Do your employees feel heard? And does it even matter? In many organizations, leadership is desperately looking for ways to get their employees to go the extra mile. That could mean spending those extra few hours on a project, helping out a coworker who is struggling, setting the tone by showing up early, or being the last one out of the door at the end of the day. What they are really looking for is an engaged employee—someone who is willing to put in discretionary effort to succeed in their role and help further the company mission. And this engagement has a real impact on company performance. Research by Willis Towers Watson revealed:
There are quite a few factors that go into creating a culture that drives employee engagement, such as safety, creating meaningful work, creating opportunities for relationships to thrive, and more. One factor that often goes somewhat forgotten is the importance of making employees feel valued. Far too often, leaders conflate value with pay and benefits, and assume that to make their people feel valued they simply need to provide additional pay, bonuses or perks. However, value can be more closely tied to the human need for esteem than it is a need for money. Employees who feel valued should answer positively to the following three questions:
Am I seen?
Create an environment where your people are recognized for their efforts and acknowledged for their contribution. Show empathy and recognize humanity: personal issues impact work performance sometimes, and compassion is warranted.
Am I valued?
Make sure you demonstrate to your team that you value them. This includes things like equitable pay and benefits, but should not end there. You can demonstrate that you value their skills and experience by providing autonomy and delegating real responsibility.
Am I heard?
Every member of your team has a voice, thoughts, and opinions that should be given a chance. It can be easy to write off the input of employees at some levels. After all, what does an employee on the floor or worksite know about the overall strategy of the organization or how to drive organizational efficiencies? Far too often, employee input is thought of, and reacted to as if it was a complaint, creating a bare minimum feedback system that allows them to vent. If you had serious concerns about your role, and went to a mentor and expressed concern, what response would you prefer? “Ok thanks for sharing” or a meaningful discourse on your thoughts? Simon Sinek comments on this conundrum; “Good listeners have a huge advantage. For one, when they engage in conversation, they make people ‘feel’ heard. They ‘feel’ that someone really understands their wants, needs and desires. And for good reason; a good listener does care to understand.” We wonder why we don’t understand how to motivate and engage employees, but fail to listen, fail to care.
Leaders can often fall into the trap of “strong leadership”. We expect leaders to drive the company forward, have the best ideas, and set the tone. But it is easy for a strong leader to become disconnected from their organization, and the very people they are trying to drive toward greatness. According to a Harvard Business Review survey of executives across the U.S., more than half of executives report feeling isolated or lonely in their position, while 61% indicated that it had a negative impact on their ability to lead. 
It’s not just leadership that benefits from listening. The employees who are heard also rise to the occasion. Workplace research company Qclearsite conducted a survey of over 2000 companies and were able to correlate the degree to which employees felt heard to both bottom line growth, and the company’s net promoter score—companies that listen well grow faster, and are rated more highly by their customers.
Net Promoter Scores:
Organizations that listen well, create stronger leaders, increased growth, and more satisfied customers. That just leaves one problem. How can an organization effectively gather employee input, learn from their feedback, and make their people feel truly heard? Here are some concrete steps a company can take to start listening.
Thanks to tools like Zoom or Microsoft teams, it is easier than ever to schedule meetings with larger groups of your organization, even if some are remote. Let these times be dedicated to talk about the mission of the organization, how things are going, and how goals are coming along. It isn’t a presentation from leadership. Town hall meetings should allow for anyone to speak their mind, and consider having people submit questions ahead of time if they will require some thinking to answer.
While we would generally advocate for open and transparent communication in the workplace, larger companies (say 100 employees) may want to consider implementing a confidential hotline that employees can use to submit their concerns. There are many sensitive subjects that employees could potentially be adverse to sharing in an open meeting setting. From sexual harassment to substance abuse or other ethical issues, a hotline can help avoid those situations that leave leaders saying “We never could have seen this coming.”
One interactive feedback method is to pass out large poster boards to your departments and invite them to write or draw their feedback to leadership. Provide a prompt that encourages both constructive criticism and praise: “Please share something you think is awesome about our organization, and something that you think we could work on.” Display the posters in a common area so everyone can view the feedback and send a message that the company is open to hearing anything employees have to say. At the next major departmental meeting discussion can be centered around the content of the poster boards.
Sometimes the best way to get feedback about an organization is systematically. There are several solutions on the market to gather feedback from employees and analyze the results. At Ledgestone we have built our own digital tool INSITE to seamlessly gather employee feedback and give leadership access to thematic dashboards, deep dives into the different components of their culture, and actionable plans to take advantage of strengths and engage with cultural weaknesses. We also take it one step further by offering a service called Voice of the Employee, where our cultural experts go even deeper with employees through interviews and focus groups to give leadership an incomparable amount of insight into their culture, their people and how to build for the future.
These are just a few of the ways to listen to employees. It is important to remember that a healthy culture makes people feel valued. That goal should drive every meeting, every leadership interaction, every assessment, and every gathering of feedback. By listening to employees an organization can build a culture that drives engagement for its people, and growth for its bottom line.
If you have any questions about culture, about listening to employees, or how you can get INSITE into your organization, we would love to connect. Just head to www.ledgestone.com/contact to get in touch!