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6 Steps to Creating a Culture of Listening

If your goal is to create a culture of listening within your organisation you’ve come to the right place! We love to help our customers embed feedback as a habit within their work lives. Read on to find our top tips for making listening an integral part of your culture.

Two people conversing - two way conversation is key for creating a listening culture.

1. Get Organisation-Wide Buy In

The first step is always to get buy-in from everyone in your organisation. This means explaining your listening strategy to everyone from your CEO and board to your managers, and all the way through to junior interns. It’s really important that everyone understands what it is you’re doing and why. 

Explaining the kind of listening culture you’re trying to build, what everyone is expected to commit to, and what the organisation hopes to achieve is key to ensuring the success of your listening strategy. It will also help to truly embed listening into your organisational culture

Neuroscience shows us that clarity is a key theme when it comes to engagement. Information flow, and understanding requirements and organisational impact will help your team engage with your listening strategy more thoroughly. 

We recommend getting buy-in from leadership first. This way when you share the strategy and commitment with your wider team, they will understand that this is something that’s being taken seriously from the top. This will have a huge impact on embedding listening as a central tenet of your culture. 

2. Understand How to Reach All Your People

You won’t be able to make listening an organisation-wide element of your culture if you’re not able to reach your whole team.  That’s why it’s important to make sure your plans are accessible to everyone within your organisation. 

In order to successfully reach as many people as possible in your organisation, creating clear comms, deadlines and signposting will be key. Also you need to think about how you will be communicating your strategy. Think about whether you will use posters in communal areas, graphics on your intranet, company wide emails, or team meetings. We recommend a mix of these elements where possible. 

You’re unlikely to get 100% response rates, but it is important to get a representative sample from all areas of your organisation. We have more tips about how to improve your response rate if you think you’ll need them. 

Make sure you’ve thought about reaching people in the languages they speak, on the devices they use, and at the times that are most suitable for them. In particular think about those with accessibility issues, can they use screen reading software to understand the surveys you’re sending? Our platform makes all of this easy, as we’ve done the legwork for you!

3. Create a Robust System For Two-Way Feedback

Listening only works if it’s two-way. You need to make sure that you’re both listening to your team’s feedback, but also communicating back to them the impact that their efforts are having. Otherwise people will quickly become disengaged and you won’t be able to make listening a real part of your culture. 

Whenever you do collect feedback, it’s vital that you share the results that you’ve gathered back to your people. This will help them to understand the impact of their time and effort better. It will also mean that if feedback has been misunderstood or misconstrued, or if you need further clarification, you can ensure you’re all on the same page. 

When entering into any kind of listening programme, it’s important to remember that there’s a power imbalance between leadership and your wider team. This means that to get honest, candid and actionable feedback consistently you need to take steps to make sure they can do so safely. As listening becomes embedded within organisational culture, many of our customers have found it becomes second nature to their team. However, in the first instance anonymity will play a pivotal role, which is why it’s so central to our offering. 

4. Share Processes For Actions & Accountability

Listening will only work if you’re able to prove that it’s not just talk. Actions are what matter. This means sharing roadmaps and timelines where possible, and adding in clear benchmarks and timeframes for accountability. 

Asking the right questions, following up and getting clarification where possible and uncovering actionable data will be key in ensuring a strategy that’s great for your organisation and your people. Our platform is specifically designed to help uncover strengths, weaknesses and action points at every step along the way. 

We recommend having regular check-ins with your team when it comes to your feedback. This means letting them know about progress, actions taken and measuring impact. 

It’s inevitable that at some stage you will hit roadblocks. It happens to every organisation (even ours!) but sharing these openly and honestly with your team will help ensure that listening can occur on both sides of the relationship and embed into your culture. 

5. Don’t Try to do Everything (All at Once)

While we’re all about taking action at The Happiness Index, you need to be realistic about what you can achieve. Taking on more than you have resources - time and budget - for will only lead to disappointment for you and your team. 

Instead we recommend focusing your attention. Ask the right questions before you dive in to make sure you’re setting off in the direction that’s most likely to lead to a culture that prioritises listening for your team. 

You may not be able to utilise our closing the feedback loop all the time, or need to set clear expectations with your team as to when they will receive replies. You might not be able to use always-on listening, but prefer to have regular pulse surveys until listening becomes more part of your organisational culture. There are as many ways to approach listening as there are organisations. 

Making a realistic roadmap with regular milestones and check-ins will help ensure you remain focused and are creating a listening culture that works for everyone. 

6. Make Listening a Habit

Another key way to make listening an ongoing part of your culture is to practice. This means that doing a one off survey and then not mentioning it again until the following year won’t work if you’re really aiming to make listening a part of your cultural DNA. 

Some organisations may not be able to conduct in-depth surveys more than once a year, but adding checks and balances as mentioned before will keep the process front of mind for both you and your team!

There are less formal ways to ensure ongoing listening. Make sure as an HR professional you’re scheduling in 1-1 time with as many team members as you can whenever you can. Also, ensuring managers are properly trained in listening and giving feedback can seed listening at every level of the organisation. 

Lastly, our always-on listening survey - Employee Voice - is a great way to give people the chance to give feedback and for you to listen to your team 24/7. Because of our unique ‘Closing The Feedback Loop’ feature, which allows you to enter into anonymous two-way conversations, it allows both you and your people to practice the habit of listening.

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Elle Whitehead-Smith

"Elle is happiest when given plenty of puddings, popular novels and, particularly, perfect grammar."



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