A lot of managers want to “communicate” better, but in doing so they often forget to… listen. Saying more about what you are doing is not enough. To get the most out of your co-workers, you need to create an environment where everyone would feel safe and confident about expressing their ideas without the fear of critisism. People must know that they will be heard and understood with full transparency.
There aren’t that many ways to ensure this: you’ll just have to listen up and pay attention.
Why should companies listen to their employees?
We all know that there are various reasons why managers should listen to their teams:
- Transparency is a fundamental value of corporate culture
- Listening and being honest are two important pillars of trust
- Companies want to stimulate innovation and growth
Let’s look at this more closely.
Sometimes numbers give the best explanation. Research by Glassdoor shows that 96% of job applicants claim that it is important for them to work for a transparent company. According to the Forbes HR Council, transparency is one of the employees’ main demands that company managers have to respond to.
This change in employees’ needs requires companies to adapt. In order to attract new co-workers – preferably the most talented ones – companies should not only listen and pay more attention to the employees’ demands and preoccupations, but they should also show more honesty.
In other words: if there is no transparency, there will be no trust.
How does listening support innovation and growth?
Companies spend a lot of time listening to their clients in order to improve their products and services, however, they often forget to do the same with their employees. And yet, employees may have some great ideas to share with you. Here is where another powerful driving force for growth comes into play – employees’ engagement.
This is a good occasion to quote Sir Richard Branson, the founder of Virgin Group, who claimed that “Innovation happens when people are given the freedom to ask questions and the resources and power to find the answers.” Can there be a better definition?
3 useful tips to (finally) start listening
Hold regular Q&A sessions with the company managers
You may think that telling your employees «Ask me anything» could seem a bit confusing. And yet… Giving your employees a chance to ask any question they want can unleash their self-expression. It’s a proven fact: companies like Facebook, Google and Microsoft have made this transparency factor part of their strategy by organizing weekly meetings and regular Q&A sessions with the CEO or company directors.
To see more tips about Q&A sessions, read our article "How to maximize the efficiency of your Q&A sessions "
Create a safe environment for asking questions
Giving your co-workers a chance to express themselves is already a big step. However, you also need to create conditions that will make people feel confident about speaking up – for example, if they stay anonymous. And it works! Companies that are using Sparkup can now learn about the employees’ preoccupations while employees remain anonymous. They can also vote for different solutions that are proposed.
Leslie Labruyère, Internal communication manager from RATP says: «Thanks to Sparkup, we can now openly discuss a number of subjects with even the shyest participants that wouldn’t dare to raise their hand to speak. The tool also allows us to make the discussion smoother if there are pauses, as well as make serious subjects a bit lighter.»
There is another great example of this: when Google studied the behavior of one of its most efficient teams, the company realized that one of the most powerful levers of performace came down to an essential aspect: psychological safety. When everybody feels free to speak up without the fear of critisism, the team’s chances of failure are lower.
Ask your co-workers to share their comments and respond to them
The third and final step to becoming an active listener is collecting feedback. When you ask your co-workers questions and show them that their ideas do not go by unnoticed, you encourage them to speak up, you make them feel that their opinion counts and you get even the shyest people to participate.
As Sir Richard Branson said in the Business Insider interview:
«Being a good listener is absolutely critical to being a good leader; you have to listen to the people on the front line. They know when things are not going right, and they know when things need to be improved. And if you listen to them, you can soon improve all those niggly things which turn an average company into an exceptional company.»
Are you ready to listen?