How to conduct the most effective employee listening sessions


In this article, we’ll explore the different employee listening research strategies, their strengths and weaknesses and how they can be used to gather the collective intelligence of your employees.

Why would you want to conduct an employee listening session?

The benefits of gathering the collective intelligence of your employees are many.

Employee listening sessions provide you with a deeper understanding of the pulse of your organisation, which can help you identify areas for improvement and innovation, then develop solutions to problems.

Gathering feedback from those closest to the action will give you better insight into what’s working and what isn’t—and this can support you to make better decisions as a leader.. For example, determine the right approaches to process improvements that benefit everyone on your team.

Conducting employee listening sessions helps ensure that everyone supports you in your decision-making and buys into the changes that you decide to implement.

The most important things to consider when planning for employee listening sessions

Before you decide on a structure or medium for your employee listening research, the most important things to consider during your planning stage are:


What are you trying to achieve? How will this session help you achieve it?


How many people should attend the listening session, and how long is enough time for people to feel heard and share their valuable experiences? Will it be face-to-face or virtual so that anyone can join in no matter where they work? Are there specific questions for employees to answer, or is this an open forum where employees can discuss any issues they feel need addressing? Does the topic require listening to be anonymous to encourage candid responses?


Consider who you want to hear from. Are you interested in hearing from the whole company? Perhaps you’d like to run employee listening sessions with certain departments of your business?
Consider who would benefit most from participating in a session, and what expertise or experience will add the most value to your research and decision-making.

Type of data

The purpose of the listening will determine what type of data is output from your research. If you want to test a theory or hypothesis, then quantitative data may be the best output. If you want to understand concepts, perspectives, attitudes or experiences, then qualitative data may be best.

Data collection methods.

How will you record all data derived from your employee listening sessions, and how will you ensure that no data is missed? Where will you store the data?

Data analysis methods.

Whether there are tens, hundreds or thousands of people you need to hear from, good-quality data may take lots of time to assess, especially if it’s qualitative data.

Make sure you have an analysis methodology in place in order to turn around the results from your employee listening quickly so that you can make timely and effective strategic decisions based on your research. You may want to look into available technologies for data analysis to avoid lengthy processes and the potential for human error and/or oversight.

Option 1: Conduct a Survey

The Pros

One of the most popular ways to conduct employee listening sessions is through surveys. 

They’re easy to design and implement, quick to analyse, and can be anonymous so employees aren’t afraid of reprisals if they don’t like what they hear. On paper, surveys are a good option for collecting data from a large number of people at once (i.e., your entire workforce).

The Cons

You can't get context from simple written responses like you can with conversational research methods (like a focus group). A limited understanding of the context behind a survey response leads to uninformed decision-making.

Surveys have low engagement. Low engagement slows data collection making your sample too small or biased to gather broad insights and make robust decisions.

And then there's the balancing act between independence and social learning: when people think independently, you can avoid ‘groupthink’ that could bias your ultimate decision-making. That's a good thing. But it also means that people don't learn from each other or share other perspectives, which strengthens collective intelligence

There is a way around the problems that surveys present: using conversational research methods! Involving your employees in real conversations means that people will be more engaged and provide more context for their answers since they're actually having conversations with other participants during the listening process. And those conversations will help them learn from each other and share perspectives that strengthen the collective intelligence of your organisation. Let’s explore…

Option 2: Conduct an ‘All Hands Meeting’

The Pros

An ‘all-hands’ or big group meeting is a great way to bring everyone together to share information and align big teams on business goals and achievements. They're a great medium for keeping a group updated, celebrating people and success, and sharing context around what's happening/has happened in your organization. You can use them to develop company culture and a sense of togetherness.

These things make an all-hands meeting a great way to share information about company goals, achievements etc., but doesn’t necessarily make this the best medium to listen to your employees and give everyone in your group an equal voice.

The Cons

All-hands meetings can be chaotic.  It's hard for a large group of people to agree to something. It’s possible for a group forms camps with opposing views that don't listen to each other, or for individuals not to share their independent opinions and follow the crowd instead. 

Under these conditions, a few loud voices can sway the decisions of a group. This is can lead to social biases like herding, peer pressure or groupthink. It happens when most people follow the crowd instead of thinking for themselves. 

And then there's logistics. If you're trying to accommodate a lot of people at once or find a time that works for everyone, it can slow down decision-making. You might have to make unpopular decisions about who can participate.  It can also cost a lot of money. You may need facilitators and other resources like equipment or space. 

Plus, having a conversation with tens, nevermind hundreds or thousands of people at the same time is nigh-on impossible, making an all-hands meeting a non–starter if you want to conduct research across an organisation.

Option 3: Set up a task force

The Pros

Task forces and small ‘expert’ groups are often chosen by organisations to conduct employee listening through focus group sessions or advisory groups to reach time-sensitive decisions.

It's easy to put together a small expert group and much easier to conduct an in-depth conversation with fewer people in a group. Logistically, it’s easier to gain and analyse data to come to fast conclusions compared to evaluating tens, hundreds or thousands of employee opinions.

The Cons

Diversity of thought and representativeness are crucial for collective intelligence that supports better decision-making. While task forces are good for time-sensitive decisions, they are not inclusive of a large group of stakeholders' experiences and opinions.

When people feel excluded from decision-making processes, they don't buy into decisions. Plus, while it's easy to put together a small expert group, who are they?

A task force or group of ‘experts’ may leave your wider employees feeling like the surveyed group is not representative of their collective experiences, thoughts, or feelings.

If you don’t cast a wide enough net for a diversity of knowledge and experiences your decisions might lack resilience when the limited views and knowledge of the experts are off-the-mark.

Option 4: Introduce Natural Language Processing AI technology to your employee listening research

Harnessing your employees’ collective intelligence is becoming more and more important. Voice technology can help you collect feedback from employees, summarise entire conversations and provide you with actionable insights to determine whether there is a consensus. All while allowing you to deep-dive and examine detailed spoken-word audio insights.

Natural language processing AI technology allows you to give every employee genuine voice and generate collective intelligence while reducing the impact of social biases. It removes the difficult logistics of facilitating in-person conversations and provides you with instant analysis of hundreds or thousands of perspectives. All this in way less time (under an hour) than it would take to conduct any other type of research method.

Try the PSi app

Our mission is to enable strategic leaders the leverage the collective intelligence of large groups to make better decisions, in under one hour.

We created PSi (People Supported Intelligence) to collect and analyse the conversational data of thousands of people and reduce the number of ideas crowdsourced from your employees to one unified consensus in less than an hour. 

It's the fastest possible way to poll a group, no matter its size, and retain the quality of qualitative audio data to produce actionable insights from your employees, whatever your business goals.

PSi can be used from any computer or mobile device, without needing to download an app. The output is delivered immediately as valuable insights found from analysing conversations while reducing social biases, loud voices and the challenging logistics of conducting employee listening.


We hope this article has given you some insight into how to conduct the most effective employee listening sessions. 

We recommend that you consider your business's unique needs, culture and goals before deciding on which strategy works best for you. Employee listening sessions are a great way for companies to gain valuable insights about their employees, but they can also be time-consuming and costly if not planned properly. 

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