David Highbloom Discusses Unstructured Listening to Improve the Employee Experience

Businesses are on a continuous journey to learn and improve the experiences they deliver to their employees. To achieve this, EX (employee experience) professionals must examine and re-invent their measurement of experience (X) and operational (O) data. David Highbloom, a 25-year entrepreneur with extensive experience in scaling business models to emphasize new operating trends, says that one of the most underutilized X-data elements is unstructured listening.

In today’s human resource operational protocols, most employee X-data is collected through structured requests for feedback such as surveys and questionnaires. Information gathered by structured listening is determined by what employers ask employees. Alternatively, unstructured listening allows employees to choose if, what, or when they provide experience feedback. Here are some common examples of unstructured listening elements. Highbloom says gaining information offered by the employee without a structured set of questions results in more meaningful data.

Creating an environment that inspires unstructured listening is one of the easiest ways for an organization to modernize its employee X-data system. Insights gathered through this process illuminate employees’ emotions, expectations, and perceptions that may not have been on the organization’s radar. 

Highbloom says the three best practices for organizations implementing unstructured listening practices are first using unstructured listening to complement structured listening elements. Secondly, identify workplace experiences that benefit most from unstructured listening. Lastly, communicate to employees how and why you are using unstructured listening. Employee-driven, unstructured listening elements often tell the organization what it should be listening for in more structured conversations. Unstructured listening methods produce powerful anecdotes and stories that support quantitative data produced by structured listening elements. When analyzed together, they create a compelling and more complete narrative about the employee experience.

Highbloom points out that there are situations where unstructured listening can be beneficial. For example, work-related experiences that are new to employees may be best handled without formal surveys or questionnaires. Because an experience is new, it is difficult to anticipate the right questions to ask or what problems employees may encounter.

Finally, transparency is crucial when rolling out unstructured listening. The point is to be very clear with employees how the information will be gathered and used. For example, offering platforms that are anonymous is a great way to get honest feedback.

These three simple practices will help organizations implement unstructured listening and better understand the employee experience. Highbloom says that once these programs are in place and data is being collected and analyzed, it is critical to communicate back and act on the feedback.

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