“We can’t do a survey. We ask employees to complete too many of them.” It’s a barrier that I often hear when starting the conversation about measuring the effectiveness of employee communication. 

While there are ways to address survey fatigue, there's another research approach that should be part of your mix: listening.

It’s a powerful way to understand employees’ communication experience, and their needs and preferences. In the words of Jack Nichols, “Every person I work with knows something better than me. My job is to listen long enough to find it and use it.”

How to listen? Let’s count the ways:

  1. Questions. Employees ask lots of questions (in many places) and they are important clues about communication gaps. Collect and categorize questions from town halls, emails submitted to question inboxes and social tools. And you can always ask, “What are your questions about this topic?”
  2. Observation. Shadow a few colleagues for a half day to understand how they experience the communication you create. What gets in the way?
  3. Test. Ask an employee to complete a task and watch what happens. For example, “What can you find about our 2016 goals on the intranet? Tell me what you’re thinking as you search. What did you learn?”
  4. Focus group. This doesn’t have to be a comprehensive study. It could be one session designed to gather feedback on a communication plan or test a major deliverable.

What’s your favorite way to listen?

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