It’s no secret that the majority (87 percent) of today’s workers feel disengaged in the workplace. While there are many reasons for this high level of disengagement, employee complaints about employers not listening to them certainly ranks high on the list. In fact, a recent study revealed that more than one-third of the workforce believes that their employers do not listen to their ideas.
This is a staggering number and one that employers should not overlook. Not only can showing your workforce that you are really listening to them improve employee engagement levels, but it also can boost workplace morale, job satisfaction rates and overall retention.
The good news is that listening to your employees is not as difficult as you might think. Here are some tips to get you started.
Let Employees Speak
The first step to really listening to your employees is to pave the way for them to speak. If your employees already feel like you’re not listening, you cannot expect them to spontaneously come to you with ideas or concerns. According to a recent study, more than 40 percent of junior-level workers state that they are afraid to bring ideas or concerns to upper management. Your employees will never feel heard if they don’t feel comfortable speaking up in the first place.
You can overcome this barrier by developing a platform for them to speak. Pulse surveys can be an extremely effective platform, especially when using an anonymous and easy-to-use interface, such as single-click surveys. Offering a fast and secure way for employees to voice their opinion can improve day-to-day engagement with your team and provide you with candid feedback.
Make Listening a Priority
It is not enough to simply say that you’re going to start listening to your workers, you must make listening to them a priority. It’s important to develop active listening skills, so your team knows that you are really listening to what they have to say. Improving your listening skills will make you a better leader and enable you to better manage your team.
Look for and create opportunities to listen to your team. For example, set time aside when conducting both individual and group meetings for your employees to discuss their work experience and provide constructive feedback. Once your team discovers that they are able to provide honest feedback without negative results from management, they will start to look forward to these opportunities to share their ideas with you.
Prepare to Hear the Good and the Bad
Don’t make a commitment to listen to your employees if you’re not ready to hear what they have to say. You must prepare yourself to hear both positive and negative feedback. How you respond to your employees, regardless of how you feel about the input, will have a direct impact on their willingness to give their opinions in the future. Remember that the goal is to show your employees that you are really listening to them, whether you like what they have to say or not.
Make Engagement Part of the Process
Listening is the starting point for boosting employee engagement in the workplace. When your employees express an opinion, it is important to actively listen to what they have to say by taking the time to ask questions, gather feedback and encourage them to elaborate more on their input so you have a rich understanding of what they’re trying to communicate.
Ensure that you’ve heard them fully by repeating back what you’ve heard, giving them an opportunity to clarify their points if necessary. Engaging with your people in this way will let them know that you are listening to them and it will reduce potential miscommunication between you and your team.
Listening is only the first step. You must also take action. This doesn’t mean that you have to act on every suggestion or concern that your team has, but you should always closely evaluate what they have to say. Then, when you come across employee suggestions or concerns that call for more attention, don’t stop at just listening – take action.
Develop a plan that will put your employee’s idea into action. Technology can help with this by delivering bite-sized, personalized actions to employees and managers so that everyone is empowered to impact engagement right away. When your employees know that you are willing to make changes based on ideas or issues they have shared, they will know that you not only want to listen to them – but that you truly care about what they have to say.
Follow-Up Is Vital
Listening is not a point-in-time activity, it is ongoing. If you fail to follow up on the input you’ve received, your efforts to show your employees that you are really listening to them will be for naught. For example, take the time to thank your employees for providing honest feedback, let your employees know what actions, if any, are being taken, and use communication tools (i.e., the company newsletter) to share survey results and follow on action. It’s critical that your employees know you’ve heard them, even if immediate change is not possible.
Listening to your employees boosts employee engagement and job satisfaction. It inspires positive change in the workplace and has an equally positive impact on the performance of your business.
About the Author
Natalie is the Chief Workforce Scientist at Achievers. She has spent her career advising companies of all sizes, from entrepreneurial startups to Fortune 500 firms, on issues related to company culture. Specifically tackling key hire assessment and portfolio due diligence issues, she’s found success analyzing what most overlook – the human element. She holds a Ph.D. in Clinical Psychology with a specific focus on assessment and additional training in strength-based psychology. Natalie serves on the board of the Consulting Psychology Division of the American Psychological Association. She is a popular speaker on culture and recently did a TEDx talk on the importance of culture fit. Natalie is a culture evangelist and is passionate about the power that culture fit has to revolutionize how we work. As an avid Boot Camp aficionado, if you can’t find Natalie in the office odds are good you’ll bump into her sprinting up mountains in her hometown of Denver, CO.
This article originally appeared on the Engage blog on October 9, 2018.