Have you ever experienced a situation when you brought up a great idea at a meeting, but no one appreciated it? Or you voiced a difference of opinion, but management ignored it?
Feeling heard is an important part of any successful professional or personal relationship. When it comes to your company, listening and responding to your employees has tremendous upside.
The Workforce Institute at UKG and Workplace Intelligence conducted a global employee survey of over 4,000 employees called The Heard and the Heard-Nots. Despite the benefits to productivity, financial performance, and involvement, 86% of employees believe that they are not fairly heard at work, and it affected their performance largely. The study also found that 74% of employees claim to be more productive at work when they feel heard. Moreover, companies that perform well financially have 88% of the employees who feel heard compared to 62% of employees who do not feel heard at financially underperforming companies.
Allowing your employees have an active voice in your company is very important. After all, their daily work experience can offer a unique perspective when improving your company's processes. Moreover, employees who feel they have been heard are more likely to be committed to their employer improving retention rates. According to Forbes, one of the top reasons for employee turnover is that employees are tired of being overlooked.
If you stop listening to your employees, eventually they will adapt and become silent. This can lead to a bigger problem as we need our employees to tell us about all the red and white flags in our organizations. They are ones in contact with the market and customers constantly, and if they're not happy, your business could suffer – you have to listen to them.
Here are our 7 recommendations to empower employees to feel heard:
1. Provide Multiple Communication Channels
Since people communicate in a variety of ways, it's best to use a mix of methods to motivate your employees to share their opinion and thoughts. You could arrange brainstorming workshops with employees from various departments. It can be as simple as picking up a topic, such as new product ideas or challenges in the workplace, and seeing what employees suggest. Their answers could pool in some surprising and efficient ideas for you. This approach also encourages more frequent interaction between different departments and promotes cross-functional collaboration.
You can also develop an internal forum or use an employee survey software where employees can answer questions and give feedback anonymously. Finding the right cadence of touch points with your employees can be a process but over time you will find what frequency works best! This can ensure that all employees, including those who are shy to speak up in public, have a safe place to share their ideas and a direct communication line to management.
2. Adopt The Right Style of Communication
Several communication styles can also help you understand the dynamics of hearing and being heard. For instance, the four main communication styles popularly known as passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive can play a vital role in this process. Let's break down each one of them to understand their effect.
- Passive: Passive, also known as the submissive communication style, is a way of “pleasing others”. This means employees or HR managers who usually use this style of communication may often fail to express their opinions and views. Therefore, this style of communication can often lead to great ideas never being heard or even miscommunication taking place. However, if you are a passive communicator, one piece of advice to make it better would be to practice your speech in front of the mirror and develop confidence-building characteristics in yourself. Understand that your value addition will eventually help you lead the way yourself. On the contrary, if you are dealing with a passive communicator, make sure to address and ask for their opinions by giving them the space to express themselves.
- Aggressive: This type of communication style is felt, heard, and seen. You know it when someone communicates aggressively. In the popular view, aggressive communication style is dominating, intimidating, and blaming. However, being an aggressive communicator can defeat the purpose of your team bringing up new ideas because they will always be afraid to voice their opinions for the fear of being intimidated. If you are an aggressive communicator, you can consider taking mood-calming workshops or taking more part in physical activities. Also, understand that this approach will also not yield good results for your organization as a dominating behavior will always demotivate your team. On the other hand, if you are dealing with an aggressive communicator, you can try to communicate the person’s behavior politely to them. Another approach is to get down to business straight away without letting the conversation turn into an aggressive one.
- Passive-Aggressive: On the surface, passive-aggressive communication appears calm, but it conceals an underlying bitterness that manifests itself in discreet, subtle ways. People who embrace a tendency for passive-aggressive communication are often unhappy, trapped, and dissatisfied. However, to deal with this, one should see where all the anger comes from and communicate it to the source. Sharing your opposing opinions is not wrong – however, they should always be in a polite manner. In contrast, those dealing with passive-aggressive communicators should also dig down into the cause of such communicators. Maybe there is an external factor that is rooting up to this style.
- Assertive: Lastly and most importantly, the assertive style of communication is often the most effective and healthy way to communicate with your team. It is the most respectful and productive style that reflects on the opinions of others but also knows when and how to say “no”. The most encouraging part of this type of communication is that it leads to voicing your opinions and rights without violating the space, rights, and views of others on the team. This is a style that is usually adopted by great leaders and is proven to yield great benefits.
3. Encourage employees to participate in meetings
We've all gone to business meetings when the loudest voices dominate. Some may be hesitant to voice our views in a group of people. In such situations, managers should encourage everyone to speak up to facilitate the exchange of ideas. You don't need to put someone under the spotlight by pressuring them to speak. A simple gesture of inviting someone to participate and pooling in their views can do the deal too.
4. Learn to appreciate feedback and take constructive criticism
When your employees give you feedback, it can be difficult to hear if you take it personally. And, given everything you do for your company, it might be difficult not to take criticism of your leadership or strategies personally. However, you must leave your ego at the door if you want your team to feel heard. This is a professional situation, not a personal one. Making changes based on employee feedback have strong positive outcomes and is not a personal attack.
5. Respond to concerns that have been raised
Making sure that a conversation is followed up on is second only to truly listening. If team members are voicing issues, make sure to address them. This ensures that employees feel heard. Platforms today can give you the opportunity to have transparent conversations while protecting anonymity to dig deeper into complex situations.
If an employee is honest to you about their issues and is largely searching for your comprehension and interest in a smaller, but equally important context, make sure you're entirely attentive to their concerns.
Try not to cut conversations short or check your phone between in-person conversations. Such little acts can motivate your employees as they see you invested in listening to them.
6. Reward and recognize
Rewarding employees for providing feedback in the first place is another smart method to guarantee that they feel heard. Consider awarding a team member with promotions, bonuses, or praising them in front of everyone for their work. Such gestures demonstrate how much you value listening to your employees.
7. Build on emotional intelligence in management
The five essential components of emotional intelligence including motivation, self-awareness, self-regulation, social skills, and empathy can do wonders if you want your employees to feel heard. If managers practice these elements regularly, then they can successfully help feel their employees heard.
Motivating your employees to express their thoughts and opinions on different matters can help them feel like their views matter and in turn their job matters. On the other hand, self-regulation requires one to be self-aware! This means that you need to be conscious of your thoughts and behaviors in different situations. So if you are in the habit of jumping from one topic to another quickly, without taking your team’s opinion on it or even discussing it with them, then you need to regulate your behavior in a different direction.
Moreover, social skills include your ability to communicate verbally and non-verbally. Even your body language, such as inviting facial expressions can encourage employees to speak up. Whereas, negative facial expressions can even shut their opinions down.
Lastly, empathy is a very well-known element of emotional intelligence that is being given a lot of importance now. You need to talk to your employees beyond work too. Maybe a simple gesture of “how did your weekend go?” can help them feel like they are important and heard. This will condition them into speaking up on various occasions and feeling heard.
Following specific strategies and gestures can help you create a positive work environment where employees feel comfortable voicing their opinions. Sometimes, listening to your employees can expose new points of view you never thought of. It may also act as a catalyst to success and motivate your employees for innovation!
As an HR leader, you must make sure everyone in the group is being heard, despite the size of your team. Communication barriers should be broken so everyone feels heard and who knows, just by opening up your ears and leveraging some tech tools, you might get lots of new ideas. Every day, there is research that indicates organizational success towards employees being heard.