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Creating workplace environments that encourage candid conversations

Walking the walk when it comes to talking the talk: Investing time and resources into listening to your workforce

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In the midst of ‘the great resignation’, it is more important than ever to create workplace environments in which employees feel happy, engaged, and valued. For Julie Chakraverty, crucial to achieving this is providing the time and resources for staff to have meaningful, candid conversations where they feel truly heard.

 

20th Jun 2022
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It is important to understand that providing support services for your staff is not only beneficial to the employees and the company’s retention rate, but also makes a big difference in terms of productivity.

A study conducted by Gallup, has revealed that employees who are happy and engaged at work are estimated to be 17% more productive than those who are dissatisfied with their workplace experience.

Yet the same study found that at present, an estimated 85% of employees are not engaged with their organisation – resulting in an estimated $7 trillion of lost productivity.

It has been difficult to adapt to the challenging ‘new normal’ instigated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent rise in hybrid working.

An estimated 85% of employees are not engaged with their organisation, resulting in an estimated $7 trillion of lost productivity.

Add to this the increased stress brought about by the cost-of-living crisis, as well as other ongoing global disasters, such as Russia’s invasion of Ukraine – and there is no surprise that a dissonance has set in among the workforce that is affecting morale, motivation, and performance.

The need for effective communication between organisations and employees is more urgent than ever.

So, how can organisations engage more effectively with their employees, and enable them to bring their best selves to work?

Turning a negative into a positive

It’s human nature to notice the negatives in life over the positives. The effects of a single bad event are always more powerful than the effects of multiple good experiences – for example, moments of criticism tend to stay in our minds much longer than compliments.

As such, when people experience something negative, this one-off experience is likely to shape how they view the world going forward.

Leaders are often guilty of turning a blind eye to their employees’ negative experiences.

Leaders don’t tend to want to focus on employees’ negative experiences. It can be tempting to brush these under the carpet, because it’s often easier to remain blind to an issue than to resolve one.

But those who take this path will ultimately lose out in the long run. When leaders give employees space to have open conversations about bad experiences, they can begin to provide solutions and build a safer environment for everybody.

Transparency goes hand-in-hand with a positive employee experience. Leaders must make an effort to be accountable to employees and work harder to surface the negative, even if it may be uncomfortable.

Time to listen

Not only can surfacing the negative make leaders uncomfortable, but it can add additional pressure on their time.

Leaders suffer from time challenges more so than almost any other employee, so in order for their engagement with employee concerns to be effective, leaders must actively carve out time for listening.

Making time for emotional needs is just as crucial as making time to understand other important business questions. Over three quarters (82%) of employees have ideas that could help their company improve, but more than a third (33%) don’t feel listened to.

82% of employees have ideas that could help their company improve, but more than a third (33%) don’t feel listened to.

Consequently, those who aren’t actively allocating time to listening to employees are likely to be losing out in terms of innovation and success.

When organisations offer spaces for true engagement and connection, employees gain greater autonomy and clarity of what is expected of them. This can converge and combine to create a strong, healthy, and purposeful organisational atmosphere.

Providing the tools to encourage candid conversations

Surfacing the negative begins with simple acts of active listening. Leaders need to provide the space and time for employees to talk candidly with their managers about their individual experience of the workplace.

The lived experience of an employee inevitably shapes how they react to events and the choices they make – for example, a female employee may be more resistant to nominate herself for leadership roles, because she has grown up in a culture with few female role models.

A key challenge for leaders is proving that they are truly listening. All too often, leaders have conversations about employee concerns, but find that other priorities arise or don’t feel that they are the correct person to respond to an employee’s concern.

Employee experience platforms enable employees to raise concerns anonymously and seek support from across their organisation, rather than being limited to a conversation with a single manager.

Therefore, managers need to provide access to a wide range of solutions for employee issues, in a way that doesn’t drain the resources of one individual.

In today’s hybrid working environment, technology facilitates conversations on a much larger scale. Employee experience platforms enable employees to seek support from across their organisation, rather than being limited to a conversation with a single manager.

These forums give employees the opportunity to raise concerns anonymously, therefore enabling in-depth, open, and personal conversations to take place between people from across an organisation without bias.

As a result, employees can seek solutions from their colleagues, and organisations can respond dynamically to employee needs.

Listening in the present – looking towards the future

When employees lack a voice, they cannot raise concerns or issues that they’re experiencing. Organisations cannot afford this in the era of ‘the great resignation’, when employees who are dissatisfied with their organisation won’t think twice about seeking a new role.

Leaders that make the time to listen will be better placed not only to resolve issues in the present, but to mitigate longer-term challenges ahead. All it takes is a small investment in time and resources that will pay dividends in the long run.

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