Frustrated with the level of initiative and engagement your staff are giving you? Well, when was the last time you invited them to give you their thoughts or motivated them in some way to bring new ideas to the table?
Creating an employee listening culture and inviting their input in decision-making is vital to building trust between employers and employees. Feeling heard in an organisation boosts employee satisfaction, happiness, and productivity, which can only do good things for your all-important bottom line.
Here we’ll be explaining what an employee listening strategy might look like, why it’s a great idea, how you can implement your own strategy and how to ensure that your plan positively affects business growth.
What Exactly is an Employee Listening Strategy?
It’s a little more involved than sending out an occasional employee survey or holding emergency meetings when things get bad. An employee listening strategy needs to be consistent. It must also start at the very top and trickle down throughout the organisation.
It’s a culture change that revolves around ensuring employees feel involved in the forward trajectory of the business. For the strategy to work, employees need to be involved in decisions. That can mean requesting their feedback where needed, but it also means fostering a culture of expectation and appreciation for their ongoing input on a daily basis.
The key step in the strategy is to actually utilise employee ideas to improve the business. Obviously, not all ideas will fall in line with your overall objectives and goals, but many will. Without seeing their input in use, employees will quickly think you’re simply paying lip service to employee listening and don’t actually intend to change the culture. Employee ideas must be implemented where possible.
How the Lack of Employee Listening Affects Employees
A study by Frontiers, Feeling Heard: Experiences of Listening (or Not) at Work details the many ways managers can fail to truly hear their employees. The top two came down to “shutting down employees” and “not following through”.
Managers may feel threatened by the idea of using employee suggestions rather than their own ideas. They may feel undermined or concerned that higher-ups will value employee ideas over their own. This leads to a ‘shut down’ in communications. Employee input isn’t requested- in fact it’s broadly avoided, and anyone brave enough to volunteer an idea may be ignored or worse.
Some managers may feign an interest in their employees’ ideas for the sake of appearances but then never actually implement them. This lack of follow-through harms employee engagement and can damage relationships to the point of increasing attrition.
Without an employee listening strategy in place, your staff may feel alienated, with low morale and therefore decreased productivity. Goals may be missed, and you may find yourself recruiting more while finding it harder to attract the right talent.
A Great Employee Listening Strategy Positively Impacts Your Whole Business
Collaborative work environments boost productivity. It’s as simple as that. When employees feel centred in the business, they take an active role in moving it forward, increasing their job satisfaction, boosting morale, and increasing profits.
Effective listening and implementing employee ideas have a significant effect on employee buy-in. They feel a responsibility to be a part of the growth of the business, meaning they are far more likely to be actively engaged.
A pool of ideas at your fingertips could mean incredible growth for your business. If you only hear from your C-Level team, ideas are likely to grow stagnant and possibly even a little out of touch with the rest of the company- or even your customer base.
Widening the pool of ideas by encouraging diverse input means you’ll be kept in touch with your employees (who potentially better understand your clientele or even are your clientele), and you’ll be hearing from the people who actually deal with the day-to-day running of your business.
How Managers and Leadership Teams Can Encourage Staff Input
As we’ve said previously, employee listening is a culture shift. A top-down change that needs to be supported by every member of your leadership, management and HR teams.
Your strategy could involve some of the more obvious techniques such as new hires, exit interviews and annual surveys, active listening by management within the work environment and informal discussions around improvements that could be made. You could set up a suggestions box for the sake of anonymity and implement an ‘open door’ policy to encourage conversations across any supposed hierarchical boundaries.
These are all a great start, but here are a few other changes you can make that you may find easier to implement and possibly more effective:
In our experience, these are largely underrated. The humble 1:1 can be brilliantly utilised to encourage employee input.
Regular and free-flowing 1-2-1 meetings with employees are essential for maintaining a healthy working relationship and improving performance.
While it is helpful to conduct mini-performance reviews during these meetings, it is more important to keep the conversation open-ended. Asking questions such as “What’s gone well since we last spoke and what hasn’t gone so well?” can help you understand your employee’s perspective and identify areas that require improvement.
When it comes to feedback, concentrate on the actions that stem from it. Determine whether the issue is individual or broader in scale, and whether it requires an urgent response.
