Listening is an essential skill in the workplace, especially when you want to enhance company performance. More important than many companies realize. In fact, according to the software company, Sideways6, over 34% of employees worldwide believe that their employers don’t listen to their ideas. A Gallup study shows 87% of employees feel disengaged from their work, with a sense of not feeling listened to as a top reason.
Therefore, organizations must prioritize listening to employees. Hearing your employees’ feedback and ideas makes them feel valued and trusted. As a result, employees become highly engaged and productive in their work.
And listening doesn’t just benefit employees. Before we tackle gathering employees’ ideas, let’s look at the benefits to your business when hearing employees out.
Employee ideas can benefit your company by …
1) Providing insight into challenges and opportunities
Employees immersed in the organization’s day-to-day operations will provide unique insights into organizational challenges. They will be the first to encounter issues that arise as a result of processes or company policies. Since they face the challenge themselves, they may also be the most invested in proposing solutions.
Additionally, these employees may have unique insight into opportunities for improved revenue or cost savings in areas without challenge. Using the employee’s unique perspective and solutions to these issues allows your company to reach its goals and implement an informed business strategy.
2) Increases employee engagement
When you proactively seek your employees’ feedback, you show them you value their input. In turn, employees feel they are making a difference and become engaged in their work. We know highly engaged employees will likely be more productive, perform better in their roles, and stay with your organization longer.
3) Creates an inclusive culture
You create a unified and inclusive work environment when hearing out opinions, ideas, and concerns. Additionally, team members begin to trust when they can confidently share their views and feedback with colleagues and supervisors. Once employees trust your organization, they will be more committed to contributing to its success.
4) Encourages knowledge sharing
Listening also creates opportunities for knowledge sharing. Employees share and absorb challenges, solutions, and ideas across different departments. Ultimately, increased knowledge sharing through listening leads to more significant innovation and organizational growth.
Now, how can we collect those ideas?
Next, we will list several methods for collecting ideas and feedback. Which method (or methods) you use will depend on your company’s goals and unique workforce. Here are some common ways:
1) Retention (or stay) interviews
Retention or stay interviews occur throughout the employee’s time at the organization. They are an excellent way to discover what employees enjoy about their role, their problems, and whether they’ve ever considered leaving the company. You can use these ideas and feedback to impact the experiences of existing and future employees positively.
2) Skip-level meetings
Sometimes a direct supervisor’s view of how an employee is feeling or performing is distorted or perhaps taken for granted, especially in cases where there is a strained relationship. A skip-level meeting occurs between an employee and their manager’s manager, allowing higher-level leaders to hear from front-line team members. These meetings may also provide employees an additional route to support if their direct manager is unable or unwilling to handle a specific issue.
3) Engagement surveys
As the name suggests, engagement surveys measure how engaged, committed, and connected employees are to their job and the organization. They also identify where your organization needs to improve. These surveys can be implemented annually with additional ‘pulse surveys’ throughout the year. Pulse surveys are short, user-friendly questionnaires that gather feedback on one or two specific areas. Engagement and pulse surveys are instrumental if an organization is going through a period of change or implementing a new initiative. Not only do these surveys allow leaders to identify employee concerns and ideas for improvement, but they also uncover changes in engagement levels.
4) Q&A sessions
In a workplace context, question and answer (Q&A) sessions allow company leaders to invite questions from an audience of team members. You may include the whole company at once if the company is small. Otherwise, these sessions may garner more participation when held with smaller groups. Q&A sessions allow employees who wouldn’t speak up independently to voice opinions in a group setting. They work best when scheduled in advance with a chance to submit questions anonymously ahead of time and at the event.
5) Fireside chats
A fireside chat is a relaxed and informal discussion between a moderator and a subject matter expert in front of an audience. Examples of guests may include your CEO or C-suite leaders, department heads in charge of new initiatives, or high-performing employees. Because fireside chats are relaxed and informal, the subject matter expert has a chance to show their personality. Depending on the topic, they can share personal stories that motivate, teach, or incentivize. They can also talk openly about challenges they face, lessons learned, and ideas on how such challenges contribute to personal growth. By listening to employees’ responses through questions and reactions to the material, you will gain insight from them on the topic at hand.
6) Suggestion box
Suggestion boxes (even digital ones such as IdeaGlow or Connecteam) are an alternative way to gather feedback and suggestions. You can regularly encourage employees to submit suggestions, allowing them the chance to remain anonymous. However, employees should know that if the submission is anonymous, it does not let leaders follow up for clarification or context, and ideas may be less likely to be adopted.
So, now that you’ve gathered some ideas and feedback in various ways, how do you decide which ideas to implement? After all, it isn’t feasible to implement every single idea. In fact, not all ideas will even be good. And some suggestions may be great but not viable right now.
Here are some steps to take to establish a clear process for capturing, storing, evaluating, and implementing ideas:
1) Capture and store feedback
Before setting up a system for evaluating and selecting ideas, you must decide where to capture and store them. Consider who needs access to them. Employee feedback tools like Kazoo and Workmates by HR Cloud allow you to send surveys to employees and provide tools that help managers analyze results. However, those surveys may be one of many ways you collect ideas and feedback. Consider how you will centralize the data so it’s searchable. It can be as easy as a Word or Excel document.
2) Establish selection criteria
Establishing criteria can make it easier to assess ideas. Your chosen criteria will depend on your business goals and your organization’s current situation. But here are a few common ones:
- Benefit of the idea to the organization
- Cost of implementing the idea
- Innovation of the idea
- Alignment of idea with business goals
3) Evaluate and select ideas
Bring leaders to review different ideas based on your chosen criteria. Assign scores for each measure, and add them up to get the total score. Finally, select the ideas with the higher scores.
4) Follow up with employees that have shared suggestions
Congratulate those whose ideas you accept, and tell them about the next steps. Provide explanations and constructive feedback to employees whose suggestions you will not yet implement. This demonstrates that you’ve given their ideas a lot of thought. And more importantly, show gratitude that may encourage employees to continue contributing.
5) Implement the idea(s)
The next step is to create an action plan for implementation. The action plan should outline the following:
- Tasks to be completed
- Individuals responsible for completing the tasks
- Deadlines and key milestones
- Desired outcomes
- How to monitor progress and measure success
Involve the person who proposed the idea in its implementation when appropriate. Or even let that person lead the charge. This way, they feel a sense of ownership.
6) Reward and recognize
Recognize everyone who contributed ideas, but reward those whose ideas you adopt. Also, recognize all those involved in refining and bringing the idea to life. Making the recognition process public will inspire employees to offer feedback and contribute ideas. And more importantly, reinforce your company’s listening and innovative culture.
Consequences of not acting on employee feedback
It’s important to note that listening and gathering feedback and ideas while never taking action may have adverse outcomes. Employees will feel that their thoughts and opinions don’t matter and will inevitably disengage and lose trust in their managers. They will stop sharing their feedback resulting in fewer insights and ideas that could help your organization develop and grow.
Listening to your employees’ thoughts and ideas is extremely important. Acknowledging and acting on those ideas as appropriate is equally as important. Use your employees’ feedback and ideas to build a happy, highly engaged, and creative workforce to contribute to a profitable organization.