Active Listening as Organization: Taking the Employee Voice to Heart

Listening To Your Employees As An Organization

We often talk about the importance of listening to your employees. However, for something we’ve been taught since kindergarten, listening is a skill that requires quite a bit of practice and intention. For example, while in a conversation have you ever found yourself forming a response while the other person was talking, only to realize that you missed their last few points? You’re not alone. In fact, research says that people remember 25-50% of what they hear. Yikes. Active listening is a technique used to close this gap between what we hear and what we retain. According to Mind Tools, with active listening you “make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, try to understand the complete message being sent.”Active listening is hard enough on an individual level, so how do you apply this concept on an organizational level? Here are some tips to help you do just that.Bonus:

Take active listening to the next level with employee engagement surveys. Our Surveys 101 guide will help you get started.

Listen to understand, rather than to respond

The all-too-common conversation example I shared at the beginning of this article is a perfect example of listening to respond rather than listening to understand. Listening to respond is listening to say you listened. Listening to check it off your list and tell people you did it. Listening to understand is listening with empathy, listening to learn, and then taking those learnings to heart. When you are so focused on responding, you often miss what is actually being said. Additionally, you run the risk of your response seeming defensive, rather than genuine. Of course, responding is necessary (in fact, we often say that there’s no such thing as survey fatigue, only inaction fatigue), but in order to respond effectively, you first have to understand what you’re responding to.

Collect feedback.

I know. Here we are talking about feedback again. But it is so important!

Surveys are the easiest way to collect feedback and listen on an organizational level. Creating a regular survey cadence for your employees provides a predictable, consistent outlet for their thoughts and suggestions, so that negatives don’t boil up into a different problem altogether. And you can always send ad-hoc surveys for anything that comes up in between your regular schedule. Further, for those who like to speak in numbers rather than emotions, the results that surveys provide help you do that.

Of course, surveys aren’t as personal as having one-on-one conversations with every employee, but seeing the data accumulated often communicates a clearer story than if you were to link thousands of conversations together. In this way, it helps you listen more effectively on a larger scale.