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Employee listening: Leverage this retention trend and foster a positive work culture


According to a Gallup survey, only 32% of employees are engaged with their work.[1]

Younger workers under 35, in particular, are feeling less heard and less cared about by their employers, a factor contributing to disengagement, low morale, and high turnover rates.[2]

This leads to a fundamental disconnect: The voices that drive your business are often the least listened to.

Enter employee listening – a talent retention trend that involves actively seeking, understanding, and acting on the feedback and opinions of employees. It addresses the core issues of disengagement and turnover by ensuring employees feel heard and valued.

In this article, we outline seven best practices, including using a skills-based approach, for leveraging employee listening as a way to improve your overall employee retention strategy

We also cover three employee listening examples that show well-known companies using this trend successfully.

What is employee listening?

Employee listening is about tuning in to the nuanced voices of your employees, empathizing with their experiences, and gaining a thorough understanding of their needs and aspirations.

This practice isn't just about processing data and information. It's about creating a relationship where employees feel genuinely heard and valued.

By keeping a finger on the pulse of your workforce, employee listening helps you identify and address concerns. It's a strategic approach that not only acknowledges employee feedback but also integrates it into the fabric of organizational decision-making and culture.

Employee listening can take various forms, such as: 

  • Surveys 

  • Interviews

  • Focus groups

  • Suggestion boxes

  • Social media

  • Employee listening platforms

Various forms of employee listening graphic

But it’s not just a one-time event – it’s a continuous and ongoing dialogue between employers and employees. 

Employee listening also differs slightly from employee voice – the former is about hearing employees when they do speak up, while the latter is about employees feeling like they can speak up. 

Why is an employee listening strategy important?

Employee listening is more than just a feedback tool; it's an approach to building a more engaged, satisfied, and productive workforce.

It helps team members share their insights, concerns, and suggestions, which improves the overall employee experience and fosters a sense of contribution to the company's direction and success. 

The result is a culture where every voice is recognized and respected.

Employee listening also brings leadership and organizational blind spots to light, such as managerial behaviors that negatively impact the work environment and employee satisfaction.

By addressing these issues early, you can prevent problems that lead to burnout, disengagement, and high turnover rates.

Promoting employee wellness, diversity, and inclusion is also a part of employee listening.

You can encourage a wide range of opinions and perspectives, leading to solutions and positive organizational changes.

But the insights gained from employee listening do more than just nurture your current workforce. They’re also instrumental in hiring the right people in the first place.

By understanding the attributes and values that resonate with your existing top performers, you can better identify and attract candidates who are more likely to thrive in your organization's unique culture. 

The benefits of continuous employee listening

Research from the UKG Workforce Institute reveals that 34% of employees would rather search for a new job than share concerns with their manager and that 74% of employees believe they're more effective at their jobs when they feel heard.

Bottom line: HR leaders must take employee feedback seriously.

Here are four important benefits of a continuous listening strategy in the world of work. 

1. Boosts employee engagement

Valuing employee opinions through active listening enhances engagement. 

Employees feel more invested in and connected to their organization, leading to tangible benefits.

Gallup’s research underscores this, showing that highly engaged business units see an 81% difference in absenteeism and a 14% difference in productivity.[3]

Actively listening to employees also demonstrates a commitment to their wellbeing and professional growth. This simultaneously enhances employee loyalty to the organization and improves employer branding, which, in turn, boosts engagement. 

2. Boosts performance

According to a study in Frontiers in Psychology, listening is key to improving employees' work experience and job performance.[4] 

When employees feel heard, and their feedback is acted upon, morale improves, leading to a more efficient workplace and heightened overall productivity.

3. Increases retention

Employee turnover comes at a huge financial cost – recruiting and training a new hire can cost your company three to four times the salary of the departing employee. 

Listening to employees and addressing their concerns can reduce employee turnover rates by creating a more satisfying and loyal workforce.

In fact, some studies suggest you can reduce turnover by 20% simply by administering employee satisfaction surveys.[5]

4. Builds stronger working relationships

Active listening can increase collaboration by up to 25%.[6] 

Regular, genuine communication through employee listening strengthens trust and builds better working relationships between staff and management.

A culture of listening leads to continuous improvements as employees feel encouraged to provide constructive feedback, knowing it will be heard and valued. Companies with strong employee feedback systems have 14.9% lower turnover rates.[7]

7 best practices for leveraging employee listening to retain your best performers

This section outlines seven best practices you can use to make the most of employee listening. 

Specifically, we focus on using employee listening to attract and retain top talent and reduce your overall employee attrition rate.

