Managers are extremely busy, especially in the post-pandemic era. You’re probably coping with staffing shortages, trying to keep up with ever-changing regulations, and possibly even redesigning your workspace. But listening to your employees’ needs and concerns is more important than ever before. They’ve been through a lot, and they need to know that you have their backs. Here’s what you should know.
Why Is Listening to Your Employees’ Needs Important?
Listening to your employees is a win-win for both you and them. Benefits include:
- Better workplace culture: Today’s workers are seeking a strong workplace culture. They want to work for a company that is diverse, inclusive, and supportive of all employees.
- Increased employee satisfaction: Employees are not robots. They’re human beings with individual needs and concerns. Feeling heard and validated can dramatically increase their satisfaction at work. Just make sure you follow up on what they tell you.
- Boosted productivity: When employees’ needs are met, they are able to be more productive. This can translate directly into a healthier bottom line.
- Stronger loyalty: We’re in the middle of the Great Resignation, in which legions of workers are leaving for greener pastures. Listening to your employees and responding to their needs can help build loyalty, making you more likely to retain your top talent.
Practice Active Listening
Active listening means seeking understanding, rather than simply waiting until it is your turn to speak. It incorporates a variety of techniques, including:
- Summarizing: Restate what the speaker said in your own words. This ensures that you heard correctly and didn’t miss anything.
- Clarifying: Don’t make assumptions. Instead, ask questions to clarify the meaning, and remain open to the responses.
- Reflecting: Take a few moments to think about what was said. Analyze it in your mind and look for subtext. Summarize and/or clarify again if necessary.
- Responding: When you’re sure you fully understand the message, respond to what was said—and not to anything that wasn’t.
Incorporate Empathetic Listening
While active listening seeks to understand a message, empathetic listening seeks to understand a person. Your goal is to understand and empathize with the speaker’s inner emotional experiences. Techniques required for empathetic listening include:
- Being present: Put away distractions and focus solely on the other person. When thoughts come to mind, observe them and label them, and then let go of them. Keep pulling your attention back to the speaker.
- Noticing nonverbal communication: While listening to the words being spoken, also pay attention to nonverbal communication. Focus on body language, pacing, and volume.
- Asking open-ended questions: Choose questions that require a lengthy response. Instead of “Do you think the meeting went well?” try “What are your impressions of how the meeting went?”
- Deciding how to respond: Is the person looking for a solution, or just wanting to vent? Respond in the way that they need, and if you’re not sure, ask.
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