Avoid These Pitfalls For A Winning Listening & Engagement Strategy

Avoid These Pitfalls For A Winning Listening & Engagement Strategy

Imagine a scenario where your employees come to work every day feeling heard and valued.

They are motivated and engaged, going above and beyond to contribute to the success of your organisation.

It may sound like a dream, but it is possible and absolutely attainable with an effective listening and engagement strategy.

The high costs of recruiting staff and heightened competition for talent mean that employee retention is more vital than ever. Positive company culture is the key to keeping employees around for longer, and its starting point begins with employers paying attention to their employees. Unfortunately, many of today’s listening and engagement strategies do not produce sufficiently effective and actionable results. And more often than not, business leaders are unsure of which questions to ask, how to address concerns, or where they should begin. Now, annual company surveys do not cut it when raising the company’s employee engagement. Understand the five common missteps to avoid that ensure your strategy does not go wrong.

What is a listening strategy, and why is it important for employee engagement?

A listening strategy is a plan of action to help managers and leaders better understand their employees and learn about their needs, concerns and ideas. It is purposefully designed to gather feedback and ideas, through continuous conversations, regular check-ins, meetings, etc.

Ultimately, the goal of a listening strategy is to create an environment where employees feel heard, understood, and valued. It not only improves employee experience, but also fosters a culture of trust and collaboration, leading to better communication, problem-solving, and in the long run, improved business outcomes.

Without an effective listening and engagement strategy, leaders will not be able to connect with their workforce, and risk losing critical assets to the organisation.

Listening and Engagement Strategy: Missteps to Avoid

Developing an employee listening and engagement strategy is a complex process that requires careful planning and execution. Avoiding common pitfalls can help to ensure that the strategy is effective and leads to positive outcomes for both employees and the organisation.

Poor or Insufficient Listening

It is uncommon for many organisations to think the feedback they get from their staff is useful and accurate. Add on the fact that leaders typically base their understanding on their line managers’ anecdotal feedback, which they should never solely rely on. This inconsistent, filtered, and sporadic feedback is vulnerable to being skewed by unconscious biases, which is anything but helpful to realising a people strategy that management can act on with certainty and clarity.

The challenge that HR commonly faces is lag indicators. Therefore, by paying close attention to employee concerns consistently instead of irregularly, leaders can keep their ears to the ground and pick up on issues before they become bigger problems. Business owners are responsible for managing the stress of their people, so it is vital to listen and pay close attention invariably and not settle for word of mouth.

Asking the Wrong Questions

Compiling a survey is a process with numerous pitfalls to watch out for, with a major one being asking leading questions. Everyone has innate biases that are not easy to avoid. Furthermore, the choice of words has a significant impact, as a certain word can trigger different responses from one person to another. As such, take care of the language used and understand how it can affect your employees.

Similar to listening, it is critical to maintain consistency in one’s questions. It is often the case that people change their questions whenever they do not get the answers they want. Changing and chopping questions is anything but helpful in understanding what is actually happening in the workforce. Other glaring issues include asking questions that do not produce valuable data or asking too many questions.

It is important to ask the right questions that are relevant, open-ended, non-threatening, and non-judgmental. This will encourage employees to share their thoughts and feelings, and provide valuable insights that can be used to improve the organisation. Additionally, it is important to ensure that the questions align with the listening strategy and its goals. In such cases, making use of communication tools such as SoundWave can help direct leaders in asking the right type of questions aligned with their objectives.

Waiting for a “Good Score” From Employees

Most companies asking their employees to rate their work experience generally do not wish to see poor scores. In the end, they give in to the temptation of waiting until everything is set in place, leading to procrastination. The main takeaway is that it is not about the score but more about learning where the organisation is at that point and where it should go next. In other words, the point is listening and understanding where your employees are at present, deciding on what you do with the information gathered, and guiding your people towards the next best step.

Waiting is bound to only lead to worse consequences. The longer that leaders defer listening to their people, the longer it takes to get started on addressing their needs. By then, employees may no longer be there as they have already resigned. Thus, if you are wondering when to do this, there is no better time than now.

Neglecting to Uncover the “Why”

Many listening activities rarely go beyond the top-level topics or themes to get to the root cause of issues. Identifying such thematic information may be interesting, but nothing more. Thus, gathering actionable information means leaders must uncover the “why” of certain problems by digging deeper and asking intelligent questions. A lack of knowing “why” ultimately leads to the “what” likely being wrong.

Simply Not Taking Action

Nothing is worse than companies saying how much they value people on paper, like on their website’s About Us page, and yet not putting their words into action. The same applies to employee surveys if no changes are ever implemented. Countless employees have felt frustrated from answering listening surveys hoping to see changes implemented soon, only to be met with the reality that even six or twelve months later, nothing has ever been done about their concerns. Trust is everything, and following this path of indifference leads to culture suicide. Failure to listen and act on time will naturally cause a drop in employee engagement. In short, make a plan based on the feedback with clear outcomes and the why behind them.


Fear is the main thing that keeps humans from doing anything. Asking for feedback can be daunting, even more so when one is unsure how to fix problems the right way. However, making mistakes is part of the process. Employees will better appreciate leaders who continuously work towards a solution that everyone is satisfied with than those who do not act at all.

At StrengthsAsia, you can rest assured that we have the necessary expertise and experience to improve your management team’s engagement strategy by making the most of their individual strengths. All our leadership development workshops and online corporate training courses are tailored to each organisation’s unique needs, so no two programs will be exactly alike. You can reach out to us here to learn more about StrengthsAsia and the courses we offer.

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