As an employee advocate, I regularly field questions about employee motivation. Human Resource leaders express concern over keeping their talent engaged and acknowledged, and feeling fulfilled at work. In one way or another, the advice I always give leads back to one central concept: the value of a listening culture.
In many organizations, I find executive leaders aren’t paying attention to those they lead. I believe keeping employees engaged and validated is firmly rooted in actively listening to their voices, and establishing listening as a core organizational value. In this article, I’m sharing three consequences organizations suffer if they fail to create a listening culture, and three benefits they stand to gain if they succeed.
Let’s start with the bad news. These negative outcomes are examples I’ve seen in organizations that struggle to facilitate successful employee-leader communications. If your organization doesn’t have a thriving listening culture, you can expect to see:
- A loss of employee motivation: If a team member doesn’t feel truly heard, they lose all motivation to speak up, share their opinions, or even meet project goals. An ignored employee is also significantly less likely to stay with you through tough times, like the ones we currently find ourselves in.
- A loss of faith in leadership: Ask anyone, and chances are they’ll say they wouldn’t follow a leader who consistently disregards their voice. Employees who feel ignored will eventually grow resentful towards leadership, which will ultimately make them feel less inspired to help them fulfill their mission. And these days, we can’t afford to encourage such a toxic workplace ethos.
- A loss of productivity: If we’re not listening to one another, we’re not listening to project details, guidelines, and expectations—and no surprise, those are all important details. A workplace without a listening culture will consistently see instances of miscommunication and mistakes, which in turn will only slow your team’s rate of progress. In a nutshell: less listening equals less productivity.
And now, onto the good news. If your organization succeeds in building a thorough and sustainable listening culture, you can expect to see:
- An increase in employee empowerment: Employees who feel their voice is heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered to perform their best work. Listening to your team members is an effective way to show you value their perspective, trust their judgment, and see their potential. Once your employees feel that sense of validation from you, there’s no telling what they’ll feel empowered to achieve next.
- An increase in peer-to-peer trust & respect: As we demonstrate active listening on a regular basis, we feel that our time is mutually respected and valued. When employees believe their co-workers genuinely want to hear what they have to say, they’re more likely to build stronger interpersonal connections which enhances collaboration.
- An increase in innovation: Finally, when the open sharing of ideas is intentionally encouraged, you’re bound to discover winning solutions in unlikely places. A listening culture fosters honest and constructive dialogue at all levels of an organization, and that kind of synergy invariably results in radical problem-solving discussions.
I strongly believe that all business goals lead back to employee engagement, and a solid listening culture is the fulcrum of achieving those goals. Hoping for greater customer satisfaction? Looking to reduce employee turnover? Trying to create a more inclusive office atmosphere? We already have the answers to these problems within our teams and talent—we need only listen with open ears to uncover them.