A recent post on PR Squared on the difference between “active” and “actionable” listening has some valuable lessons for PR professionals. Though the post focuses on the merits of listening to the blogosphere – and taking tangible actions in response to the input – the same logic applies to PR teams and executives struggling to listen to their employees. Much like on the external side of the house, too many companies still do a paltry or half-hearted job of listening to their employees. I’m not talking about the all-but-required annual survey – which often sits on the shelf gathering dust balls soon after it’s completed – but having channels and mechanisms in place to track and process informal and formal employee feedback. Organizations who take this information and actually respond – through answers or actions – are even more rare. A select few even go to the extent of using crowd-sourcing, using their employees to guide their product development or strategic direction.
Actionable listening, as PR Squared calls it, takes effort and commitment. Indeed, listening is an art that takes time to acquire. It starts with a leap of faith that listening to employees does not mean – despite the fears of some executives – that leaders have to agree with everything their staff say or do everything they want. But it does mean you have to take the input seriously and be genuinely open to taking action in response to the information. Otherwise, the conversation will die on the vine.