Leaders spend 80% of their workday communicating. But are they doing it effectively? And how can you measure the business outcomes for leadership behaviors? Frances Roy, CEO of Leadersync, thinks that pulsing surveys are a clear answer—but there’s so much more to a pulsing survey than just collecting the feedback. The steps that follow are as, if not more, important.
Frances Roy led the charge to implement TINYpulse at Ascension Health, the largest non-profit health system in the United States. She came to TINYcon to share her learnings and guidance as a chief talent officer there, and to start the conversation about continuous listening.
Watch the video below, or keep reading for our biggest take-aways...
The importance of leading by example
Creating strong company values is quickly becoming a universally recognized step to building an agile, strong, and growth-minded company. But one of the major challenges many companies face is bringing those values down off the wall, and living by them in the workplace.
Roy suggests that the first step to getting value-driven behavior is to lead by example. “When people tell you one thing, and the realities are something different, who do we look to, to see what realities are? Leadership. And when you see that the two don’t go together, what does it do to your own engagement? It goes down.”
Employee engagement is an excellent indicator of successful leadership
For individual contributors, success is measured in business outcomes; that can mean product output or client happiness. But for leadership, the business outcome they should be measured on is engagement. And if you don’t think employee engagement is a business outcome, the US chamber of commerce found that the 25% most engaged teams had:
- 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
- 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
- 37% lower absenteeism
- 20% higher customer metrics
- 21% higher productivity
- 22% higher profitability
Employee engagement is usually related to a myriad of factors. At TINYpulse, we break it down into the ten most common “culture drivers,” determined from over 5 million data points. One of the biggest culture drivers to employee happiness is leadership and management. “So, how do you know what leadership behaviors impact business outcomes?” asks Roy, “When you use TINYpulse to listen to your team, [...] all the data is there.” The next step is making sure that the right people are reading it, taking it, and doing something with it.
The importance of listening, and the tools to do it
Surveys are a great way to start engaging with employees and telling them that you’re looking for feedback and that you’re invested in their experience. But your frequency and your response are just as important as the questions that you ask. “If we’re only asking questions every eighteen months, or once a year, what does that really say about how important it is for us to listen to associates?” Roy asks.
Similarly, if you ‘listen’ by collecting feedback, but then never follow-up or acknowledge the kind of feedback you received, the participation and investment in those survey responses will degrade over time.
Best practices for a listening leadership
Roy shows a video, during her talk at TINYcon. The premise; a woman with a nail in her forehead complains about seemingly related experiences, like snagging her sweater or experiencing pain. But she doesn’t want help to remove the nail, she just wants to be listened to. The video is a reminder that there are many different reasons why we communicate with each other, and that often that communication is not to seek a solution, but to connect or to express ourselves.
When you think about the employee surveys that you send out, it’s important to remember why employees are sharing their feedback with you, especially for opt-in surveys or anonymous suggestion boxes. And how you can respond to that feedback in a way that communicates that you have heard them and acknowledged the feedback that was received.
Roy gives an easy example: an employee survey reveals requests for better lighting in the parking lot, which the company promptly installs. The important opportunity here is to reassure and restate that the employee is valued, recognized, and supported. The perfect example is a statement like: “We heard your feedback, and your safety is very important to us, and it’s something we care deeply about. So, in the next 60 days, we’ll be installing that lighting, since we know that it’s something that we’ve heard is important to you. And it’s important to us as well.”
Clear outcomes: Customer-facing employees will show improved listening as well
When your employees feel valued, recognized, and supported, there’s a very clear increase in the quality of care that your clients receive. Roy found that as they surveyed clients over time, the increase in engaged employees also lead to better customer service. Employees with high engagement were more concerned for their clients, got more involved personally, and did more overall monitoring of their customer’s status and behaviors, to understand their satisfaction and retention.
“The most basic and powerful way to connect with another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention.”
The big goal: shifting to a listening culture
As it becomes clearer that there is a direct return on investment in focusing on employee engagement, it’s important to remember that one of the biggest factors controlling employee engagement is the relationship between employees and managers. Listening to employee feedback is a good way to start the conversation, and acknowledging that you’ve received the feedback is a must-do as you let employees know that you’re investing in their experience.
Frances Roy leaves us with one final quote; “Listening is about supporting, not carrying.” As tempting as it may be to take all that feedback and do the heavy lifting to make your culture a better place, it’s important to remember that ‘fixing’ isn’t always what your employees are looking for, and often they simply need to be supported as they find solutions that work for them.
Frances Roy spoke at this year's TINYcon 2017. To reserve your tickets to next year's TINYcon, and make sure that you're keeping up to date with the latest in employee engagement and company culture, get your early bird tickets now! If you're looking for more tips or info on improving company culture, you can also read our culture report here.