Unlocking Employee Engagement: The Synergy of Multichannel Communication and Employee Listening

Insights from Guest Speaker & Forrester Analyst, David Brodeur-Johnson

In today’s rapidly evolving workplace landscape, organizations are increasingly recognizing the value of employee engagement and its impact on performance and business outcomes. In this insightful interview following our recent webinar with esteemed Forrester analyst David Brodeur-Johnson, we delve into the importance of employee listening and its effect on the employee experience (EX). David shares his expertise on how organizations can leverage two-way understanding, multichannel communication, and data analytics to keep employees engaged and retain top talent, ultimately linking EX strategies to tangible business outcomes. 

Join us as we uncover the keys to unlocking employee engagement through the synergy of multichannel communication and employee listening, illustrating how to effectively tap into the collective consciousness of employees to foster a culture of alignment and growth.

Haiilo: Why is two-way communication important and how can it shape a company’s culture?

David Brodeur-Johnson (DBJ): I’m going to shift this a little and describe it as 2-way understanding and not just communication. So many leaders I’ve spoken with feel like they’re already hearing more than they can handle from their employees, so getting a level deeper from not simply hearing what employees are saying but understanding what they mean and the reasons why they’re saying it, is what’s important, because that’s where true insight comes from. For example, many leaders are hearing from their employees right now about their frustrations with return-to-office mandates. But what these leaders are missing is that the frustration is rooted not in laziness, but in a desire to use the time that they have as effectively as possible. Instead of wasting hours in their commutes every week only to sit on Zoom meetings from the office, employees are seeking the autonomy to come in when it makes the most sense for them to do so, such as when they have a lot of work that’s best done face-to-face with others. Viewing it through the lens of understanding completely reframes the issue. And leaders who can engage in authentic dialog with their people at scale can do a much better job of avoiding the problems that will cause their people to disengage.

Haiilo: How can an organization tap into the collective consciousness of employees through employee based listening?

DBJ: It’s about understanding sentiment and emotion because that’s what really determines how people are experiencing their organizations, and also where true insight comes from. This understanding can come in part from analyzing how people communicate with each other through electronic channels, through the content they consume and their behavior patterns. Technology platforms that can serve as the hub for multiple communication channels can be a source of the data, while some can help you analyze the data and generate insights from it. This, in addition to being able to field conventional surveys and launch topics for feedback in ways that encourage people to participate with the confidence of knowing that their identity is safe makes for a comprehensive listening capability.

Business people working and discussing together in meeting at office. Team of successful people in business meeting.

Haiilo: What is DEX and how does it connect to EX?

DBJ: DEX stands for Digital Employee Experience, and it represents the sum of all the perceptions that employees have while using the technologies available to them in their work for their organizations. When we consider that employee experience peaks when people have good days at work – days when they can go home with feelings of having made worthwhile progress in the work that they know is important, the critical role that technology plays comes into focus. In Forrester’s EX Index survey data, the strongest technology-related predictor of high engagement is being satisfied with the collaboration technologies they use, followed by ease in searching for and finding the information they need to do their work. Accordingly, great technology in these areas is one of the best investments organizations can make in improving employee engagement.

profile photo of David-Johnson

In Forrester’s EX Index survey data, the strongest technology-related predictor of high engagement is being satisfied with the collaboration technologies they use, followed by ease in searching for and finding the information they need to do their work.

David Brodeur-Johnson
Principal Analyst, Forrester

Haiilo: How does combining listening and data analytics drive EX and DEX improvement?

DBJ: The secret here lies in the insight that there are significant differences between what people say they need to feel more engaged when we ask them vs. what behavioral data shows corresponds to higher levels of engagement. For example, studies show that when employees are asked what they need to feel more engaged, they will say things like recognition, more pay, or more important work. But diary studies show that their engagement peaks on the days when they feel like they’ve made the most progress on the work that they know matters most. In other words, feeling like they’re making progress in their work is a stronger predictor of engagement than what they say they need. Taken together it means that fostering engagement means providing an environment that’s conducive to productivity while also meeting employees’ needs to feel uniquely seen and valued for who they are and what they do for the organization, paying them well, and making sure the work they’re doing is a good fit for their interests and skills.

Top view of successful young business people using gadgets, studying documents and sharing ideas while working in office

Haiilo: How can an organization develop a comprehensive multichannel approach to create alignment?

DBJ: I have to confess that the term alignment makes me feel concerned because it presumes that the things leaders are seeking alignment on are indeed the right things. In reality we know that employees often have a better idea of what’s needed because they’re often closer to customers or have more insight into broken processes and systems, etc. So, when I use the term alignment, I mean not only employees aligning behind the initiatives and goals that leaders set, but also leaders aligning behind the insights they can get from employees about not only what’s most needed to serve customers well, but also how best to do it. To do this means choosing a technology platform that can enable bidirectional communication and listening between employees and leaders, at scale.