Best practices at a glance

Best practice

Main benefit 

1. Consider requests for upskilling and growth

Demonstrating a commitment to employee development makes your organization more attractive to ambitious professionals seeking long-term growth

2. Align your employee listening strategy with your business goals

Aligning listening strategies with business goals ensures that employee feedback directly contributes to the company's success and employees’ career growth

3. Give your employees an easy way to share their opinions

Providing accessible employee listening channels for feedback encourages more open communication, making employees feel heard and respected, which is crucial for retaining top talent

4. Try employee listening platforms

Using dedicated platforms for employee feedback can streamline the process, making it more efficient and effective in gathering insights

5. Take prompt action on feedback

Acting quickly on feedback shows your company values and respects its employees' input, helping to build trust and loyalty among high-performing staff

6. Create employee focus groups

Using focus groups enables deeper, more targeted engagement with employees, leading to more meaningful changes and a stronger sense of belonging among top performers

7. Commit to regular employee listening

Developing a consistent and ongoing listening approach demonstrates a sustained commitment to employee wellbeing and professional development

1. Consider requests for upskilling and growth

A Gartner study reveals that 58% of employees require new skill sets to stay competitive.

Why is this important?

One of the main factors driving talented employees away is the absence of learning and development opportunities. Employees are eager to expand their skills, knowledge, and competencies, and they seek advancement in their careers.

In the context of retention, employers must not only listen but actively respond to the requests of employees for upskilling and career growth.

There are a number of different ways you can give your workforce the growth they want. 

For instance, you can create professional development plans tailored to your employees’ individual career paths. 

You can also institute employee training programs to provide training in specific areas, such as soft skills or teamwork.

By providing relevant, accessible resources, programs, and pathways for growth, employers can significantly enhance employee retention.

Incorporating skills tests can be another strategic move in this direction.

These tests can assess competencies in areas like leadership and people management, aiding in identifying employees who possess the potential for leadership roles. 

By investing in the professional development of your workforce, you're not only retaining your best performers but also building a more skilled and adaptable team. 

2. Align your employee listening strategy with your business goals

A truly effective employee listening strategy aligns with your overall business objectives, helping you achieve your corporate goals.

At the same time, you foster a culture of inclusion and shared purpose among employees by showing how their feedback contributes to the organization’s success. When employees see the tangible effects of their contributions on the company's trajectory, they’re more motivated and engaged.

Here are four tips to get you started:

  1. Communicate the strategic importance: Convey to your employees the critical role their feedback plays in shaping the business. Explain how their insights contribute to the broader corporate purpose, thereby giving their feedback a sense of meaning and relevance.

  2. Link feedback to performance metrics: To make employee listening actionable, connect the feedback to key performance indicators (KPIs). For instance, if employee feedback underlines a need for more efficient work processes, link this to productivity metrics. This establishes a tangible connection between employee insights and business outcomes.

  3. Set specific objectives for listening: Define clear outcomes and expectations for your employee listening efforts. For example, if one of your strategic goals is to improve customer service, tailor your listening efforts to gather feedback on customer-facing processes and employee training needs in this area.

  4. Analyze feedback in context: Evaluate employee feedback and upward feedback in conjunction with business performance data. This comprehensive analysis can reveal correlations between employee satisfaction, engagement levels, and business outcomes.

Bottom line: Incorporating employee listening as part of your strategy enhances talent retention by showing employees that they’re integral to the company’s success, enhancing their sense of purpose and motivation. 

3. Give your employees an easy way to share their opinions

Facilitating effortless and diverse employee listening channels for feedback is key to a successful employee listening strategy.

One tip to make it easy for your employees is to offer multiple channels. 

Recognize that employees have different communication preferences. You should provide a variety of channels, such as online surveys, mobile apps, instant messaging, social media platforms, and even traditional suggestion boxes.

This ensures that every employee finds a comfortable medium to express their thoughts.

Another option is to incorporate regular polls and exit surveys to ensure ongoing avenues for you to get employee feedback.

Quick polls are less daunting than the more open-ended feedback above, and can yield higher response rates. 

Exit surveys, meanwhile, can provide valuable insights into why employees leave, helping your organization improve retention strategies, employee engagement, and workplace culture. 

Finally, don’t forget to create anonymous options.

Some employees may feel more comfortable sharing feedback anonymously, especially when it pertains to sensitive issues. Ensure there are avenues for anonymous feedback to promote openness and honesty. 

By showing them their input is valued, you not only enhance employee engagement but also tap into valuable insights that drive business improvement and talent retention.

4. Try employee listening platforms

Employee listening platforms are a great way to streamline or automate many of the actions we’ve discussed.

These software tools help employers easily collect, analyze, and act on employee feedback using:

  • Analytics and reporting: Advanced people analytics capabilities to interpret the data collected, identify trends, and provide actionable insights

  • Real-time feedback: Some platforms offer features for real-time feedback, empowering employees to share their thoughts and experiences as they occur.

