Listening is your key to happier, more productive employees

Your employees are a big part of what keeps your organization moving forward. Situated on the front lines of customer service and production, happy workers can save your company money, generate new ideas, and improve your reputation. On the flip side, uninspired and disengaged employees contribute to huge losses for businesses around the world, according to a recent study by 15Five. Leaders are taking notice.


Despite its recent rise in popularity, investing in employees is not a new concept. Companies like Zappos, Facebook and Google are just three examples of successful organizations that have prioritized employee satisfaction from the start. These companies consistently put their workers first – and are now reaping rewards as a result.


The average small to medium business may not have the same resources to pour into their employees as some tech giants do – but that doesn’t mean they can’t do something. “If you value people, and you care about them as whole people, one thing you do is give them voice, and you really listen,” says Karen May, VP of people development at Google. That’s one thing companies of any size can do: listen.


Write listening into your calendar

Hearing your employees out isn’t just a one-time deal. Concerns, new ideas or frustrations can come up anytime – and helping your people work through them can keep your workplace running smoothly. End-of-year performance reviews simply aren’t enough anymore. By the time an employee gets the chance to air their grievances or share their thoughts, it’s often too late, leading to a build-up of resentment or missed opportunities for collaboration.


Just like anything else, making time for listening takes practice, commitment, and the occasional reminder. Have an open-door policy, but don’t hesitate to schedule regular meetings to check in with your workers on everyday issues. Your employees will feel valued, and you’ll have the opportunity to guide them in making better decisions for themselves, and for the company.


Keep an eye out for emerging leaders

Listening can be a way to uncover potential leaders you might not have otherwise discovered. When your employees trust that their voice is heard and respected, they will be more willing to share ideas – and more motivated to follow through. In a study from author John Izzo, a large percentage of employees didn’t take initiative because they felt dismissed: "When decisions are made without getting input from people, they tend to hold back their ideas and take less initiative to make improvement.”

As you develop your listening skills, seek to understand what workers share with you, and act on what you hear. Watch for patterns in behavior that set some workers apart from the others. Stop someone in the hall and ask a follow-up question a few days later. It’s all about cultivating relationships with the people who keep your business on track.


Look at the big picture

No matter what your goals are, listening is a must-have tool for today’s leaders. Scheduling regular meetings and making yourself available to sit down and hear from employees takes time, but it’s worth it. Listening allows you to learn more about your company, improve your reputation, and increase overall productivity. You’ll also have the chance to hear fresh perspectives and new ideas from people you might not have taken the time to talk with otherwise.


Listening can even make you a better leader, says Forbes. When you really hear what your employees are saying, they’ll repay you with respect and loyalty – two essential components of effective leadership. This is no ordinary investment because no matter which way you look at it, listening is a win.

How do you incorporate listening in your company culture? Tell us in the comments, on Facebook or in a tweet.

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