Listening through learning: a strategy for changing the corporate climate

The pandemic has triggered a global transition. This transformation has dramatically added to changes that were already going on in people’s private and professional lives. Within the business context, merger and acquisition operations are transitions in themselves. There’s a thread that links all transitions together, both big and small, at work and in life: people’s need to feel listened to and to actively contribute to potential opportunities for future development. And when we talk about listening, we need to go way beyond the traditional pulse survey.

In a recent HRC event, listening emerged as one of the key ways for businesses to manage change.

People need to be listened to

While people are going through change, they navigate through a long “no man’s land”. They look at what was and what will be. In science terms, it’s called the “neutral zone”. This is the period that can really make the difference between a successful organizational culture and a prolonged period of uncertainty and confusion. When going through a transition, it all depends on how “seen” people feel.

“Listening, communication and engagement are the three factors that translate vision into purpose”, says Lea Tarchioni, Head of Pople & Organization, Italy at Enel. “Our values were born out of listening to people. They asked us to be more open and involved in change, so we developed an ‘open power’  philosophy. We need to be open to confrontation, sharing ideas and involving people across all levels in the choices we make”.

When people are going through transitions, people need to be listened to and map out their journey. Staying close to people and listening to them will boost engagement and wellbeing.

The tools for the job

But how can we really listen to people? Focus groups dig deeper, but they can’t reach everyone. Closed questions on a pulse survey limits the richness that can emerge. These tools belong to a post-pandemic HR team. It’s not even about responding to people’s needs by creating ad hoc rooms. Rooms where you can see and listen to people to help them feel better..

Today, corporate HR management has all the knowledge and technology they need to ‘listen while’. Instead of creating new spaces where we can listen to people, we can listen while they are focusing on something else.

According to Marina Famiglietti, Head of HR at Borsa Italiana, “HR needs to really concentrate on listening to people, even if this means reaching less people than you would in a pulse survey – often people see this as a tool that the company is using to listen in on them”.

We don’t have to choose between listening to many or a few. When you really listen to people, you can do it through activities that are already engaging your people, such as through training, engagement, diversity or culture initiatives. You can listen to people through Lifeed’s digital self-reflection journeys accompanied with everything else that’s going on.

Corporate culture is formed by people

On the other hand, we are all connected. By using digital modules and open questions, we can stimulate reflection and self narration. It’s a chance to really listen to people. Listening without “making them” respond to pulse surveys that establish certain frames and bias. In this way, we can generate content that really enrich the corporate culture, but also help people feel better too.

It’s about weaving the opportunity to see and listen to people within the company. It’s about giving them a way to contribute as they work and while they form a new corporate culture. The culture forms with them as they work.

According to Fausto Fusco, HR director at BIP Group, “the company needs to understand who it wants to be and involve the corporate population. In BIP, we created new induction journeys for new hires to help them feel accompanied and listened to over the long term”.

Of course, listening doesn’t end there. “It needs to be a tool that brings specific results”, says Fabrizio Rauso, Director of People, Organization and Digital eXperience at Sogei. “The purpose needs to be ‘actionable’ and find concrete actions in people’s everyday activities”.

This emerges from business contexts that listens to and values people, enriching the collective narrative and encouraging people to contribute to creating the corporate culture and defining the purpose. In fact, Ester Cadau, International HR Audit M&A, PAI-PMI Director of Atlantic Group says it’s a “philosophical vision of human resources”.