  • Pulse surveys: Short, frequent surveys (called pulse surveys) to continuously gauge employee sentiment

  • Anonymous feedback options: Ensuring employees can provide honest feedback without fear of repercussions

  • Integration with other HR systems: These platforms often integrate with other HR systems to provide a more holistic view of employee engagement and performance

EmployeeXM from Qualtrics, for example, gathers reviews about working at your company from sites such as Glassdoor. If you see a recurrent negative theme among these reviews, it might point to a potential cause of employee turnover.

By strategically using employee listening platforms, you can simplify feedback processes and facilitate data-driven decisions.

5. Take prompt action on feedback

Prompt action signals to employees that their input is valued and can lead to meaningful changes. 

Make sure to quickly acknowledge the feedback you receive and start planning appropriate responses. For instance, if your survey results indicate a desire for skill development and employee training programs, promptly outline a plan for implementing these programs.

Keep employees informed about the actions you plan to take in response to their feedback so they know that their cries are not falling on deaf ears. Communicate the expected timeline and potential outcomes of these actions to maintain transparency and manage expectations.

You must also regularly evaluate the outcomes of the actions you’ve taken.

Use metrics and follow-up surveys to assess whether the changes made are addressing the concerns raised and improving employee engagement.

Finally, share examples of how employee feedback has led to positive changes within your organization. This not only validates the feedback process but also encourages further participation and engagement from the workforce.

6. Create employee focus groups

Employee focus groups are more than just a data collection method. They’re a platform for meaningful dialogue and engagement, and a key part of helping employees feel engaged with the issues they’ve raised.

You can use employee focus groups to nurture deeper employee engagement and boost retention by:

  • Setting clear objectives and guidelines: Prepare for each focus group session with clear objectives. What do you hope to achieve or learn from this session? Establish guidelines that encourage open, respectful dialogue, ensuring that every participant feels comfortable and valued in sharing their thoughts.

  • Facilitating meaningful conversations: Rather than just collecting feedback, facilitate discussions that delve into the why behind employee opinions and behaviors. Try to uncover underlying motivations to create more effective solutions.

  • Involving employees in solution generation: Use focus groups as brainstorming sessions to generate new ideas and solutions for workplace improvements. This collaborative approach not only yields innovative ideas but also enhances employee investment in the outcomes.

  • Recording and reflecting on discussions: While quantitative data is important, the qualitative insights from focus groups are invaluable. Record and analyze these discussions, paying attention to the nuances and sentiments expressed, which can offer deeper insights into employee morale and culture.

  • Acting on insights: Communicate the changes or actions being implemented as a result of these discussions. This transparent action planning reinforces to employees that their voices are not only heard but are instrumental in shaping their work environment.

Focus groups remind employees that they are a vital part of your organization.

And people tend to stick around when they feel like they’re part of something bigger.

7. Commit to regular employee listening

Employee listening is not a one-time event. 

It’s a process of ongoing dialogue that reflects an investment in employee wellbeing.

Establish a clear and consistent schedule for employee listening activities – you can do so during annual employee engagement surveys, performance reviews, focus groups, and one on one meetings. Regularity ensures employees feel continuously supported and heard, rather than being solicited for feedback only sporadically or in response to issues.

Be sure to regularly review and update your listening strategy and methods to keep them relevant. As your organization and workforce evolve, so should your approach to listening.

You also want to allocate the appropriate resources and budget to your employee listening initiatives to ensure their effectiveness, including:

  1. Delegating staff to manage the process

  2. Providing training on effective communication

  3. Investing in employee listening tools and platforms.

Finally, actively acknowledge and celebrate the input received from employees. This can be through employee recognition programs, sharing success stories where feedback led to significant changes, or simply thanking employees for their valuable insights.

By committing to regular employee listening, you demonstrate an ongoing dedication to your employees' voices. 

Employee listening: 3 examples of companies succeeding with this talent retention trend

The above practices show that employee feedback creates a better workplace.

 Now, you might be wondering how other companies are using employee listening to do just that. 

Here are three examples of companies that have successfully leveraged employee listening to improve their employee retention rate for you to draw inspiration from.


Key Points


Employs a daily pulse survey and an annual employee survey to track employee sentiments, leading to actionable changes like wellness days and manager guidance on employee recognition

McKinsey & Company

Uses a weekly pulse survey and a manager alert system, supported by robust data management, to capture real-time employee sentiments and inform new work models and inclusivity initiatives


Strives for an open-door culture and diverse communication strategies, improving employee psychological safety and engagement 


Microsoft's employee listening approach exemplifies how understanding workforce needs fosters a positive workplace culture. 

Central to this is its daily pulse survey, sent to a representative employee sample, focusing on work-life balance, productivity, and other key areas.

