Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Listening Is Key to Employee Engagement

Are you really listening to your employees?

According to a 2016 Deloitte report, “The biggest challenge in leading engagement programs is shifting from a transactional, once-a-year mind-set, to an ‘always on,’ continuous listening approach to monitoring engagement.”

Many leading management books will tell you just how important the art of listening to employees is. In ‘The One Minute Manager (1982)’ authors Kenneth Blanchard and Spencer Johnson, tell us that the best way to create employee engagement is to allocate time to listen to them.

You may be hearing employees, but if you’re not listening, you’re missing out on opportunities to improve engagement and satisfaction. Listening is a more advanced skill than passively hearing, and better listeners are more in tune with their company, employees, and clients.

As Simon Sinek, author of ‘Start with Why?’ says, “Good listeners have a huge advantage. For one, when they engage in conversation, they make people ‘feel’ heard. They ‘feel’ that someone really understands their wants, needs and desires. And for good reason; a good listener does care to understand.”

When you’re actively listening to employees, you can understand if they are truly excited to work at your organization, within their teams, and in their roles.

But it’s not just about listening to lower-level employees -- you can learn a lot from listening to their managers, as well. You can determine whether your people managers are aligned with your strategy, supported by your leadership, and have the necessary resources to lead.

Employee listening gives your employees a voice. Prioritizing employee listening is critical for improving engagement and benefits your business.

Here are a few more benefits to employee listening:

1. Demonstrate that you care about your employees.

Listening to your employees’ concerns and anxieties shows that you value their opinions and want to understand how they are feeling—that you care about the human being on the other end. Even if your organization’s engagement has been strong and competitive against benchmarks, it’s important to give your employees a microphone, even in turbulent times.

2. Gain real-time feedback to take action or make adjustments.

Employee feedback can help identify areas of opportunities and risks. You may not be able to solve everything for everyone, but any action is better than no action. Look for low-hanging fruit or bigger opportunities that you can address.

3. Empower your managers to engage their teams.

Beyond diving into work or a performance conversation, focusing on feedback helps managers make time to connect on a personal level. Additionally, if you share team-level feedback with managers, they will have a better understanding of their team’s challenges and topics that are top of mind. This knowledge will help them coach accordingly.

4. Gain intelligence on how to move your business forward.

For your business to eventually thrive, you need to move your business forward. And this doesn’t necessarily mean business as usual. We’re facing an unprecedented crisis and attempting to do business in unusual times.

Asking for feedback during this time not only helps you understand how employees are feeling and performing—it helps you uncover key insights that will allow your organization to move from today’s chaos to setting goals, recovering, and thriving.

While their focus may have shifted from things like career development and high-performance, having this insight allows you to narrow in the areas that need the most help so you can move forward more quickly. Consider how you might address the following situations.

If employees are feeling:

Scared → How can leaders build trust?

Exhausted → How can managers help them reprioritize or flex on goals?

Overwhelmed → How can leaders and managers provide clarity on a common goal?

Anxious → How can you build trust with goal clarity and priorities?

Disrupted → How can you recognize great work and inspire more of it?

It’s time to pay attention. Employees want to be heard. If you don’t listen, they’ll become disengaged, even finding their way to your competitors. That’s not going to help anyone – and we all know how talent retention rates can affect a business.

In addition to these valuable insights, listening to employees and managers helps to build trust and rapport, and relationships play an important role in keeping employees happy and engaged.

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