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  • Danny

Embracing a Product Listening Approach to The Employee Experience


(This blog post is just a small excerpt from our informative newsletter. Sign up here to receive regular newsletters packed with valuable insights, and expert tips)


Following on from our last newsletter, today I am going to share with you the building blocks of what makes a human-centric listening strategy and how it will allow you to go above and beyond a typical survey. The call to action is clear, approach employee listening in the same way successful companies around the world approach product listening. If done right the results are:

  • A clear signal to employees that you care

  • Identifying early trends and signals

  • More impact and focus with resource

  • Help give clarity to the direction of the people strategy direction.

  • Internal and external impact i.e. brand awareness and EVP amongst many other things

When done right the the returns are often seen in attritions, engagement as well as external brand ambassadors. If done wrong you can find yourself being the problem to the problem.


Here is how to do it right 👇

Continuous Discovery

If you ever spend time designing products you will hear customer obsession a lot, yet in EX it’s often like shouting into a cave waiting for the echo to hit you.

PX teams need to get obsessed, I mean like semi stalker obsessed. If you honestly want to design these SPIES

(Services, Products, Interactions, Experiences, Subscription)

Then you need to change the default form once or twice a year, surveys to an always-on-listening approach. The results from this change are often:

  • A shift from superficial to meaningful conversations.

  • Natural forming of trust and feedback loops

  • A pivot from a stale people strategy to an adaptive people strategy

  • Adaptable resource aligned

  • A self-awareness that your baby (current approach) is ugly

  • Application of alternative approaches such as JTBD, pop-up shop, immersion etc (more about this in the next newsletter)

It all starts with looking at the levels of how you are currently listening and identifying any missed opportunities or levels you may have overlooked

Hierarchy of Listening

The super six levels to listening might seem like a no brainer but a lot of the listening approaches Ive seen over-index or under-index in one or more of the below:




External: Goes without saying but using social listening such as Glassdoor, Reddit, X, Linkedin and so forth is a no-brainer

Organisation: This looks at more than just employees, it covers your partners, vendors, contract staff, gig workers and so on. I’ve seen many mid and end of year surveys skip these massive opportunities because “there not employees” yet these people have spent time in your organisation, have experienced working there, and have seen and heard things. This insight is gold dust, it often provides way more honest, non biased feedback. Overlook this at your peril.

Group: Director-level. It's here where you may think that's a no brainer, yet if I were to challenge you and ask when was the last time you sat down with directors and interview them on their experience of work how would you respond

You may be listening in a survey but are you really listening

Function: This is the likes of marketing, HR and so on, pretty self explanatory

Team: This, as I am sure you can gather, is at the team level i.e. Team 1, 2, 3 within a function

Individual: This is you the individual, the team members within the team. It important to note this level of listening is the solid foundation and need to exist before anything else.

Outcomes Over Output

Often clients talk about the high survey participation rate, but to me, that's just an output with little meaning.

We’ve collected 80,000 data points, great now what, all this is just output yet we put it on a mantelpiece and show it off. This is usually because the organisation is valuing the wrong thing... what we need are outcomes

Outcomes are the bigger more impact things at a simplified level, outcomes are the values and benefits from doing something with the data, for example, a drop in attrition due to a better understanding of the onboarding, increase in productivity due to the identification of a tech stack fault.

To move form output to outcomes we have to get better sensemaking and finding the insights that resonate with your the people as well as the business.

Two Buckets of Insights

I won’t go into detail around how to move from data to themed insights and MOOs (I cover that in my book The Insightful Innovator)

For me there two types of insight; the mundane and the magical… both are important

Mundane Insights: are often what you kind of already know, they don’t surprise you as such, often these are just validating what your gut already knew i.e. people are over worked, people don’t receive tech on day 1, people like free coffee but they would actually like hot chocolate as well.

Magical Insights: are where you interrogate the insights a little more, you make them sweat. It's only when you start to challenge them with 'why' questions and spar two insights together that you start to uproot Moments of Opportunity (MOO), when these are presented back they slap you across your face like the bass from your Old Ford escort when you use to go to car park meet up.

They shock and inspire you and uproot something much more impactful.

Now… both these types of insight are vital, the trick is balancing them. Often, I see the focus being more on the mundane and no thought or action being given to the magical. The way I see it, act on the mundane because they are expectations, wants and needs of your people, they are the hygiene factors

Use the magical insight as a spring board, to look at where you can truly offer or create something special… it's the magical insight that separates you from other businesses, it's the magical insight that elevates your USP and EVP to potential new customers (future talent and employees)

Tech Is not the answer

When it comes to designing a people listening strategy the tech industry is ripe with potential offers, it's easy to get magpie syndrome and buy into the latest platform as the solution and then months later cry into your pillow when it doesn't work… the reason, your seeing tech as the answer rather than just an enabler.

Culture Amp, Glint, Tableau, Power BI and many more all dig deep into feedback and help find the patterns and trends but they will not tell you the full 360 picture of it. To get the full picture at some point we have to roll our sleeves up, immerse ourselves into the world of our customers and be prepared to get our hands dirty. It is only by walking and being in our customer shoes that will we truly start to understand the the human elements and tensions at play in their day to day life. So, yes use tech such as Glint, Culture Amp and others to analyse feedback but don't just stop there, move tech to the side and bring human to the front by getting out into the trenches to understand at a human level.

The Rub

Adopting a Product Listening Approach is not just a strategic choice but a necessity for modern HR. We must become customer obsessed and to do that it can be done by just doing a annual survey.

A great listening strategy is one that mirrors a great product listening approach. It moves away from a shot in the arm approach to one that is always on, listening, discovering and prioritising between mundane and magic.

Apply an approach that uses tech as the enabler to overcome any scale problems, but then bring the human touch in by zooming in on any themes and immerse into the challenge by walking in the shoes of the people

Only by applying a similar product listening strategy to employee listening can People Ops and Hr etc create a more responsive, inclusive, and adaptive organisational culture. While also setting itself up for sustained growth and success in the competitive corp landscape.


(This blog post is just a small excerpt from our informative newsletter. Sign up here to receive regular newsletters packed with valuable insights, and expert tips)

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