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Segal Benz February 19, 2019 4 min read

Soliciting and Listening to Employee Feedback Is Crucial to Engagement

Feedback is essential for gaining insight into and developing empathy toward the very people for whom you’re creating solutions. It’s vital to understanding what’s important to your employees, what motivates them, what their goals are, and where they get stuck.

Everyone wants to feel heard. Listening is one of the most important things you can do as a leader. It’s more than just hearing what people like and don’t like; it’s an opportunity for you to evaluate your current approach in a whole new light—whether it’s something as simple as a word choice or as complex as introducing a new medical plan. Listening will help you get results faster and more easily.

That’s why feedback is an essential part of marketing your benefits to employees and key #4 of our ebook series: Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: A 10-key Framework Every Organization Needs to Get Results.

How Feedback Ensured New Parents Got the Support They Needed

One of our clients recently launched an enhanced parental leave program. However, a year after the program’s launch, they discovered that extended time away from work brought problems that no one—neither the HR team nor employees—could have anticipated. They found that employees returning to work were struggling to reintegrate into their departmental roles. Even simple things, like what they should do on their first day back at work after a 6-month leave, weren’t clear to them. Should they just show up at their desks and start checking emails? How should they adjust to their new reality and schedule with a new baby at home? How should they get up to speed upon their return? What about the sensitive issue of breastfeeding?

It was obvious to our clients that they needed more in place to support employees returning from a long leave of absence, but more of what? They weren’t even sure where to start. At first, HR leaders thought that flexible working arrangements would be the solution, so they tasked the global benefits team with implementing that change. However, the benefits team proposed that they instead take a few extra weeks to make sure this was the right solution. To better understand how to help employees transition back to work, they decided to gather feedback directly from program participants. Over a period of 2 weeks, we interviewed 15% of the employees who had taken a leave of absence of at least 2 months.

Surprisingly, when employees were asked what the company could do to make them feel more supported when they returned to work after a parental leave, they rarely mentioned flexible schedules. What they wanted was a more structured—and empathetic—process for returning to work. And that process needed to start with managers.

That feedback was then used to design and launch a customized return-to-work program. Our client hoped this new program—aptly named Welcome Back—would help to create a smoother transition for employees returning to the company after an extended leave. The program included guides with critical information for both employees and managers. On the front line, managers could either make or break the employee return-to-work experience, and they needed guidance, too. Flexible working schedules, such as occasionally working from home, were also introduced.

The program was well received. Close to 350 employees have downloaded the guide since the program was launched. And, as a result of its success, Welcome Back has been expanded globally to select countries.

Science Tells Us How and Why to Gather Feedback

We apply proven techniques from behavioral economics to our work to drive results for our clients. Here’s the science behind the success of this campaign:

Observer’s illusion of transparency describes how we overestimate how well we understand what other people are thinking. By getting feedback around how best to support employees rather than assuming one solution (flexible working arrangements) would be the magic bullet, we ended up with an entirely different program than what we would have otherwise created.

Positive test strategy is one of the most common biases we keep in mind when designing how we collect feedback. It explains how people seek out information that confirms the opinions they already have. Or we look for hits rather than misses. It’s also how we make sure we don’t ask leading questions. A quick test to determine if something is potentially a leading question is if it can be answered with a quick “yes” or “no.”

Understanding human behavior is at the heart of all user-centric design. What someone wants or needs can only be truly understood by working with the end user (in this case, employees returning from a long leave). Therefore, interviews are fundamental when creating and communicating any new program.

Learn more about the importance of feedback, and read other case studies like this in our ebook series Unlocking Successful Benefits Communication: A 10-key Framework Every Organization Needs to Get Results. Feedback is part of Book II: Marketing, and you can also read the other books in the series that show you how to build your benefits communication foundation and how to get the right resources in place.