By Dominique Whitefoot, Head of Research and Strategy
Making employees feel that their voices are heard, and more importantly that they are really listened to is crucial to employee engagement and a successful business.
Let’s take the practical point of view – how do you show you are listening and giving employees a platform to share their thoughts, opinions and experiences? This is the easier part to some extent – you can organise forums (virtual or face-to-face events when restrictions allow) and encourage interaction through your email communications (or through the other ways you communicate).
The trickier part is how you create the culture where people feel they want to and can contribute.
Role modelling is one of the key behaviours that matters here. Employees can feel vulnerable putting themselves out there if it’s not usual practice in the organisation. Leaders need to consider how they show their own vulnerabilities and share their story – story that someone else in the business might relate to. If not, showing that you are an ally and advocate, and want to listen will also have an impact in making employees speak up and contribute.
Showing how you value different voices, opinions and stories are incredibly important in how you position this. What are you looking to gain insight into? If it is something that might be a sensitive topic, consider how you can create an environment where people will feel safe speaking out and being open and honest. Beyond this, how are you going to show you have listened? It is important in what you do as an organisation (if you’re working on your ED&I agenda or otherwise) to show employees that they are a big part of your journey and that you want to bring them and their input along for the ride; and when they share the issues faced, suggestions and insights, make sure to actually convert what you’ve learnt from their input into practical solutions.
Ultimately employees are your brand – they can really capture the magic of the organisation (or in some cases the other way around if they aren’t engaged). They are the ones who will sell your brand and mission to future clients, help retain them, and become advocates for your organisation when it comes to hiring top talent.
It is important for your culture, leaders and teams to be inclusive, to getting this right and for employees to feel listened to. Here are some quick practical steps you might want to consider:
- Ask for feedback – how do your employees want to be communicated with, how often and how do they want to contribute?
- Meeting styles – does everyone have a chance to contribute? If not, what could teams do as a group to change this, so everyone’s input is valued?
- Communicate – show you are listening. Develop a thought-through multi-channel communications strategy to keep employees up-to-date and show how valued their voices are.
This article is an excerpt from our learning programme on Active Listening and Giving Feedback – do contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org to know more about how we deliver this and how it can benefit your organisation.
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