If you look for the definition of ‘listening’ on Google, you will get many versions— ‘give one’s attention to a sound’; ‘take notice of and act on what someone says’; ‘respond to advice or a request’; ‘make an effort to hear something’; ‘be alert and ready to hear something’.
In the corporate world, the act of listening, especially on the part of the employers should be a blend of all the actions suggested in the above definitions.
A good listener is one who takes in what he hears as input, acts on it and then also gets back with output, feedback and followup information. That is the ideal and complete cycle.
So, when employees have a problem to talk about, listen to them, accept the information they provide, take necessary action, get back to them and inform them of what has been done and also tell them what came of the action taken. Results and outcome should be communicated immediately and clearly.
Simply listening to what employees have to say and sitting on that information is a waste of time. And employees today are quick to sense when listening sessions are meaningless and pointless.
A recent survey by Peakon that covered more than 32 million employees across 125 countries, reveals that it is not difficult to sense why or when an employee decides to quit. Apparently, it is not always about salary, work pressure and team dynamics. In fact, the report asserts that warning signs start appearing exactly nine months before the employee quits, if only the employers would care to ‘listen’.
The report, titled ‘The 9-month warning: Identifying quitters before it’s too late’ is based on a widespread corporate survey. It emphasises that by listening to their employees, all employers can ensure that their workforces stay engaged and also remain highly productive.
As an employer, the other points that you need to keep in mind are:
(i) Employees will give their best to whatever they themselves have helped to create. Therefore, employers should see to it that employees are actively involved in all solution processes.
(ii) Employees seldom crack under pressure if the work is challenging and meaningful. Stress that comes with new, challenging and interesting projects does not drive employees to quit. In fact, employees become more engaged and there is a significant rise in productivity because they feel they have really accomplished something concrete. So go ahead and challenge your team. Listen to new ideas.
(iii) Employees do not quit because of the remuneration. They quit because they are unable to discuss their remuneration with their managers. For them to realise that they are being paid fair remuneration, they should first feel like they have the liberty to discuss the matter with their managers. Only when there is an open channel of communication before them and an opportunity to connect, can they open up and benefit from being enlightened by higher authorities. The survey reveals that employees value the ability to be able to talk with their seniors more than the salary they receive.
It all boils down to listening skills. To engage and retain employees, all employers need to do is listen to them in the true sense of the word. They have to also let it be known that they are ever ready to listen.
Clearly, employees do not leave because they are stressed or are unable to handle the workload or are dissatisfied with their salaries. They leave because they feel nobody ‘listens’ to them. They are not always full of complaints, mind you. They are brimming with new ideas too, if only their seniors would care to lend their ears.