22 June, 2021

Employee Listening for Accelerating Inclusion and Diversity

Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) is a major area of focus for HR departments globally, as robust research has emerged about its’ many business benefits. However, while companies have made progress on measurable aspects of DEI, specifically, a diverse head count and equitable benefits, subtler aspects like inclusion and belonging have not yet received the attention they need. This is especially significant in the current context, where employers are preparing to welcome employees back to work or switch to a hybrid work model for good. Unless an organization takes the effort of measuring employee sentiment and translating it quickly into action, they risk alienating underrepresented groups/interests, thereby impacting cultural health. Each employee has multiple identities including gender, region, sexual preferences, economic and social backgrounds etc. They may carry a specific medical and familial history. Actively listening to unique employee voices is critical to make holistic headway in any DEI program. This blog talks about the different ways in which organizations can adopt ‘employee listening’ to accelerate DEI:

  • Regular Check-ins 

Proactive communication and feedback gathering can help organizations respond to changing employee requirements.  Pulse surveys enjoy multiple benefits over traditional surveys in that they aim to gather crucial employee opinion in a simple format, without requiring a significant time investment. This gives the advantage of getting quick feedback and taking action on survey results before they’re made irrelevant. Some examples are a ‘Women at Work’ satisfaction survey or a ‘WFH challenges’ survey. An employee engagement platform helps to administer these surveys easily across the organization, as well as collate in-depth analytics for the same.

  • Safe Spaces for Discussion

Having dedicated chat groups and virtual discussion forums with employees belonging to underrepresented groups, as well as their allies, can be a great way to further their interests in the virtual world of work. Sharing stories of triumphs as well as challenges can help strengthen peer bonding, build advocacy and offer bottom-up solutions for better inclusion. For example- having a dedicated forum for the firm’s LGBTQ+ community, expecting mothers or even those grieving the loss of a loved one to the pandemic.

  • Encouraging Fairness

Organizations can minimize incidents of unfair performance analysis, bullying, harassment, and bias by setting up the required infrastructure to nip them in the bud. A performance management tool which can track manager ratings on KPIs throughout the year as well as manager-to-peer recognition trends can reveal if teams are being led fairly. Peer-to-manager recognition/feedback can also provide a safe way for employees to report unfavorable behavior or vice versa. 

  • Interpreting Indirect Data  

Indirect Data relating to an employee’s day-to-day emotions can be helpful in capturing trends over time. An employee mood-o-meter can be installed in daily work apps to track this. Performance management systems pointing to a consistent dip in productivity can also give clues to negative sentiment or vice versa. Extracting anonymized data from company collaboration tools can also keep the organization informed about dominant employee voices, thus giving a useful metric to measure progress on their DEI goals.

Empathy needs to be the guiding principle for people management in the current work-from-home scenario, especially for groups like women who may be facing adversities like domestic violence, the differentially abled who are facing a higher health risk or the economically vulnerable who have lost their sense of job security. Keeping an ear to the ground helps organizations stay agile and craft policies for the post-pandemic workplace accordingly. As discussed in our previous blog, true inclusion doesn’t come purely from having a diverse workforce. It comes from decentralizing power and putting underrepresented employees front and center when it comes to designing an employee engagement program.