Furthermore, incorporating these types of questions into mid-probation or end-of-probation reviews can be beneficial, particularly with an employee who is likely to pass. But more on this further down.
Team Building Days
Team building is important in its own right and can be leveraged to focus on any issues the business faces. With team-building events, you can bring your team together, drive direction, strengthen bonds and gather business feedback. All while having some fun in the process. It’s the perfect setup to encourage employee ideas to contend with those issues.
Many companies hire expensive consultants to interview staff and let them work their feedback into a business strategy report. We’re here to tell you that investing directly in your team is the better (and more feasible) approach to enhance your business’s performance.
Instead of relying on external help, consider creating a similar setup where your employees are more comfortable expressing their views, sharing insights, and identifying areas of improvement and potential solutions.
”Stop, Start, and Continue exercises are a staple in our team-building days. You’ll be amazed at the valuable insights and ideas that come out of these exercises. Great for both big-picture changes and small, quick wins.Luke ToddMadeYou Co-Founder
Innovation and creativity are essential components of business success, and tapping into the knowledge and insights of your team can be a valuable source of ideas and suggestions. Think Tanks are an excellent way to encourage and facilitate this process. By bringing together the more creative members of your organisation, you can generate new and optimised ideas that drive your business forward. Who knows, maybe even some crazy innovations you may never have heard or thought of. One employee’s idea may spark another’s, creating a cohesive, inclusive environment- perfect for producing innovative thinking.
The challenge is to ensure that this knowledge, loyalty, and engagement are not ignored, overlooked, or undervalued.
The key is to listen and act on your staff members’ direct feedback, prioritising their input. As managers, it is vital to act on this feedback, which increases the likelihood of staff members sharing their thoughts and ideas in the future. This approach should be adopted by all people managers, business managers, and the business overall.
When the business acts, it is also essential to cite back to who gave the direction, encouraging others to do the same. By creating a culture of collaboration and respect, you can tap into your team’s collective expertise and creativity, driving your business forward.
Rewarding employees for their efforts and initiatives is a common and great way to motivate them and drive the business forward. If this is already in your strategy, that’s great – keep at it!
Another idea to stack up on top of that which has been proven effective is offering a financial reward for changing a process that makes no sense for the business/customer or for identifying something that costs time and money but no longer adds value.
Many employees put up with antiquated processes or systems just because that is how it has always been done. Offering a reward for identifying and addressing these issues can inspire a new level of engagement and creativity.
In addition to financial incentives, mid-probation or end-of-probation reviews with passing employees can also be a valuable source of ideas for improving the business. By asking employees to name three things they would change to make the business even more effective, you encourage them to think critically about the organisation’s strengths and weaknesses and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Ultimately, these initiatives can lead to a more engaged, motivated, and efficient workforce, driving the business forward in new and innovative ways.
Turn an Employee Listening Strategy into Business Growth
An effective strategy will start to affect your bottom line from day one. Engaged employees who feel heard and valued, who feel a sense of responsibility to grow the business and ownership of their ideas will result in a productivity boost.
Idea ownership is key. If an employee puts their name to an idea, they will do everything in their power to see that idea through to fruition and to ensure its success. Their colleagues will then witness that success and start digging deep for innovative ideas that they can bring to the table.
Before you know it, you’ll have a much better understanding of:
- The nuts and bolts of your business- what works and what isn’t working.
- How your employees experience their work.
- How your clients or customers experience their interactions with your business.
- How you can branch out or innovate.
- What you can scrap or take back to the drawing board.
Armed with such valuable information, you can then move your business forward in the best shape of its life and with a better understanding of where you want to go now and where you could go in the future. Essentially, you have a melting pot of ideas at your fingertips- you just need to listen.
Developing new ideas to drive your business forward can be frustrating, and many leaders need guidance on what steps to take next. We understand the challenges you’re facing in growing your businesses. That’s why we’ve developed highly effective solutions that we can tailor to your needs.
Don’t risk letting your business become stagnant. Fill in the form below, and we’ll create a customised plan that addresses your specific challenges and helps you focus on your team and prioritise their feedback so that you can build a more substantial business.