Continuous Listening, Part One—Definition and Benefits

Raise your hand if you love it when someone starts an article or a speech with “Webster’s Dictionary defines….” Right. Me neither. Instead of simply defining, I’d like to go a step further and try to help create clarity around the concept of an effective continuous listening strategy. This will allow you to speak confidently about continuous listening with your peers, your leadership team, and at your next virtual happy hour (you party animal). Furthermore, creating a strategy does not have to be difficult or complicated, I promise.

Optimized: Continuous Listening Definition

Continuous listening means gathering employee feedback more frequently than one large feedback event, like an annual engagement survey; this much is widely accepted. After that there are dozens of directions in which you can go. I’ve personally worked with hundreds of organizations and the ones that achieve the most success are those that do more than use just one fixed set of questions pushed to all employees on a regular schedule. They gather feedback across the continuum of the employee lifecycle and employee experience, from pre-hire through exit, and are asking the right questions of the right population at the right times. This gives you great insight into the unique feelings and perspectives of many important groups within your employee population.

Doing this allows you to positively impact the entire employee experience. And that’s the ultimate goal, right? Here are just a few examples of how you can leverage the employee lifecycle to create a continuous listening strategy that works:

  1. Do you know if your new hires are having the onboarding experience you want them to have? You spend a good amount of money on recruiting and hiring great people and one of the fastest ways to disengage a new hire is when their expectations don’t match the reality of the job. Collect feedback after the first few months of tenure when the experience is still fresh. Find out what onboarding tweaks you can make that will have the best impact on your new hires.
  2. Curious to know what exactly is driving your turnover and what specific actions will help slow it down? Ask your exits, not your current employees. Exiting employees are the only population who will tell you why they DID leave, not why they MIGHT leave. Confidence increases when you can report quantitative data on top employee exit factors, and you don’t have to assume that what people are telling their manager as their exit reason is true (spoiler: it’s often not true).
  3. Do you need to understand employee feelings and perceptions as you build out your diversity & inclusion strategy? Let me rephrase… You need to understand employee feelings and perceptions as you build out your diversity & inclusion strategy. Ask your full population specific questions to find out. What better way to show your people that your D&I strategy isn’t just lip service than to bring them in on the strategy by listening and acting on their feedback?
  4. How engaged are your employees? When employees are engaged, customer satisfaction, productivity, and profits increase while absenteeism and turnover decrease significantly. You risk spinning your wheels if you start trying to increase engagement without knowing what specific actions you should take to improve it. Conducting a full employee engagement survey is still an incredible tool in your continuous listening toolbox.

Continuous Listening Strategy and Benefits

Let me share a real-life example of how one of my amazing clients was able to take advantage of continuous listening across the employee lifecycle. They gather specific feedback from their new hires and exits, in addition to other current employee surveys. One question they ask on their new hire survey is whether people are having new hire check-ins with their manager or not. This one question gives them visibility into which departments may need more support for getting check-ins done and whether the rest of the new hire experience is different depending on whether someone has their manager check-ins or not. As you might suspect, there is a difference. A big one.

New hires who have check-ins with their managers have more positive experiences across the board than those who do not. Specifically for this client, people who reported having a manager check-in were 9% more favorable across their entire new hire experience than those who did not. With this information, they took action to increase the number of new hire manager check-ins. They worked to build plans based on what they knew would be realistic for their managers. In one year, they increased the “Yes, I had a check-in” responses from 75% to 80%, which is a significant move when we are talking about thousands of new hires each year!

Since they also capture exit feedback, they were able to see if the new hire check-ins impacted employee retention or not. And if you guessed that they do, you’re absolutely right. With this continuous listening feedback across the employee lifecycle, we go from…

“I think doing new hire manager check-ins is good because I read about their efficacy.”


“Our managers checking in with new hires positively impacts the onboarding experience. It also impacts employee retention because we see that new hires who receive manager check-ins are 1.45 times more likely to stay at least one year than those who do not.” (mic drop)

That’s it – that is continuous listening. No need to over-complicate it; it’s as simple as leveraging feedback from the entire employee lifecycle to help guide decisions and action. To learn more about exactly how to put feedback into action, join me in my next article where I discuss how to build and execute a continuous listening strategy that improves the employee experience.

Implement Continuous Listening in Your Organization

For additional information on how you can set up a powerful continuous listening strategy, reach out to People Element; we want to see you succeed.


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