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Engagement starts with active listening

It is a common trend for employees to vent out their emotions on social media platforms. In fact, it is a natural way for any person, not heard, to vent out somewhere. This happens when the employee’s voice is not heard in their own offices. We cannot stop this but surely, we can manage it better. As organizations grow it becomes difficult to be able to talk to each – employee and understand what is working and what is not working. Employees are not always vocal; they continue to mull over their problems unless asked multiple times. But even then, it is one of the biggest challenges to get the VOICE out and make it – HEARD. Active listening is important to constantly understand the needs of your employees.

“Company changes direction every quarter and hence the entire company moves from chasing one goal to another without completing any of them…”

_ Unheard Employee

What is Employee Voice?

Active Voice

It is the collective as well as individual voices of employees in an organization. And when they come together to share their feelings – both happiness and worries, on a common platform. Often, people come forward to share their feelings that impact their happiness or the ones that cause dissatisfaction with the work environment. When this starts happening actively and in a systemic manner, the employee voice begins to take a form. There are two elements to this – grievance towards the system or participation in the decision-making process. It is for the leaders to closely listen to the employees voices and to not just respond actively but also take action. Alongside, it is important to provide an organizational channel through which dissatisfactions can be addressed within the system.

How to we improve active listening in an organization?:

  1. Engage: The first step towards creating a “Happy” environment in any organization is to engage employee in interactive conversations. As leaders, we have been doing this in many ways – pulse check, surveys, manager connects, one on one, new hire survey, exit survey and so on. Dynamic and regular utilization of such programs ensure healthy active listening. However, this multi-channel approach of connecting with employees tends to be formal, time bound, lack flexibility and does not give real time updates. With the evolution of technology and artificial intelligence these communication channels need to be much more collaborative, automated, informal, and streamlined. Research shows that most of the annual surveys go un responded at large percentage with one excuse “lack of time”. An effective engagement channel needs to let employees respond with their true feelings and without pressure of deadlines.
  2. Empower: Unless employees feel empowered enough, their voice cannot be loud and clear. An environment that gives an employee flexibility, anonymity, and the confidence that their organization will act on the thoughts shared, makes them feel empowered and responsible to respond as ONE voice. More transparent the platform, better the employee involvement where they come forward and candidly shares their feelings. When GM was taken over by Toyota, productivity was a big challenge. Toyota did not replace any staff. Instead it moved towards inculcating a new set of values with existing employees. That led to a greater share of empowerment and common voice that led to managers implementing up to 80% of the suggestions coming in from employees. Hence, Toyota turned it around to one of the shining stars.
  3. Experience: Gone are the days when employee communication was structured and transactional. It is now the world of experiential. Everyone wants to have one of the lifetime experiences in everything they do in life. It is time we relook at the different forms of interactions with employees. The primitive feedback framework with long and at times boring surveys need to be more fun, intuitive, and personalized. The overall experience needs to be quick, easy, seamless, and specific to each employee.
  4. Elevate: Elevate the level of trust and confidence which employees have on the leadership. The trust that comes when we can take corrective actions during the engagement process. With deep technology systems, actionable insights about the happiness score of your organization can be automatically streamlined to highlight the problem areas faster and upfront to be able to timely address issues and concerns. The sooner leaders can reach out to employees and teams for feedback, confident is the mindset of employees that drives the engine.

With employees taking center stage supported by technology advancements, organizations can definitely build a great work culture for employees’ growth & happiness.

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