Organisations increasingly understand that traditional approaches to employee engagement no longer meet their needs. Rather than solely relying on an annual employee survey, they are moving to a more continuous dialogue with staff, adding new ways of gathering and acting on feedback, in order to gain more comprehensive insight into the views and thoughts of employees.

However, moving from where you are now to become an organisation that proactively uses employee feedback to drive constant improvement can appear daunting. It requires deep cultural change and buy-in from both staff and management at all levels. Therefore rather than trying to jump directly to the end of the journey, it is better to follow a more measured, step by step approach.

In my experience there are a number of stages every organisation tends to go through on the road to reaching employee insight maturity. Whilst each organisation is different, this Transformation Model provides a useful point of reference when considering the journey you might be about to embark upon. The first step is to identify where you are currently and then look at how you can move forward to meet your objectives, rather than trying to do everything at once.

The four stages are:

1          Satisfied
This stage is where many organisations currently find themselves. They run a single, annual (or longer timeframe) anonymous survey across the entire workforce. Data from this exercise is not integrated with information from other feedback (such as exit interviews or performance reviews), but sits in a silo on its own, limiting its effectiveness. There is no way of following up individual concerns, and the overall focus is on gaining feedback that will drive tactical improvements. Often these annual surveys are still paper-based, making their setup, collection and analysis time consuming. Overall, the results are backward looking –rather than focusing on what is happening now.

2          Engaged
The next stage of the model moves beyond the single, annual survey to embrace the collection of event driven feedback around specific occurrences within the employee journey. These could include the likes of promotions, training sessions, changes of role or returns to work after leave. Importantly, there is a closer, clearer link between the feedback provided and the follow-up actions taken. This makes it obvious to employees that what they say does make a difference, and that they are being listened to on a personal level. Feedback is handled much more holistically, with comparisons able to be made between departments and countries within a wider group. 

3          Mobilised
By the end of the second stage employee voice is embedded with business processes, and the feedback staff provide is helping to drive improvements. The next step is to make feedback a central part of business operations and create a two way, constant dialogue that benefits the organisation and empowers staff. In addition to event-driven feedback, feedback is ‘always on’, with staff able to provide their views however and whenever they want, confident that their voice will be heard and action taken. Mobilised businesses have a real-time understanding of what is happening within their workforces, and use this information to guide their strategy and take strategic, rather than just tactical decisions.

4          Ahead
The final stage of the Transformation Model completes the move from reactive to proactive, going beyond insight to being driven by foresight. Across the entire organisation, decisions are driven by a deep understanding of the drivers behind employee behaviour, enabling businesses to accurately spot trends and opportunities and take immediate action to benefit from them. The combination of a mobilised workforce and continuous feedback and knowledge drives a transformational, sustained performance improvement.

The journey to the Ahead stage of the Transformation model takes time, and builds on the progress achieved within the first three stages. Initiatives that affect employees and culture are by their nature significant and take time to deliver. Organisations therefore need to move along the maturity curve at a speed that suits their particular needs, but always keeping the end goal in sight. Begin by mapping where you are now, and then focus your efforts on moving forward. At a time when competition is fierce, the insight you can gain from employees is vital to sustained success, meaning every organisation needs to move from reactive to proactive use of employee feedback.