Continuous listening vs. annual feedback

Everybody seems to be talking about “continuous listening” versus the annual survey. What are your thoughts on this, or at least pros and cons to consider?


Great question, Josh! We too keep hearing these references to “continuous listening” and believe it or not, many culture first companies are already doing it, whether they realize it or not!

Continuous listening generally refers to a thoughtful people strategy that includes collecting feedback from employees, both quantitative through surveys and qualitative via conversations and survey comments, across all the moments that matter for your employees, throughout their employee journey. It does not mean, however, simply pinging employees every week to collect feedback on some standard or random questions. Whereas the former becomes a part of, and informs, the organization’s larger people, talent, and leadership strategy, the latter gives the impression of regular readouts on employee mood and health, but more often than not leads to frustration and resentment. Why? Because (1) few managers / those responsible for people and experience in a company can take meaningful new actions on a weekly basis (and still get their “day job” done), (2) the kinds of questions you might ask on a weekly basis are more prone to mood or temporal fluctuations in employee experience and thus less reliable, and (3) assumes all onus for culture and experience rests on “others” watch rather than supporting a bottoms up and inclusive employee approach.

All that is to say that continuous listening can be a great thing - when done right.

What is too continuous then? You should only survey as fast as you can take meaningful action - so too continuous is when you are not able to effectively act on the feedback you are collecting before you ask for more feedback.

What are the moments that matter? You are in the best seat to determine that for your employees and your organization. However, some good rules of thumb include: when employees first onboard with your company, or enter into a new role; when there’s been a large scale organizational change such as a merger or acquisition and you want to understand how employees are feeling; when you are interested in learning about the overall organizational health & engagement of your employees (for some that makes sense quarterly, others bi-annually, and still others annually); when you learn that Diversity & Inclusion was a hot spot from your engagement survey for one department and conclude a targeted deep dive D&I pulse survey is warranted as follow up; during performance review conversations; when you want to understand how aligned employees feel to your company values, or your new wellbeing program, or your recent benefits redesign; and when you are curious to learn from exiting or alumni employees about their experiences and reasons for leaving.

The gist is that there is no “one size fits all” for how and when to listen to employees at the moments that will matter most for them. It’s just important that (1) you do listen, and (2) you take action, and (3) you communicate those actions out.

This article provides some case studies for how other organizations have approached moving from a constricted one point in time survey to a more strategic continuous listening strategy.

Good luck!


Will double-down on jenc’s excellent response… I worked at a company that was surveying continuously (every month) via OfficeVibe and I saw the survey engagement scores start at 70%+ and gradually fall over 9 months to 45%. This was a result of the company not being ready to visibly show that they were actively listening to and doing something about the feedback received.