How to adapt your Employee Listening Strategy to support Remote/Hybrid

In a pre-pandemic work world, people managers would typically have many in-person interactions with their teams and could gauge their morale and well-being via many verbal and non-verbal cues.  Team members could also more easily communicate any issues to leadership in casual settings, such as hallway chats or by the water cooler.  In this world, annual surveys often served only to supplement existing intuition on employee well-being gained through regular in-person interaction.

With the rise of remote/hybrid work, managers and employees no longer have as many opportunities to communicate in the same casual or non-verbal manner. This has fundamentally changed the level of visibility and insight organizations have into employee well-being.  Without this transparency, annual surveys are no longer sufficient as an effective employee listening strategy, as they do not provide enough information to bridge the gap.  

This change has driven many organizations to rethink their traditional surveys-driven employee listening strategies (active listening) by augmenting them with passive listening strategies.  For example, Uber recently rethought its employee listening strategy to adapt to remote/hybrid work.  

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So what exactly is “Passive Listening”?

Passive Employee Listening is a method that measures work patterns in data from collaboration and other communication tools.  This data is anonymized and aggregated, as in surveys, and converted into metrics that are used to measure drivers of employee well-being. Some examples of these metrics are:  

  • Hours in Zoom meetings per day
  • The size of collaborative networks
  • The frequency of 1-on-1 meetings with managers
  • Amount of focus time people have outside of collaboration
  • Amount of collaboration within and across departments

Deeper insights with a Combined (aka "Continuous") Listening Strategy

For passive listening to be effective, it must be used in a manner that protects employee privacy, i.e. via anonymized data and aggregated metrics. When this is combined with survey data, the composite analysis is exponentially more insightful since it helps companies identify the underlying root cause of issues such as employee wellbeing.    

These combined listening strategies are far more actionable; a growing number of companies have been using them to inform and drive their decision around Return to work, Employee well-being, and Employee Engagement.  They also provide companies a more real-time, continuous finger on the pulse of employee engagement. They can course-correct as employee sentiments change, rapidly adapting to a dynamic market environment.

How do we combine Active + Passive Metrics?

Combined metrics involve consolidating data from surveys with work data from collaboration and communication tools such as Zoom, Slack, etc.  The work data collected is first anonymized and aggregated, similar to surveys, and then mapped to the right survey responses and problem areas to understand the correlation to underlying drivers.  

The 3 step process is:

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These composite metrics vary by each company and its particular problem area.  However, some common examples used by many companies are:  

Example 1:

Low scores for eNPS (“I would recommend ACME as a great place to work”) are often driven by factors such as

1) infrequently scheduled 1-on1s with managers, and

2) longer workdays on average.  

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  • ACTION PLAN A: Managers have more frequent 1-on-1s → 20% higher score
  • ACTION PLAN B: Improve workday hours via communicating guidelines on work-life balance and managers avoiding after-hours communications → 15% higher score

Example 2:

Employee sentiments around productivity are often driven by factors such as how many hours of Focus time an average employee in the team had per day.  

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  • ACTION PLAN: Training employees on best practices around meeting habits and blocking focus time → 33% higher score around employees feeling more productive.

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