Posted: 12 Jan. 2023 8 min. read

Advance your workforce listening strategy

Improve employee experience with data-driven insights

Authored by Kim Lamoureux, Eric Lesser, and Gary Parilis

As organizations struggle to retain workers, developing a strong workforce experience has never been more important. According to Deloitte’s 2021 Millennial and Gen Z survey, 36% of millennials and 53% of Gen Zs would leave to join a new organization within two years, if given the opportunity.1

Fostering high-quality employee experiences requires monitoring the pulse of the workforce through active listening in the workplace. This includes collecting, analyzing, and acting upon employees’ perceptions, preferences, and sentiment about their employer, work, and the workplace. Without capturing this feedback on a consistent and ongoing basis, organizations are at risk for missing key challenges that can lead to productivity loss, burnout, and attrition.

Workforce listening requires a dynamic, action-oriented approach. Today, annual engagement surveys continue to serve as the primary vehicle for obtaining employee feedback. By themselves, these surveys provide leaders with valuable, point-in-time insights on the workforce, but harvesting insights from a variety of channels is essential to provide real-time information and enable effective decision making in the moment. Organizations need to think innovatively and employ multiple listening approaches, and then integrate and analyze listening data in conjunction with other HR and business data. From this variety of data sources, more meaningful insights can be derived that enable effective decision making.

So, how can companies make the most of their workforce listening strategy? Certain factors are essential for designing and executing an effective listening capability.


Effective measurement of the employee experience and sentiment begins with defining the right listening strategy, carefully considering the business objectives and target population, and deciding upon the channels, approach, and cadence for data collection. Good design recognizes issues such as data quality, representation of the intended population, biases, honesty of responses, and reliability.

Beyond annual or semiannual engagement surveys, ongoing and targeted listening approaches are important to obtain frequent and timely feedback, provide early warnings of issues, and stimulate prompt action. Integrating data is also valuable, expanding the analytics opportunities, making it possible to draw connections across various surveys, but also with other HR data sources, such as performance management and compensation, as well as other business, financial, and customer data.

Fundamentally, listening strategies must be assessed with the end goal in mind. What do you expect to learn from the data and analysis? What kinds of actions would you expect to take? And what kinds of employee experience analytics would that require?


The objective of any listening project is to put evidence-based intelligence into the hands of decision makers to drive better talent and business outcomes. Listening analytics can come in a variety of forms and levels of complexity, and a deliberate approach will help to produce the most useful results, using the right resources. Descriptive analytics, exploration, and basic data visualization are almost always an important starting point, and sometimes may be sufficient on their own, but there are ways to go even deeper. Three progressive steps to analyzing listening data are described as follows:

Gather Insights from Multiple Sources: Analysis of data at the aggregate level across multiple sources can amplify the value of employee listening. Even basic comparison of results across data sources can provide useful insights. For example, do retention trends tend to line up with engagement survey responses over time? Does employee sentiment, by location, tend to reflect hybrid policies and in‑office mandates?

Integrate the Data: Integrating data sources at the employee level can provide value and actionability far beyond comparing aggregate findings. This allows for precise statistical connections in the data, even when doing relatively simple analyses, such as correlations. For example, are less engaged employees more likely to exhibit quality issues or workplace safety incidents? Do employees with certain types of collaboration habits express more positive sentiment than their peers? What level of compensation relative to the market is required for employees to express satisfaction with their pay?

Develop Predictive Insights: Integrated data makes predictive analytics possible. While building a predictive model can be quite complex, the insights it provides can be straightforward and invaluable for executives. It can concretely quantify the relative importance of factors driving the employee experience, and provides warning signals of groups at risk, along with the levers to address root causes. For example, a model may determine that work-life balance issues and burnout are top drivers of disengagement and attrition, and that scheduling issues and overtime hours are specific levers that can remediate those issues.


Perhaps one of the biggest challenges associated with workforce listening is using the insights to drive meaningful change. Indeed, one of the survey items that often solicits the lowest positive response is, “I believe the organization will make meaningful change based on the results of this survey.”

Driving action requires an understanding of a variety of factors, including:

  • What potential changes will have a direct (and indirect) effect on the issues being raised through employee listening?
  • What are the costs of different interventions needed to support the changes?
  • What are the implementation challenges associated with putting the changes in place?
  • If changes are implemented, how will the changes be communicated and what support will be put into place to adopt the change?
  • Who will have ownership of implementing the change?
  • How will impact of the change be measured?

Some organizations have incorporated action planning tools and approaches to systematically capture, manage, and communicate the changes resulting from listening efforts. While having structure around the process is clearly important, there is always the potential danger that the process itself becomes unwieldy and will be pushed aside as just “another set of boxes that need to be checked off.”

In summary, there are several factors that are essential for effective workforce listening. They are:

  • Sense: Cutting through the noise to focus on what is most relevant to the business to explore in greater detail
  • Analyze: Sharpening perspective and surfacing the real questions to formulate meaningful analysis and insights 
  • Act: Implementing high-quality decisions through clear ownership and governance

What next? To learn more about how to sustain these efforts by building the competency and infrastructure to support an effective and continuous listening capability, look for the next blog in the series titled, Sustain Your Workforce Listening Strategy.



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