Being a good manager can be challenging. You must balance the organization’s needs and your employees’ well-being to create an efficient, productive workplace culture. While multiple management theories abound, developing fundamental communication skills is a simple way to improve your leadership style and employees’ well-being.
One of the best ways to become a better leader is to focus on how you listen to employees. Active listening creates space for employees to voice their opinions on business decisions and actions, creating an environment of improved employee morale and engagement.
A study from Frontiers in Psychology found there are many ways managers can not hear their employees. The two most common – and harmful – include shutting down employees and not following through after saying you’ll implement their suggestions.
Alienated, disgruntled employees can lead to a host of issues, including the following:
According to the Frontiers in Psychology study, listening is a powerful way to improve employees’ work experience and job performance. By taking an active role in your team’s processes and listening to their feedback on business decisions, you can foster a collaborative environment that boosts productivity and helps employees feel valued.
Additionally, a study from Penn State University found that active listening from managers can relieve employees’ feelings of job insecurity.
“Unfortunately, when layoffs are imminent, managers often become withdrawn because they do not possess much more information about the future than their employees,” explained Phillip Jolly, Elizabeth M. King Early Career Professor and assistant professor of hospitality management at Penn State University. “Fortunately, there is something managers can do to support their employees’ well-being. They can increase their active listening about employees’ concerns.”
John Izzo, author of the book Stepping Up: How Taking Responsibility Changes Everything, believes active listening is crucial to getting the most out of employees.
“The bottom line is that people want to be heard and feel valued,” he said. “When decisions are made without getting input from people, they tend to hold back their ideas and take less initiative to make improvement.”
An employee listening strategy means understanding the employee experience through an integrated approach that includes:
An employee listening strategy is more than just sending out employee surveys. It involves managers creating a company culture with behavior that helps employees feel heard and valued. It’s a top-down strategy that requires implementation and buy-in at the highest levels of management and HR.
When developing an employment listening strategy, view your company as a whole, including its goals and objectives. A big-picture outlook can help you determine questions to ask and the type of relevant feedback you’re most likely to receive.
Consider all potential strategies and choose what will work best for your organization. Employee listening strategies include the following:
You can implement these strategies in a matter of weeks, but an overall employee listening strategy is a constant process. You’ll need to ask for feedback, review the feedback, implement changes and begin the entire cycle again. Enacting real change is crucial, or you’ll lose your employees’ support.
Sometimes, good listening means creating space to hear employees. Here are some examples of creating opportunities to help employees feel valued.
There’s no one-size-fits-all solution to improving your listening skills as a manager. By staying present, attentively focusing on what your employees are saying and following through on their suggestions, your employees will feel heard. By creating safe spaces for employees to voice their opinions, you’ll improve your organization while fostering a more functional team.
Adam Uzialko contributed to the reporting and writing in this article.