This tool swiftly identifies and addresses emerging issues.

For example, when the survey data indicated a shift from increased engagement to deteriorating work-life balance in remote work settings, Microsoft introduced wellness days to combat burnout and boost job satisfaction.

Transparently sharing results across the organization demonstrates how feedback leads to actionable changes, like directing managers to emphasize employee recognition.

Microsoft’s strategic, multilayered listening approach gives them real-time, nuanced workforce insights. In turn, it’s able to respond empathetically and effectively, reinforcing its good company culture.

McKinsey & Company

The employee listening strategy at McKinsey & Company demonstrates an innovative adaptation to remote work and changing employee needs.

Its approach involves a weekly pulse survey that captures staff sentiments on mental health, productivity, and inclusivity. 

These employee engagement surveys, with more than a million responses representing 90% of the workforce, offer real-time insights while ensuring privacy.

The firm's robust data management, supported by expert data engineers and analysts, facilitates the efficient analysis and application of these insights. A key feature is a self-service portal for managers, providing immediate access to survey reports and enabling swift responses to team-specific concerns.

McKinsey's manager alert system offers timely team-level insights, preempting potential issues and fostering effective communication. 

The valuable information gleaned from these surveys guides the development of new work models and inclusivity initiatives while demonstrating McKinsey's commitment to a responsive, data-driven, and employee-focused workplace culture.


Nissan's journey to becoming Great Place To Work® Certified in 2023, with 77% of its workforce recognizing it as such, underscores its commitment to a comprehensive employee listening program.

The company promotes an open-door culture, empowering employees to communicate directly with leadership – a great example of going beyond traditional surveys to gather feedback.

 In its manufacturing sites, Nissan’s employee listening approach included skip-level meetings, one-on-one meetings, and intimate leader-employee interactions. Business leaders and HR representatives also actively engaged with employees on the factory floor, emphasizing direct, empathetic communication.

This strategy, rooted in humility and empathy, was key to building effective feedback loops and overcoming communication barriers. Initiatives like its Business Synergy Teams focus on inclusivity, significantly improving employees' sense of psychological safety.

Nissan’s efforts translated into tangible benefits: a notable increase in employees' long-term commitment to Nissan, heightened pride in the workplace, and improvements in productivity and engagement. 

Use employee listening to build a great workplace

Your ability to stay ahead of your competition requires a deep understanding of your workforce. 

A solid employee listening program distinguishes companies that thrive from those that merely survive. It goes beyond retaining top talent; it's about aligning with your business goals through a deep understanding of your team's needs and aspirations.

By taking employee feedback seriously and integrating these practices, you cultivate an inclusive culture where excellence thrives.

You help motivate your employees because they know their opinion is valued.

Begin your journey by incorporating the Communication Skills test into your hiring process to empower your leaders to be better listeners.

Learn more about how leadership communication can help build a culture where everyone’s opinion is valued.


1. Harter, Jim. (January 25, 2023). “U.S. Employee Engagement Needs a Rebound in 2023”. Gallup. Retrieved December 8, 2023. https://www.gallup.com/workplace/468233/employee-engagement-needs-rebound-2023.aspx 

2. Pery, Sarit; Doytch, Guy; Kluger, Avraham. (June 19, 2020). “Management and Leadership”. The Handbook of Listening. Retrieved December 8, 2023. https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1002/9781119554189.ch10 

3. Harter, Jim. (August 13, 2023). “Employee Engagement vs. Employee Satisfaction and Organizational Culture”. Gallup. Retrieved December 8, 2023.https://www.gallup.com/workplace/236366/right-culture-not-employee-satisfaction.aspx 

4. Kriz, Tiffany D.; Kluger, Avraham N.; Lyddy, Christopher J. (July 26, 2021). “Feeling Heard: Experiences of Listening (or Not) at Work”. Frontiers in Psychology. Retrieved December 8, 2023.https://www.frontiersin.org/articles/10.3389/fpsyg.2021.659087/full 

5. Adhvaryu, Achyuta; Molina, Teresa; Nyshadham, Anant. (April 22, 2019). “Want Fewer Employees to Quit? Listen to Them”. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved December 8, 2023. https://hbr.org/2019/04/want-fewer-employees-to-quit-listen-to-them 

6. Hilb, Anne. (August 29, 2023). “The Biggest Bang for Your Organization’s Buck? Active Listening Skills”. LinkedIn. Retrieved December 8, 2023. https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/biggest-bang-your-organizations-buck-active-listening-anne/ 

7. Ganesh, Kailash. (October 10, 2023). “Employee feedback loop: The secret sauce for employee retention”. Culture Monkey. Retrieved December 8, 2023. https://www.culturemonkey.io/employee-engagement/employee-feedback-loop


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