Should HR Start Listening More (Or At Least Pretend It Is?)

HR managers have a unique position representing a bridge between the employees and the organization. How they do their job is highly linked to the readiness and motivation of employees to pursue company goals. To succeed at their job, HR managers must be very good communicators. They have to know how to speak and listen well. The question which arises is Should HR Start Listening More? Mastering speaking is something that most successful managers and leaders pay attention to. Everyone practices or at least try to learn how to talk to subordinates, to superior managers, how to talk at a meeting, and how to hold a presentation or a public speech.

However, effective communication doesn’t consist only of effective speaking. Effective listening is even more important for those who want to hold a managerial position. In order to organize and lead the employees, the manager needs to understand them. Now, some would say, “I don’t need to understand them, and I don’t need them to understand me. All I need is that they do their job”. Well, if you want to be a boss type of manager preparing yourself for a massive failure in the area of leading people, then this is quite OK.

Keeping your employees satisfied and feeling appreciated is important in keeping turnover down. Businesses need to emphasize keeping their employees happy and motivated in order to remain competitive in their recruitment and retention efforts.

One area in which many employers fail to achieve their targets is in developing a sense of trust and confidence in their leadership among employees. Instilling a sense of trust and confidence in senior leadership is key to protecting an organization’s reputation and revenue flows.

Although there are many different ways to build trust and confidence in managers and senior leadership in an organization, one basic way is to listen carefully to your employees.

The Basics of Being a Great Listener

Employees want to feel that their opinions are being heard, rather than just being responded to. Experts agree that good listening comes down to doing the following things:

  • Not talking when your employee is talking
  • Letting your employee know that you’re listening with active facial expressions and verbal cues
  • Being able to repeat what your employee said
  • Eliminate distractions (papers on the desk, phone, email, texting, etc.)
  • In addition to making sure you follow these suggestions, be sure to promote open communication so employees feel comfortable talking to you about whatever issues may arise.

It is inevitable that employees may have concerns or complaints that they want to share with HR. When this happens, it’s critical that you handle the situation properly. Try to make every effort to put off your other obligations and make yourself available to hear your employees’ complaints. Avoid making these mistakes when listening to complaints, or you could be jeopardizing your career – or business.

  • Joking about the complaint with others
  • Rushing to judgment / taking sides
  • Supporting managers without knowing both sides
  • Firing the complainer
  • Texting, emailing, or other messaging to discuss the complaint with others
  • Ignoring the employee afterwards in meetings, emails, and office activities
  • Suggest that their complaint is just a misunderstanding
  • Using dismissive phrases such as “I know how you feel” or “It will be alright.”

Remember that listening to your employees leads to overall satisfaction, improves trust in senior leadership, and can improve employee retention levels. Make sure that good listening techniques are a part of training at all levels of management, leadership, and HR so all your employees can feel comfortable addressing and reacting to complaints in the proper manner.

A new study shows that if you want your workers to take a more active role in your business, you need to listen to what they say. The No. 1 reason employees don’t take more initiative at work; the study shows that their leaders fail to take their input before making key operational decisions.

The bottom line is that employees want to be heard and feel valued. When a business makes decisions without input from their field and ground staff, they tend to hold back their ideas and take less initiative to improve.”

Another big factor in keeping people from stepping up is how leaders react to employee ideas and input. Almost fifty per cent of employees cite that business managers and leaders dismiss ideas without considering their value. This is a major reason why employees won’t take the initiative. Similarly, if their input is considered, most contributing employees do not get rewarded or even recognized for thinking outside the box is another critical factor stopping people from stepping up.

Companies that want more initiative and for employees to bring more ideas to work need to recognize people who offer constructive criticism and take the initiative. Encouraging a company culture where people will bring their ideas to work has been associated with many important outcomes in such major areas as productivity, employee engagement, retention, and innovation. 

One of the best examples is the development of the Starbucks frappuccino. The idea for the drink was first suggested by some frontline employees and a store manager in Southern California. When the idea made its way to the corporate offices at Starbucks, it was rejected. Yet one manager encouraged the store to experiment anyway, and the result was a billion-dollar product for Starbucks.

This is something that managers see again and again. When leaders involve people in decisions and value employees’ ideas, resistance can be turned into productive energy.

Effective Employee Listening Strategy 

An effective employee listening strategy is understanding employees’ experiences through an integrated approach. This approach includes involving employees, requesting feedback from them, and improving the organization by incorporating their ideas. The goal is to do this while maintaining the objectives and mission of the company.

It is more than just sending out surveys. It involves changing the company’s culture by behaving in such a way that employees feel heard and valued. An employee listening strategy must start at the top with an implementation of top-level management and HR. It does require work from everyone in the agency to implement these strategies. It is a top-down type of implementation.

How to Develop a Listening Strategy 

When you are developing an employment listening strategy, Human Resources must look at the company as a whole, including its goals and objectives. This can help HR determine questions they should ask and the type of feedback they are most likely to receive. It is most helpful when the feedback received is relevant to the company’s goals and objectives. When considering which techniques are best for a company, HR needs to look at all proposed strategies and make sure whichever ones are chosen will work well for the organization across the board. 

Implementing these strategies may not take more than a few weeks, but it is a constant process. Human Resources cannot just say they are going to ask questions one time and call it a day. It is a constant process of asking for feedback, reviewing feedback, and making changes. Then Human Resources begins the entire cycle again. It is important to how HR starts its strategy and its implementation. HR must create a plan of action and mapping for the surveys. Then it must gather the data that you capture and determine how to move forward. The key is to make real changes, or Human Resources will lose their employees entirely.

As an HR manager, you get to “worry” about your team and the relationships of the organization and all the managers with the employees. The role of the HR manager is to keep a high level of employee motivation and enthusiasm. That can be achieved only by understanding the employees and their needs. 

HR managers need to understand them and get to know them more deeply by taking time to listen actively. This means listening openly, without biases and prejudgments; then trying to understand by asking questions, repeating, and summarizing; eventually, it means empathy, which means feeling other people’s emotions by reading their body language, facial expressions, and voice.

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