4 Ways to Change the Experience. Without Making Change.

Pulse checks may be my favorite of the services we offer. Please don’t tell my other services this. But they allow me to engage with employees in very real dialog; to solicit qualitative insights which become the foundation for meaningful, impactful action plans.

Pulse Checks serve as wonderful enhancements to engagement surveys, stay interviews, organizational change initiatives, and so much more.

Perhaps what I love most is helping the client recognize that – armed with a robust capture of the collective employee voice – leaders can deliver early and meaningful impact at zero additional cost. They just need to communicate in ways that are new, authentic, and grounded in the findings from the Pulse Check.

There are four strategies I consistently recommend. And if you’ve captured any employee feedback or sentiment – formally or informally – then choose your favorite of the below and give it a try!

1. Validate their experience

Often, during Pulse Check focus groups, I’ll hear comments like “my boss has no idea how much I have on my plate” or “she doesn’t get how demanding this client is” or “he keeps asking me to get data from Finance, but he doesn’t realize how uncollaborative that team is!”

In these cases, does the leader actually not know, realize, or understand?

Doesn’t matter. Perception is everything.

When employees are expressing pain, frustration, overwhelm – what they need first and foremost is simply to be heard.

This is a leader’s opportunity to just validate their experience 

By playing these messages back to your teams – “I didn’t realize you had so much on your plates” or “I can appreciate how frustrating it must be when it feels like Finance is holding the data close” – you aren’t solving anything. But you’re saying “I hear it, I get it, I feel it.” You’re acknowledging the need for solution. And just this alone opens the door to further dialog. 

2. Articulate an insight

Our Pulse Check findings are designed to deliver not transcripts of conversations, but a set of themes and insights that provide a clear set of direction.

In one series of focus groups we heard some of the following comments:


  • “We spend so much time just waiting for someone else to make a decision” 
  • “It’s nearly impossible to access the basic data we need to run models”
  • “Our work feels like two steps forward and one step back because we lack alignment and clarity at the outset of a project.”

These comments (along with others) may seem like one-offs on their own. But collectively, they point to a bigger theme which is “We are battling obstacles to getting our best work done.”

When you can spot - and share - an insight like this with your team, you let them know not only that you've heard them but you've actually reflected and made meaning from their comments. Now they see their voices having contributed to opening a door to change.

3. Commit to a Partnership

Having validated their experience and found the insights within, your next opportunity is to invite them in as partners.

While it is your job to welcome their voices and hear their concerns, it is not your job alone to deliver solutions.

So, invite them to the table with you. Let them know you’re committed to being a part of the change, but they must commit as well. 

To move in a positive direction, you’ll need their suggestions, their willingness to experiment with new ways, their feedback along the way.

This message is both empowering to them (you are not just passengers, but active participants on this journey) and liberating to you (you are not shouldering all the responsibility for change!)

4. Link and Label 

All my clients know my love for this phrase is deep and fierce. Linking and labeling is the simple act of doing a thing, but more importantly, saying you’re doing the thing – so people make the connection.

Often, employees say things like “my leader never coaches me” or “we don’t do recognition.”

And leaders, as they receive our findings, often seem dumbfounded. They feel they spend half their time coaching and recognizing. 

So where’s the disconnect? Who’s telling the truth? Well, it’s everyone.

The challenge isn’t that leaders aren’t coaching, but that they aren’t labeling these moments as such. Coaching is happening informally – in moments – while employees are looking for calendar invites that say “coaching session” on their calendars.

The opportunity here isn’t to coach more, but to simply label these moments as “coaching” moments.

Being mindful, when you feel coaching happening, to say “Kris, thank you for letting me coach you in this moment” will help Kris recognize “Ah, now coaching just happened. 

This principle applies across the board – to career development, prioritization, empowerment. All of these things are happening in unlabeled moments that are yours to capture.

I hope there is insight in these strategies for you. If you’d like to explore a Pulse Check for your organization, please don’t be shy. Or perhaps you’re gearing up to run your own – in which case I hope you give one or all of these strategies a try.

Related: Time for Real, Messy Dialog and Debate at Work