Article -> Talking to Employees is Great - Listening is Priceless
Date Added: October 2006
Most leaders understand the importance of effective communication. Superior leaders acknowledge the most significant step they can take to earn the respect, trust and support of employees is to listen to them. Talking to employees is important, and listening to their concerns is priceless. By listening to employees, leaders convey the message that employee input matters. Awareness by leaders and employees will ultimately work to help your organization increase productivity and help keep employees happy and engaged.
Without the proper communication strategy, leaders find themselves on a different playing field from employees. Many leaders believe they are asking, listening and learning from employees; however, employees may feel exactly the opposite. Without properly opening lines of two-way communication – flowing top to bottom and bottom to top - leaders will find they may not be aligned with employees.
Earlier this year, a Green Bay-based company with more than 10 locations throughout the Midwest conducted its first Voice of the Employee process. Employees were not used to taking online questionnaires or being asked for their feedback. The company’s main objectives were: (a) gaining a “pulse” of the organization as they were planning to introduce Lean Production within six months and knew Lean would impact the corporate culture, and (b) understanding generational differences between Baby Boomers, Generation X and Generation Y employees. Based on the pre-communication, they accomplished more than a 75% response rate and achieved knowledge about their two objectives. They are planning to do a follow-up later this year to track changes
Successful leaders work hard to make sure ideas flow both ways. Leaders need to keep employees updated on company strategies, corporate changes and work-flow processes; while employees need to be confident when voicing concerns and recommending changes they feel with benefit the organization. Encouraging employees to come forward with suggestions and opinions is one way leaders can engage employees in open communication.
Leaders have options. If leaders want to listen and learn from employees, there are many approaches. Some options can be conducted by your Human Resources department. Other information-gathering processes are more sensitive and may be better handled by an outside advisor. For instance, an organization that has never asked for employee input and suddenly requests open and honest information from them, may find employees hesitant to comply. However, employing the services of an independent resource may provide employees a greater sense of confidentiality, allowing them to be more open and honest.
Leaders who understand the importance of successful communication, also understand the need for the development of a flawless communication process. An independent advisor can be a resource to help effectively raise and resolve issues while creating a communication strategy benefiting leaders and employees. Communication is a two-way process, leaders need to listen and employees need to know they are being listened to.
The benefit of leaders and employees working together to achieve the same goal is the optimal situation. When all employees, regardless of status, understand the organization’s objective, the ability to maximize profit is inevitable. Essentially, when employers and employees operate collaboratively, they create an organization whose whole is greater than the sum of its parts.¹ Most leaders realize that employees are the greatest asset, while superior leaders not only realize this, they make sure employees are treated as such.
¹Pomeroy, Ann. “Great Communicators, Great Communication.” HR Magazine. July 2006: 44-49.