Article: Why listening is the key to employee engagement

Employee Engagement

Why listening is the key to employee engagement

Let’s take a look at what makes a great listener, why good listening skills matter in the digital age, and how to become better at listening as a leader
Why listening is the key to employee engagement

Here’s some bad news! By the end of the year, a fifth of UK employees will have quit their jobs.  So how do you stop your people from leaving? Even though the cost of living is at a record high, it’s not simply a case of paying those more, but rather creating a culture that your people choose to engage with. Culture is your differentiator. And this means asking what your employees want, listening to their answers and acting on the insights. This listening strategy must be at the heart of every cultural change, helping to create an exceptional employee experience that makes your people want to stay.

The resignation equation

There will always be some level of employee churn no matter what you do. Some employees, especially from the younger generation, will look to move on every couple of years, so HR leaders need to figure out the difference between natural churn, and churn due to some underlying cultural issues. According to LinkedIN, the average staff turnover rate across all industries between July 2021 and June 2022 was 10.6 per cent, although this figure varies considerably depending on industry with government organisations seeing the lowest churn (8.4 per cent), and professional services the highest (13.4 percent). However in WorkBuzz’s conversations with HR leaders in health and social care, turnover can be considerably higher than this in some cases!

Against a backdrop of record inflation, it’s unsurprising that some employees are leaving their jobs due to pay, and according to PWC’s Global Workforce survey, the pressure to increase pay will be intense over the next 12 months. However, even when the cost of living is challenging, employees will choose to stay with an employer for reasons above and beyond salary. In fact, there are five predictors of an employee leaving – the so-called ‘resignation equation’. And in addition to not feeling fairly rewarded financially, these include the employee finding their work unfulfilling; the inability to be their true selves; feeling that their team doesn’t care about them; and not being listened to by their manager.

Creating a culture people choose to engage with

So, organisations need to create an employee experience which is fulfilling within an environment that is caring, encourages people to have a voice and feel heard and engenders a sense of belonging. But achieving this isn’t a linear process that can be replicated from one organisation to another, as every company and its people are different. Plus, it’s important to remember that a great employee experience is comprised of hundreds of daily ‘moments’ that shape how an employee feels about the organisation, rather than a few milestone achievements at certain points in the employee life cycle. Understanding how to influence some of these everyday moments (and then making them ‘outstanding’) is crucial, such as finding ways for employees to shine, ensuring individuals feel empowered, and having line managers respond compassionately to employees’ personal issues. And to create such an appealing culture means having an in-depth understanding of the existing employee-experience and what needs to be done to make it first-rate. This requires asking employees the right questions, listening to the answers and actioning the insights.

Listening to what your people want

Any listening strategy must start with clear intent from the leadership team and not just the HR team. They must understand and ‘buy into’ the end goal of an improved organisational culture, and  recognise that finding out what employees think and want must be an ongoing conversation rather than a one-off ‘HR project’. And this process of listening must tie into the organisational goals and values, supporting what the company is trying to achieve and what it stands for. After all, if an organisational value is ‘respect’, and yet employees aren’t asked whether they feel respected, how can this value be truly upheld? Leaders MUST be willing to ask deep and challenging questions to learn what employees truly think, thereby encouraging an honest dialogue.

Engagement surveys are valuable tools for giving employees a voice. These surveys can’t be an annual phenomenon but must be regular, concise and to the point. From surveys targeted at particular points in the employee lifecycle (attraction, recruitment, onboarding and exit), through to frequent, anonymous ‘pulse surveys’ that focus on key topics/issues such as employee development and wellbeing, modern day engagement surveys are invaluable for giving the employer the ability to listen to its people, dissect and understand the findings, and then drive the necessary cultural change.

Reshaping the organisational culture

Only with truth comes positive change, and this is especially true when an organisation is faced with needing to reshape its workplace culture. Understanding why your employees are (and aren’t) leaving, how they feel about their role and team, and whether they have a strong sense of belonging, are just some of the insights leaders need to know. This honesty between the organisation and its employees then lays the foundation for the creation of a more attractive and engaging culture, one that has been purposefully designed in partnership with its people.

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Topics: Employee Engagement, Employee Relations, #HRCommunity

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