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Gain insight from your employees with a post-pandemic 'listening tour'

Gain insight from your employees with a post-pandemic 'listening tour'

With pandemic restrictions easing and employees returning to the workplace, this is an ideal time to take the pulse of your workforce and tap into their ideas for improving processes and procedures. How? By conducting a listening tour.

"Most workplaces have gone through dramatic changes in the last 18 months, and more changes may be coming as we rethink how work is done in a post-pandemic era. Now more than ever people need to be heard, to share concerns, successes and barriers, as well as ideas for work and the future. We need to do this collaboratively, mindfully and with sensitivity," says WSPS Workplace Mental Health Consultant Danielle Stewart.

Listening tours are a collaborative way to initiate discussions and demonstrate to employees that they are an integral part of the organization, continues Danielle. They increase understanding and trust and could open up workplaces to new possibilities.

Danielle defines listening tours as a formal or informal process through which managers hear from a wide range of employees on a specific theme. They can take many forms:

  • a meeting of volunteers willing to speak freely about their thoughts, experiences and ideas
  • informal check-ins with your staff
  • department meetings, surveys, walkthroughs, etc.
  • any combination of the above

While listening tours are often prompted by changes to an organization's operating environment, such as the pandemic or the introduction of a new corporate strategy, carrying out tours regularly can generate ongoing benefits, says Danielle. She offers six tips for making a listening tour a success.

1. Ask for volunteers from across the organization - reflecting different responsibilities, age groups, cultural backgrounds, etc. - to capture the diversity of your organization. Explain why you are conducting the listening tour: "This is the conversation we want to have, this is where it will be, and when. Who wants to join?" Let people know you consider their input valuable, and that their thoughts and ideas could help shape future policies. Reassure them that confidentiality will be respected.

2. During the meeting, ask a few direct questions and then listen. A listening tour implies little conversation from you, except to guide the discussion and thank participants for the ideas presented.

Questions related to the pandemic might include:

  • How are you doing?
  • Are you excited about leaving your home office and coming back to the workplace, or does this make you feel anxious?
  • Which changes have gone well during the pandemic?
  • Which changes would you like to stay in place?
  • How do you think we could do things better?

3. Keep the meeting focused on solutions. While an important part of the listening tour is to hear about people's experiences and frustrations, don't let the conversation get bogged down, or let one person dominate the meeting. Show empathy and compassion and encourage suggestions for the future.

4. Don't make commitments. You are soliciting employee feedback to guide your decision-making, but you don't know how or what will change, says Danielle. "So don't say, 'That's a great idea, we'll do that.' Instead say, 'Thank you for the suggestion. Let's bring it forward and see if we can use it.'"

5. Summarize the meeting(s) and send a copy to all employees. Avoid identifiers or personal information. "Just outline the themes that emerged, the challenges expressed, and the possible solutions that you will take forward."

6. Follow up. Tell employees what actions you've taken and the result. "Let people know their time and effort was valuable. If implementing a change will take time, assure employees you haven't forgotten about it and provide regular status reports."

How WSPS can help

Check out these blog posts for senior managers from the CEO Health & Safety Network:

Learn more about how the pandemic has influenced employee perceptions about the workplace.


The information in this article is accurate as of its publication date.