The Next Competitive Advantage in Talent: Continuous Employee Listening

People analytics can provide real-time insights. Here’s how leaders can use them to identify critical needs, make decisions more quickly, and strengthen their employee value propositions. 

How are your employees feeling? Arguably, there’s no question more critical in organizations today. But truly understanding how employees—individually and collectively—feel and what they want has become increasingly difficult, particularly over the past few years.

Companies may have used annual surveys in the past to understand what’s going on with employees, identify and characterize emerging workplace trends, and act quickly to seize opportunities or address any issues. But in reality, annually taking stock is not enough anymore.

The pace and complexity of work has continued to increase in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Working teams have become more agile. Hybrid models and gig and project work have become more prevalent. Employees’ expectations of their employers continue to evolve, and many have expressed the desire for more flexibility, connectivity, and fulfilling and purposeful work alongside traditional compensation and benefits.

At a time when organizations are facing wave after wave of disruption rather than occasional upheavals, the traditional survey approach is no longer sufficient. It should be supplemented by a continuous-listening strategy—a process driven by people analytics and supported by a people analytics team for capturing employee sentiment in both the short and long terms.

Through this continuous-listening process, business leaders can both monitor the pulse of the organization at the moment and create an ongoing dialogue with employees. Such a dialogue can engender trust and partnership and can spur long-term improvements to employees’ workplace experiences and performance, as well as companies’ ability to retain top performers.

To understand what a continuous-listening strategy looks like and how to build and staff such a strategy, consider our experience at McKinsey.

In March 2020, at the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKinsey closed its offices and switched to a remote-work model. Employees’ personal and professional lives had been significantly altered, and we were keen to quantify and address their needs in a way that was timely and effective and that rigorously protected their privacy. Here’s what happened next.

by Alice Damonte, Elizabeth Ledet, Daniel Morales, and Sarah Tobey (Mckinsey & Company)

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