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The Art of Listening: Financial Services Report Reveals the Importance of Employee Feedback

21 Aug 2019 - News

Our recently published report sheds light on the importance of active listening with regards to talent retention, employee morale and successful culture change.

At People Insight, we have recently published a report with thought leaders discussing transformational change within the financial services industry. Over recent years, change in this sector has been necessary — not least because trust has been an issue since the 2008 financial crisis. 

Click here to read our free financial services report, packed with insights on cultural change from industry leaders.

While there are many lessons to be learned from this report,  we feel that one message that shone through was the value of developing an employee listening strategy. We will explore why it’s so important to solicit and consider employee feedback regularly. We’ll show how it can be hugely beneficial in terms of employee engagement, employee experience and company culture. 

Furthermore, we’ll discuss how the experts contributing to our financial services report made listening a priority in their businesses.

Listening to Employee Feedback Ensures We Are All on the Same Page as a Company

To make cultural changes, you need to understand what your current culture is. You also need to have a crystal clear image of where you want your company to be — the goal of and direction for your organisation. 

In our report, Sarah McPake of TSB points out that your business’s culture — as experienced by your employees — might be quite different to what you, as a leader, intended. The culture may vary around locations, departments or groups. So if you don’t know where you currently are, it’s going to be hard to get everyone moving in the right direction. 

To accurately understand the ins and outs of your employees’ experience as it stands, it’s essential you deploy a blend of listening techniques, strategies and mechanisms (discussed in more detail below). While this helps you understand your current culture and how it varies around the organisation, it also gives you a starting point to measure progress against (see an example at Nottingham Building Society). It also opens up lines of communication, which, when handled effectively, builds trust. By listening to your employees, you are giving them a voice — and having a voice means they will feel more ownership over the culture you are trying to create.

Active Listening Makes Employees Feel Valued, Respected and Engaged

By actively listening to our employees and (critically) doing something as a result, we make it clear their point of view is respected and valued. Companies need to beware of simply paying lip service — employees become sceptical of organisations that say they are listening but fail to act or implement change based on insights. If, however, as a business leader or line manager, you take suggestions on board and put them into action, your employees will feel part of the change. These are the people who will be more likely to support transformation. They are also likely to be more incentivised, motivated and engaged.

Jo Moffatt, Managing Director of Woodreed, points out that Engage for Success has four enablers of employee engagement. One involves listening and valuing employee viewpoints. By listening, you are acknowledging that your employees are central to solving business challenges and driving innovation.

Listening Can Make Positive and Tangible Differences to the Employee Experience

If you’re looking for tangible, measurable ways in which listening can make a real difference to the employee experience, Mike Jeacock, Chief Operating Officer (COO) at Jersey Financial Services Commission, reveals the following from his organisation’s yearly employee survey:

“A comparison of survey results shows we are achieving continual improvement, with overall staff engagement increasing from 85% to 91% in year two, and all but one of the 27 areas we measured showed improvement or remained the same.

In just one year, we have been able to make tangible and positive differences to life at the JFSC by listening to our people and taking on board their feedback. After each survey, we have created working groups to empower employees to find solutions and drive forward changes to improve our culture and working environment. Our current results show this approach is working.”

This finding is no real surprise — when you listen to your people and take on board what they want from their employee experience, you can expect positive things in return — as experienced by A2Dominion, and Sturrock and Robson: 

“I have seen Directors want to engage and make a positive change when receiving the results from the survey. .. it’s encouraging.” A2Dominion, anonymous survey respondent.

“Communication is much better than before, and I am very happy about it! People spoke up and I think 80% of the issues have been resolved.” Sturrock and Robson Group, anonymous survey respondent.

Various Listening Strategies (or Listening Mechanisms) You Should Employ

So how can you take steps to ensure you are listening in the right way? The list below provides some general guidance on the types of listening that can be pulled together into a comprehensive strategy, with each providing for specific needs and points in time. It also provides the employee with a varied experience of communicating and feeding back.

  • Employee surveys Employee surveys come in several forms. Census surveys are comprehensive deep and broad measures with internal and external benchmarking — measuring the aspects of employee engagement, culture, wellbeing or bespoke measures that your strategy requires. Pulse surveys check on change, with shorter, more focused questions, and are sometimes aimed only at representative sections of businesses. People Insight’s mantra is to survey at the pace you can make change happen in your organisation, and we design listening strategies accordingly.
  • Lifecycle surveys — Thinking about the employee experience throughout the employee lifecycle, consider candidate, joiners and leavers surveys to understand the perception of your employer brand and the employee experience at all stages.
  • Polls and votes — Work sharing tools like Workplace, Yammer and Slack are brilliant for creating informal polls and asking colleagues to vote for new initiatives, pick a project or give immediate feedback.  
  • Focus groups and workshops Focus groups and workshops are fantastically effective for taking a deep dive and crowdsourcing employee opinions and insights. TSB — as revealed in our report — uses focus groups to generate debate and gain qualitative feedback on what’s important to staff and what they think of current priorities. The “Link Group” operates every quarter, with a network consisting of 125 employees who meet to discuss current business topics and report their views back to TSB’s Executive and the Board. Separate listening groups were opened to 500 people during a change programme so employees could meet with leaders to have open conversations about how they were experiencing the live changes, allowing support to be adapted. 
  • 360-degree feedback — A particularly effective listening tool for the individual’s development, 360 feedback helps leaders and managers increase self-awareness, improve working relationships and promote dialogue. It also demonstrates a willingness to listen and change on an individual level, not just at the organisation level. 
  • Regular check-ins — These days, employees crave (and deserve) regular interaction with their managers. As well as guidance and recognition for their work, one-to-one sessions provide a fantastic opportunity to listen to employees’ needs. By creating a framework and clear set of guidance for managers, the one to one can provide a powerful communication channel through the organisation, ensuring key messages are communicated and key wins or concerns fed back.

At People Insight, we have built our company on employee feedback. We can help you get the insights you need. Get in touch today to arrange your next employee survey.

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