Business Colleagues Working At Desk In Warehouse
Engagement is the new buzzword in organizations and in human resources. This is unfortunate because the more a word is used, the less people pay attention to it. In addition, because everyone is talking about the importance of engaging their employees, it seems like some big and lofty, nebulous thing……that will take a lot of time and money.
Here’s the thing I have learned about engagement. The easiest and cheapest things have the greatest impact on engagement. Today I am going to focus on one: Listen! While cheap (arguably free) and easy (we have the tools already), there are some important concepts to listen effectively.
Have the Right Intent
You are listening so that the employee feels understood. You are not listening to appease them. You are not listening to solve a problem. You are not listening while preparing your response. You are listening to UNDERSTAND. If you find yourself thinking about what you want to say next, or how you handled a situation or whether or not you feel the same way….you are not listening for the intent to UNDERSTAND. Check your intent and start again.
Asking questions is an important part of listening and understanding. When you are asking questions, remember your intent…..to understand. You are not asking questions so that you can judge, interpret or advise the other individual. Good questions are going to be open ended (not answered in yes or no answers) and are not leading to the answer you want to hear. Good examples of questions are:
- What am I missing?
- Can you help me understand?
- Tell me more…….
Listening can take time……listening to make someone feels heard takes time. One thing I have heard managers and supervisors struggle with is being okay with silence. Do you know how long it takes for someone to come up with a new thought? 12 seconds. Count to 12 in your head……one one thousand, two one thousand, three one thousand, four one thousand……that feels like an eternity, especially when you are sitting down with someone. Find a way to be comfortable with the silence. Count in your head if you have to, but be patient and give the employee time.
Look For Signs An Employee Does Not Feel Heard
The intent of listening is for the employee to feel heard. Therefore, you will want to look for signs that an employee does not feel heard.
- They repeat themselves. If someone continues to repeat what they said (or continue to say it louder), it may be a sign that they do not feel heard. If you find that someone is repeating themselves, try to respond in a different way to show you understand. A good phrase to use is “What I am hearing you say is…….” and then paraphrase what you heard them say.
- They ask to speak to someone else. Chances are if an employee asks to speak to someone else, reaches out to your manager or human resources, the employee does not feel you have listened to them. You need to find a way for the employee to know you have heard and understand.
- They file complaints with external organizations. While this seems extreme, I have found this to be true. Employees are more likely to seek outside assistance (lawyers, government agencies, unions, etc.) if they have expressed a concern and do not feel heard. I have worked with many organizations who are concerned about risk — risk of audits, risk of lawsuits or claims — so they implement more policies or procedures to reduce risk. Yes, those are important to have. But your ears are your best risk management tool.
To learn more about ways to engage your employees, please reach out to us at People Spark Consulting, LLC.