Employees want to be heard. They have feedback, concerns, exciting ideas, innovative thoughts and all that lay in between. So, as a leader, are you listening?
What happens when an employee has something to say, but feels unheard or too insignificant to be listened to? Chances are, they’re going to be upset. They’ll feel under-valued. They’ll feel cheated. They’ll be dissatisfied. They’ll start looking for another job.
For leaders, listening to their employees should be high on the priority list. Not just for the sake of the company at large, but for the sake of its employees and their satisfaction and job security. We all want to be heard and reassured that our thoughts, worries and ideas are taken seriously. Otherwise, how can we be fully committed to our work? It’s a two-way street. We give our best effort, the company gives the best support. Anything outside of that should be considered “not a good fit.” This is especially true for companies on the brink of disaster.
For instance, there is a company right here in the Midwest experiencing a rocky transition. The CEO, COO and CFO all were terminated. Its stock plummeted and barely recovering. Vice Presidents and Directors are putting in their resignations. Pieces of the company are being sold off. Employees are fearful of losing their jobs. And while for many the future for the company is hopeful, there is still dysfunction that is leaving employees unsure of their value to the company and position therein. Why? It’s plain and simple. They feel unheard.
So what should company leaders be keeping an ear out for from their employees? Below are just a few examples:
1. Job Security
When there is major upheaval in executive level positions, its only natural for employees to become unsettled in their own position. Take the time to reassure employees of their jobs. Whether it’s through a one-on-one meeting or giving them ownership over a particular project, it’s important to let them know you not only trust their abilities, but you’re counting on them.
Money isn’t everything. In fact, we’ve talked extensively about why perks on the job aren’t always the answer. But, when a company is going through drastic changes, it’s nice for employees to know that their livelihoods are still intact. Even if compensation projections have already been made and recounted to employees, don’t discount the potential for uneasiness in the ranks. If an employee questions his/her compensation, take it seriously and give them a chance to plead their case. You may or may not have the ability to remedy the situation entirely, but listening to their concerns is a start in the right direction.
3. Employee Value and Recognition
When an employee works hard and achieves success, it’s important to recognize and praise their efforts. Listen to their journey and consider any requests, ideas or concerns they may have. But tread carefully: don’t make promises you can’t keep. Promises of recognition, compensation, promotion, etc. are dangerous if the follow-through is lacking. Employees may be lead to think they are valued by the company by these standards, but if they’re let down by broken promises, they’ll believe otherwise and begin feeling resentment. That, and they’ll probably start looking for employment elsewhere.
4. Employee Innovation
One of the greatest ways to show true leadership is embracing employee innovation. Listen to ideas. Fuel creativity. Allow reinvention. Encourage employees to come to you with improvements, suggestions, new ways of thinking, new systems. A happy staff is one where employees are thoroughly engaged in their work and reassured in the notion that their thoughts are worthy of consideration and follow-through.
It’s hard to imagine a situation in which a company in trouble could ignore such an important factor in its survival such as listening. After all, without the dedicated, well-versed employees who have the experience with the inter-workings of the business, the company’s demise seems inevitable. It stands to reason then that leaders would be going above and beyond to keep their remaining employees happy and confident in their position. So, if you’re finding the security of your company is compromised, and it’s left up to you to lead current employees through the fire storm, consider the above suggestions. And remind yourself that listening is twice as important as talking. That’s why you have two ears and only one mouth.