We know employee engagement is essential for modern, higher-performing teams and companies. So why is it that many companies (long-standing and startups) still ignore the culture of functional workers and focus on profit-maximizing goals? When CEOs and decision-makers focus on generating revenue instead of recognizing employee needs and strengthening employee relationships, companies begin to fail (starting with their recruitment and retention strategies).
One of the best ways to improve employee engagement is by providing them with a voice and listening to their needs. Improving the experience of your bottom-line creates a strong foundation for your products/services to be delivered to customers and, ultimately, generates more revenue. Here are three ways how to recognize that you aren’t listening to your team and how to change your strategies to increase employee engagement:
Managers have a heavy workload and get pulled in what feels like a thousand directions — who else can relate, am I right? On top of administrative tasks managers must engage employees to ensure employee relationships are maintained. But the real key to success is when you stop viewing engagement as a task, because the reality of engagement is that it’s an opportunity to strengthen your team. Listening to employees is a crucial part of this process.
Heavy workloads may be a key indicator of how miscommunications are affecting your team. Aka, the greater the workload, the greater the possibility you need to rethink how you’re listening to employees, clarifying goals and meeting their needs. Focusing on communicating with employees (the back and forth of listening and following-up with feedback) can improve employee performance and decrease the number of tasks that pile up.
A perfect example of this is the “Snack Gate” at IQTalent Partners. We provide snacks for employees to help encourage social interaction and a light-hearted work environment. It helps employees destress while having a snack. For a period of time, we stopped having snacks at the snack gate. This removed the available growth opportunities and people quickly became distanced. The real problem was employees missed the snack gate and became upset that it was absent, but no one felt enabled to solve the problem.
So I started asking questions to figure out what was the problem, why was it a problem and how to fix it. What I discovered was people didn’t feel enabled to solve the problem or work to improve the situation. They felt unsure how to step forward with their concerns so they chose not to act or speak up. To counter this, we held a meeting where I reinforced teamwork, employee voice and collaboration to encourage employees to take charge of themselves. The key takeaway from the snack gate situation was this: If there’s a problem — talk about it as a team. Nobody felt like they had permission to solve the problem, so we had to work through that frustration by talking to each other.
When employees know their voice is heard, they’re more open to sharing ideas, knowledge and skills. Instead of a heads-down culture where managers have it “my way or the highway,” they are comfortable speaking up at work to develop others and themselves. Always encourage your employees to speak up with thoughts and ideas, then align them with company goals.
Happy workers are productive workers. When employees feel like their voice is heard, they feel valued. When employees feel valued, they are more passionate about their work and job. Nothing’s worse than having a job where no one cares about you. Improve employee engagement by taking in their feedback and molding it to improve company policies, processes and other company culture elements.
When employees don’t feel valued or feel like they don’t have a strong purpose, they begin to question why to show up. With a greater purpose and higher engagement, employees are more likely to show up to work on time knowing they are contributing as a team member. Value their work and their efforts to increase their own value in the work they do.
Improving engagement can be a great tool to strive for higher employee retention rates. While it doesn’t guarantee your employees will stay, it does create opportunities to show them they are valued in their current position and the work they do. This reminds them that they have a place at your organization. After all, employees want a sense of community and belonging, and engagement works to make it happen.
Your bottom-line works every day to make operations run, and it scales throughout your entire organization. Instead of viewing employees as productivity metrics and operation costs, place them at your level. How would you want someone to communicate with you? Source ideas for performance change from your co-workers and build an organization-wide strategy around that feedback.
It’s essential to determine how your employees feel. Whether you think you are listening or not, it’s important to enable inclusivity and openness so your employees reach out on their own with their ideas and feedback. Otherwise, you’re missing out on their side of the story.
We often fall back into the traditional tropes of the top-down, authoritative feedback process, so remind them often that they have the ability to speak up and voice ideas and concerns. Here are some common pitfalls for employee voice and how to avoid them:
Strong indicators of a lack of employee voice:
Identify areas you feel need the most improvement and write down goals for how you plan to change. Create a timeline for meeting them and how you plan to follow-up after you hit the benchmark.
Way to improve listening: (e.g. Asks for employee input?)
How do you plan to move forward with this goal? (e.g. Send out feedback survey/source employee ideas)
Having a strategy for listening to employees. Encouraging employee voice and promoting open ideas in the workplace is a good start, but now you have to put your money where your mouth is and commit to your goals. At IQTalent Partners, we have a “round-table” approach where all ideas are equally important to the process.
Within these “roundtables,” we have 8 different assigned groups that meet every 8 weeks to help people feel like they aren’t alone. Large group meetings can be daunting. These smaller groups are more relaxed. This type of environment enables more productive teamwork and collaboration because you’re treating the people you work with more like teammates and less like employees.
Here are some fundamental steps to integrate everything we’ve discussed and bring the ultimate power play to employee engagement and voice:
Talk to your employees. Invite employees to voice their honest opinions on what could be improved. This can be anything from strategic business decisions down to adding more break room food options. Then find a way to collect other employee feedback for analysis and implementation.
Tip: Let them do the talking. The more you listen and the less you talk, the better. This is about their voice.
Evaluate and integrate employee ideas. Keep in mind that not every idea will be a good fit, but the key is to lay out all the ideas on the drawing board. The ideas you pick should make a majority of them feel engaged and listened to while maintaining the bigger picture of company-wide success.
Tip: Pick the ideas that employees feel most passionate about and see how they relate to company goals.
Measure the results. Once you implemented those ideas and a sufficient amount of time has passed, measure the results of the implemented idea. Ask employees how they feel to see if it was effective or if something needs to change.
Tip: For the ideas that were not picked, follow up with those employees. Make them aware that you are still listening and you value their opinion.
Along with these steps, be sure to recognize employees for their work, empathize and consider their positions. Recognition and engagement programs can go a long way. So can developing relationships with those who are passive and need the most assistance.
This article was originally published on the IQTalent Partners Blog.
About Chris Murdock:
Chris Murdock is the Co-Founder and Senior Partner of IQTalent Partners. Chris has over 12 years of executive recruiting experience and leads search execution and client relationships along with supporting searches across the firm.
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