I really enjoy learning about their mindset, successes, and challenges. I posed two questions:

First, I asked them how they were feeling as we’re headed into 2024:

I was pleased to see that the majority of responses seemed to reflect the positivity and optimism that generally accompanies a new year. If you look on the fringes, however, you still see some lingering dark clouds, with some attendees responding with “overwhelmed,” “busy,” “rushed,” “unsure,” and “already tired.”

Next, I wanted to see which type of employee listening techniques they were already using.

Annual or semi-annual surveys were the most popular feedback mechanism by far. I was pleasantly surprised to see that town hall-style meetings were also quite popular. I was disappointed to see that skip-level meetings came in last, as I’ve personally found these to be highly effective when done right. 

Panel discussion

After the poll, I was ready to kick off our panel discussion. I posed my first question to Donovan, asking him why it’s so doggone important to capture employee voice.

The importance of listening

“Employees are the lifeblood of your organization,“ he said. “Here with the Mets, we used to have a wall and the executives used to sit behind this wall. And it really just seemed like they were disconnected from the employees. New ownership came in, they knocked this wall down and it was like, ‘We’re all together. We need to know what’s going on within the workplace.’”

I’ve heard of metaphorical walls separating executives from the riff-raff, but an actual physical wall?

“We actually had sledgehammers knocking down this wall,” he continued with a smile.

That’s a powerful and symbolic gesture I can get behind!

How formal should we be when collecting feedback?

Next, I wanted to explore whether we should take a structured, formal approach in gathering employee feedback, or opt for a more freeform and informal method.

Charkie led us off, saying: “I’m a proponent of the combination of both informal and formal, because it will drive and build and reinforce that culture of feedback, because that’s the ultimate goal.” She went on to describe how formal methods have the advantage of being documented, and serving as a compliance tool that many HR teams require.

Her love of informal methods stems from the real-time nature of casual check-ins. This lets a manager take swift action based on what they hear.

The strategic nature of well-crafted feedback loops

How does feedback help us see the bigger picture?

There’s another advantage to formal feedback, like an organization-wide structured survey. These allow us to analyze the input at various levels. This can help us deliver better business results.

Michelle explained how, saying “When we look at feedback in sort of a team level—as a heat map of the organization—it helps us to see where there are some real pressure points, or where there are some real high points in the organization. That can lead to a lot of additional learning and takeaways that you can bring back into how you’re executing on the strategy.”

I don’t care how well-crafted your strategy is – it’s no match for real-world conditions and the human dynamic. As Michelle pointed out, organizational feedback gives us the ability to determine what’s working and what’s not and where.

More to the story

As we continued our conversation, we touched on topics including:

  • The importance of being transparent
  • Why it’s critical to draw early-career workers into the feedback conversation
  • How certain types of employees (e.g., working parents) have specialized circumstances we may overlook unless we check in with them

It was a really great conversation, and I encourage you to check out the replay if you’re able.

Insights from the chat

This month’s chat was particularly lively. Here are just a few of the comments from our participants:

  • Pattie: “I tell my clients if they don’t plan to share the results and take action, don’t conduct the survey.”
  • Eric: “Sometimes people just need to be heard. ‘We hear you’ is an excellent baby step to acknowledging feedback.”
  • Dallas: “Finding some small wins in the feedback that you can execute on is key.”
  • Abdullah: “I think growing organizations that are unprepared for how growth impacts their people strategy is one huge cause for discrepancy between operational employee impressions and leadership’s understanding of the issues.”

Thanks to all attendees for sharing your comments and praise in the chat during the webinar!

Closing the show and your next steps

After the panel discussion, I led a round of Q&A with our panelists. One of the great things about the show is that we leave plenty of time at the end to allow attendees to ask their most pressing questions.

As closing time drew near, I announced the winner of our book giveaway (yay, Ellen!! 🎉) and I shared the takeaways our guests wanted to share with you:

  • Donovan shared this video showcasing the incredible work the New York Mets’ Employee Resource Groups (ERGs) are doing, as well as their careers page!
  • Charkie encouraged attendees to check out heck out the Change@Work website to learn more about the program and access some resources. 
  • Michelle directed attendees to her Predictive Advisors website to learn more about the workshops and courses they offer.
  • And I also shared my latest how-to worksheet for becoming a Highly Effective Leader

As a special benefit, registered attendees got exclusive early access to a very special quiz that I created for the episode. Tally up your current employee listening results to see your score!

That’s a wrap for the January show. I’ll look forward to seeing you on our next webinar!

Join us on 2/14/24 for February’s session of Perspectives: What’s Love Got To Do With Work; Why getting comfortable with the “L word” is the key to business success. Registration is now open.


Matt Poepsel, PhD is the author of Expand the Circle: Enlightened Leadership for Our New World of Work and host of the Lead the People podcast. He serves as Vice President & Godfather of Talent Optimization at The Predictive Index. He holds a PhD in Psychology, an MBA, and a Harvard Business School Certificate of Management Excellence. Matt has more than 25 years of leadership experience as a software executive and consultant. He’s also a US Marine, an Ironman triathlon finisher, and a student of Buddhist philosophy.

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