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A part of any effort to change your organizational culture — either as part of a digital transformation initiative or as a standalone effort — must be improving employee engagement. A major element of improving employee engagement is improving your ability to listen to your employees, not only to hear what they are telling you directly but to also read and pick up on other signals. You might think this should be easy, almost table stakes given our modern digital workplace technologies. But do the multitude of potential channels bring their own issues?

Our HR and Communications colleagues have a plethora of modern tools at their fingertips. And with these tools comes a raft of potential problems around ownership, responsibility, volume of traffic (posts and comments), how to track themes across these multiple platforms and more — all of which need to be taken into account when developing a listening strategy as part of the broader employee engagement strategy.

Related Article: Use Voice of Employee Insights to Propel Better Customer and Employee Experiences

Drinking From the Firehose

Whether your organization is at the small to medium business end of the spectrum or the global enterprise level, the availability of all of the tools that form part of your digital workplace provides more potential places for employees to talk than ever before, both sanctioned and unsanctioned. I'm not going to touch on external platforms like LinkedIn or Glassdoor, but you will no doubt want to take these into account too. Meanwhile, your internal tools may include:

  • Enterprise Social Networks (Yammer, Jive, etc.)
  • Persistent chat platforms (Slack, Teams, etc.)
  • Intranet sites with commenting capabilities
  • HR platforms (Workday, Bamboo, etc.)
  • Social recognition platforms
  • Specialist employee engagement platforms
  • Survey tools
  • Video streaming platforms with commenting capabilities
  • Mobile platforms and tools

Many of these platforms come with some form of analytics capability, however those capabilities might not be very sophisticated. At minimum, your listening strategy may have to include manual review and assessment of reports exported from a few or many different tools, in order to perform pattern analysis and gain insights.

Related Article: Why Voice of the Employee Is as Important as Voice of the Customer

Finding the Signals in the Noise

If you're lucky, you may have additional tools at your disposal to make this easier for you. Your marketing team may already have sentiment analysis tools for use with external social media tools that you could apply to at least some of your internal tools and channels. You may have a data analysis and visualization platform available, something like Splunk, Tableau, TIBCO Spotfire, etc. Such a capability will make it much easier to discover themes in the discussions taking place across multiple channels.

Taking it to the next level, you may have an AI platform available that provides natural language processing capabilities. If you can point such a tool at your different systems and repositories you can have it search for key words and phrases and even apply sentiment analysis.

As ever though, technology is only there to assist. In the people, process and technology triangle, your process and your people are going to be the key assets in a listening strategy that can analyze, understand and generate insights on how your employees are feeling. One final consideration is if there are other channels you don't know about. How do you stop your employees from setting up a WhatsApp group or a Facebook group? Can you have HR policy that bans such unofficial channels, and threatens censure for those who are found to have set them up or participated in them? Your local employment laws will obviously impact that.

In the end, our HR colleagues must undertake the cost benefit analysis of feeding potentially many different channels into an AI platform at one end of the capability spectrum, versus having suitably trained employees reading posts and comments in a handful of systems at the other.