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The importance of listening to your employees (part two: the how)

How to listen to your employees

This month, we are focusing our blogs on the topic of listening to our employees, on inviting and gathering feedback, and on the importance of acting on what is being said.

In the last entry, we listed ten good reasons why this really matters when it comes to the success of an organisation, and we shared some pretty devastating statistics that outline just how much room there is for improvement in this field across UK businesses.

With that in mind, for part two, we want to share some of our tips for actively listening to your people, and for showing that you are actively listening to your people. So, here’s another Guru Top Ten for your consideration.

1. Establish regular feedback channels. Yes, you probably know by now that I like to start my lists with a stating-the-obvious opener. But survey data shows us that this just isn’t happening as it should, or as widely as it should. Many organisations could benefit hugely from health-checking their internal comms strategies, and focusing on the provisions for inviting feedback, collecting views, thoughts, and feelings, and acting upon that information.

From conducting regular one-on-one meetings between employees and supervisors to setting up anonymous digital feedback platforms, the options are many and varied, and the benefits of employing a decent selection are huge.

2. Encourage open and honest communication. It’s vital to foster and nurture an environment where employees feel comfortable expressing their thoughts and concerns without fear of reprisal. This is about psychological safety at work and is vital if you are to have a committed, engaged, productive and innovative workforce.

Leaders need to actively seek input and proactively ask for feedback on specific projects, processes, or initiatives. Employees should be consistently encouraged to share their thoughts, feelings, and ideas for improvement.

3. Use surveys and questionnaires. Administer regular and frequent surveys to gather anonymous feedback on various aspects of the workplace, such as job satisfaction, work-life balance, and organisational culture. A once-a-year generic staff survey just won’t cut it anymore. Regular short, snappy pulse surveys are pretty easy to set-up, take little time for people to complete, can be tailored to specific themes, projects or issues, and can provide really useful information in bite-sized chunks. If your surveys aren’t getting much traction, maybe have a read of this.

Are your staff surveys failing

4. Conduct focus groups or workshops. Organise small group discussions to delve deeper into specific issues or gather more detailed feedback on particular topics. Without revealing too many trade secrets, this is almost always how we follow up an initial survey when we’re conducting a comms health check. When the survey has given us the headline data, overall themes or direction of travel, we use these to get to the all-important nitty gritty and to understand why people are feeling the way they are. Our advice to you is to do the same.

5. Provide training on effective communication. Offer training sessions or workshops on communication skills for both employees and managers. Last month, we wrote about how one in three line managers don’t feel equipped to lead conversations with their teams. If they’re struggling with imparting information properly, they’ll surely be struggling with collecting feedback, acknowledging it, and using it. Investing in some upskilling in this arena could reap huge rewards in the mid-to-long term.

6. Lead by example. Managers and leaders should demonstrate active listening skills and be receptive to feedback themselves. They need to be quite explicit about this; this is not about subtly listening in the background. This is about making undeniably clear that they want input, they want feedback, they want to know how their reports are feeling, and that they intend to act upon it.

7. Show empathy and respect. This doesn’t come easily to everyone. But validating employees' feelings and perspectives, even if they differ from our own, is so important. We’re back to psychological safety at work again! All feedback, whether positive or negative, expected or otherwise, should be treated with respect and consideration. If you have leaders in your organisation who are known for not receiving employee feedback well, some carefully and discretely implemented training is probably in order. It is also important that discretion or confidentiality are maintained when appropriate or necessary.

why empathy is important for leaders

8. Consider the use of bespoke technology for feedback. Implementing digital tools or platforms for employees to submit feedback, suggestions, or concerns can provide a huge boost to your organisation’s listening skills. More on this in our next blog!

9. Consider the use of bespoke technology for peer-to-peer recognition. A slight curveball here, as this isn’t strictly about asking employees directly for their feedback on specific operations. But it is a platform that facilitates and encourages (positive) feedback from every corner and level in the organisation. A recognition platform undeniably helps with a culture of openness, boosts engagement, and provides another way for employees to have their voices heard. Plus, of course, leaders can use the platform to recognise and celebrate employees who provide valuable feedback that leads to positive changes.

10. Acknowledge and respond to feedback, and follow-up. This is a definite and intentional last-but-not-least in our top ten. It is critical that feedback of any nature is acknowledged promptly. When possible, provide updates on how feedback is being addressed and implemented. After implementing changes based on feedback, follow up with employees to let them know how their input contributed to positive outcomes. Shout about the “you said, we did” changes that have been made. This will illustrate how their views were taken on board and encourage them to contribute again next time you ask for feedback.

By employing some or all of these across your organisation, you will demonstrate to your people that their views, thoughts, and feelings matter. They will feel more valued and empowered, and you will tap into a huge source of valuable information and insights otherwise unavailable to the boardroom.

In the final part of this trilogy, we will be looking in detail at how a bespoke digital feedback platform can help in your quest to be a better listener!


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