Get connected with your employees

Haiilo: How can a multichannel approach keep employees engaged and help your organization retain top talent?

DBJ: The acclaimed author Roy T. Bennett said: “The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words.”

The desire to feel seen, heard and valued for who we are and what we bring to the table is a basic human need that needs to be met before we are willing to give the best of ourselves. Every employee makes a decision each day, whether they’re aware of it or not, about how much of themselves they’re going to give to their work, so when you have multiple channels through which you can listen to them and understand what they need, and you act in positive ways on those things, you foster employee engagement.

Team of professionals having a new project meeting. Business people smiling during a meeting in office.
profile photo of David-Johnson

Every employee makes a decision each day, whether they’re aware of it or not, about how much of themselves they’re going to give to their work, so when you have multiple channels through which you can listen to them and understand what they need, and you act in positive ways on those things, you foster employee engagement.

David Brodeur-Johnson
Principal Analyst, Forrester

Haiilo: How transparent should an organization be with listening and monitoring processes?

DBJ: In my opinion, it’s almost impossible to be too transparent because both participation and gathering reliable insights depend on it. More importantly though, employees develop a keen sense about how much they can trust their managers and leaders by watching how information is used and how leaders communicate it. For example, I recently had a client confess to me that they fielded their annual engagement survey with the promise that employees’ responses would remain anonymous. But because they allowed managers with 6 or more direct reports to review the written comments from their team, one of them recognized that some of the comments as likely being from a specific person on their team, and then reached out to them. Naturally this came out publicly within the company which led to a backlash against employee surveys because trust was lost. It’s extremely difficult to gain back trust from employees once it’s lost, so transparency about who will be able to see what in the data being gathered is important. And, employees also need to feel like the information is being used to improve employee experience, and not to punish individual employees.

Haiilo: Once an EX strategy is in place, how can it facilitate behavior change that links to business outcomes?

DBJ: An EX strategy isn’t a strategy at all unless it links to business outcomes. But outcomes stated as things like increase revenue by x% or increase customer retention by x% are mostly meaningless to employees unless they know what they can do in their roles to help achieve those outcomes. Without that, behavior change won’t happen. So, an effective EX strategy is one that links specific initiatives to improve EX to business outcomes. For example, to improve same store sales might mean improving the technology they use and changing the metrics they’re measured by to help them spend their time in ways that customers will value more. A large clothing retailer recently discovered that their store employees were spending more time dealing with returned merchandise than they were on helping customers find great clothing choices that fit their personalities and lifestyle. The root cause was that while employees were incentivized to provide good customer service, they were punished with after-hours work and warnings from regional managers about unprocessed returns – a problem they discovered through their EX listening work. By simplifying the process of dealing with returns for employees, they solved the problem through behavior change.

woman adding post it notes to a glass wall


Combining multichannel communication, attentive listening, and comprehensive data analytics empowers organizations to uncover invaluable insights. It gives leaders a deeper understanding of employees, enabling them to create an environment that promotes productivity and sustained engagement. As a result, organizations can build trust and implement change that directly impacts business outcomes.

Programmers cooperating at IT company developing apps

About Guest Speaker, David Brodeur-Johnson

Principal Analyst

David serves leaders responsible for employee experience (EX) and workforce productivity and is the lead author of Forrester’s EX Index research. His passion is helping companies create workplaces that engage people and enable them to do their best work. He is an expert in the way technology affects motivation and performance as well as how it shapes organizations’ employee experience. David also speaks publicly about how organizations can use psychological and organizational behavior research to guide their technology strategy and set better priorities.


Previous Work Experience

David is a former software executive with 20 years of industry experience in product development, management, and marketing. He has taken new products from zero to $100 million in revenues; he has also managed mature product lines and portfolios through all parts of the value chain — from vision, through execution and marketing, to successful selling. More importantly, David has worked directly with dozens of global organizations to understand how they function and how they use technologies most effectively.
Prior to Forrester, David was the VP of global marketing for Matrix42, an endpoint management company based in Frankfurt, Germany; there, he worked with organizations to understand and develop solutions for their desktop transformation initiatives and coached sales teams to position and sell them effectively. In addition, David led product management and strategy for BMC Software’s configuration automation for clients, cloud life cycle management, and data center automation product lines. He also spent five years at Altiris/Symantec leading product management and marketing for the service desk and IT asset management product lines.

profile photo of David-Johnson

Take the first step towards change today