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The importance of listening to your employees (part one: the why)

Why is listening to your employees so important

This month, we are focusing our blogs on employee feedback as a vital part of an internal comms strategy. But not giving feedback to employees, which is, of course, absolutely essential, but getting feedback from employees.

What is true in everyday life and relationships is true in business - effective communication is as much about listening as it is speaking (or writing or typing…). If you’ve ever been in a relationship (of any description – familial, friendship, or romantic) with someone who talks but doesn’t listen, you’ll know how difficult, fractious, and frustrating it can be. An employment relationship is no different.

If you want your people to have a sense of psychological safety at work, if you want them to feel that they belong, and if you want to maximise their input, productivity, creativity, innovation, teamwork, commitment and loyalty, then you need to ask them how they feel about things, ask them for their suggestions and feedback, and you need to act upon it. You won’t get many chances if you run one annual employee survey a year to tick a box on an HR checklist, only to do nothing with its findings.

And yet, as we reported just a couple of weeks ago, only just over half of respondents to the recent IC Index survey said their organisation welcomes open and honest feedback. And even fewer said they’re shown how their feedback informs action.

Psychological safety at work

Here are ten good reasons why getting feedback from our people is essential to the success of our organisations.

  1. It improves communication. Yes, I’m stating the obvious for point one. Regular feedback sessions (ideally of a varying nature) encourage open and transparent communication between management and employees. It creates a culture where everyone feels recognised and valued, and where they feel comfortable in sharing their thoughts and concerns.

  2. It identifies problems and weaknesses. Our employees are often the first to notice operational inefficiencies, bottlenecks, or other problems and issues within the company. Why would you not want to tap into such a fundamental early-warning system? Their feedback can help identify problems early, allowing for timely intervention and more rapid solution deployment.

  3. It boosts morale and job satisfaction. When employees feel heard and valued, it boosts their morale and the satisfaction they feel at work. This can lead to higher levels of engagement, commitment, and productivity.

  4. It fosters a culture of continuous improvement. Constructive feedback in both directions encourages a culture of continuous improvement – one for both employee and organisation. Just as feedback to employees helps them to understand where they can enhance their skills and performance, collecting it from them helps leaders to identify improvements they can make, as individuals or as an organisation

  5. It drives innovation and creativity. Employees on the front line often have unique insights into customer needs and market trends; one which is not available to senior leaders or those holed-up in boardrooms and in endless strategic meetings. Their feedback and suggestions can spark new ideas and innovations that can give the company a competitive edge.

  6. It reduces staff turnover. When employees feel that their opinions matter and that they have a voice within the organisation, they are more likely to stay with the company. This can reduce turnover costs and contribute to a more stable workforce.

  7. It enhances employee engagement and promotes a positive organisational culture. Engaged employees are more committed to their work and are more likely to go above and beyond their job descriptions. Feedback gives them a sense of ownership and involvement in the company's success. And when employees see that their feedback is valued and acted upon, it creates a positive and inclusive culture.

  8. It bolsters employee-management relationships. When management actively seeks and acts upon employee feedback, it builds trust and strengthens the relationship between employees and their leaders.

  9. It can even increase customer satisfaction. Happy and engaged employees are more likely to provide excellent customer service. Plus, as stated above, their feedback and suggestions can help improve customer interactions and lead to higher levels of customer satisfaction.

  10. It can help in changing circumstances. In a rapidly changing business environment, feedback from employees can provide valuable insights into shifts in market conditions, customer preferences, and industry trends, as well as highlighting staffing concerns or issues relating to the changes. This information is crucial for adapting and staying competitive.

We looked at Gallup’s State of the Global Workplace report in June, and the figures on engagement for the UK were shocking. Just 10% of UK respondents to that survey said they were engaged and thriving at work. We keep hearing from parts of our government that productivity in the UK workforce is below where it should be and hindering our economic growth as a nation. Perhaps having 9 out of every 10 employees feeling disengaged is part of the reason for that.

A robust internal comms strategy that features actively listening to employees at its heart will go some way to helping with those engagement scores. And if you’re not sure that your current strategy is doing that effectively, look into that as a matter of priority.

In part two of this September trilogy, we’ll be looking at how you can improve your organisation’s listening skills!


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