Stephen R Covey once said that most people listen not to understand, but to reply. This reminds us effective leadership too goes just beyond giving orders; it involves fostering strong relationships with your team, comprehending their needs, and supporting their growth. Active listening is a crucial skill for any leader, as it entails not only hearing what your team members say, but genuinely grasping their viewpoint and responding in a manner that demonstrates the value you place on their input.
In the pursuit of updating policies and utilising cutting-edge AI tools, we sometimes overlook the importance of listening and feedback. This very attribute holds the potential to foster trust, enhance communication, and elevate productivity. Hence, on this World Listening Day, let us delve into the power of active listening and discover how it empowers leaders in policy development.
Recognising employee contributions
True transformation begins when companies prioritise active listening and feedback in shaping employee policies, recognising that your employees are not just human resources, but individuals with unique needs and perspectives. At BetterPlace, we firmly believe that the key to unlocking the full potential of our workforce lies in the power of listening and valuing every employee as a person first, said Mohana MD, Chief People & Culture Office, BetterPlace and suggested how to create an inclusive workplace.
“Recognise employees as individuals and promote an environment that values uniqueness and enables diverse perspectives. This fosters a sense of belonging, enhances engagement, and unlocks creative ideas. Active listening plays a crucial role by promoting open dialogue, constructive conversations, and feedback loops. It cultivates a culture of trust, collaboration, and mutual respect, where all contributions are valued regardless of background or position,” she said.
Strategies for managers to connect with employees
Strong connections between managers and employees lead to increased engagement. Employees who feel valued and heard by their managers are more likely to be motivated and committed to their work. They feel a sense of purpose and recognition, which boosts their productivity and overall job satisfaction, stated Mili Panicker, Director - HR and Administration, WebEngage.
Here’s how to practice active listening:
- Be fully present and give employees your undivided attention during conversations, meetings, and feedback sessions. This shows respect and signals that their thoughts and opinions are valued.
- Seek to understand employees' perspectives, emotions, and concerns. Empathetic listening helps build trust and fosters open communication.
- Demonstrate that you have heard and understood employees' input by providing thoughtful feedback and taking appropriate action. This reinforces the value of their contributions and encourages ongoing engagement.
Focused group interactions
Focused group interactions with senior leaders have far-reaching benefits for both employees and the organisation. They nurture a culture of open communication, foster trust, and create an environment where everyone's opinions are respected and valued. Such interactions play a crucial role in building a cohesive and successful organisation that thrives on collaboration, inclusivity, and shared purpose, believes Dhiraj Agarwal, Co-Founder and COO, Truworth Wellness.
“Facilitate focused groups that enable direct interaction between employees and senior leaders, allowing for one-on-one feedback sessions. This approach fosters an environment that values and respectfully considers diverse perspectives. We also provide training programs and workshops for both employees and managers, emphasising the importance of active listening and effective communication. These sessions offer practical tips on active listening techniques, empathy, and ways to overcome communication barriers, creating a safe environment for meaningful dialogue,” she explained.
Breaking top-down barriers
Policies cannot be just enforced top down. Empowering employees to speak their minds can aid senior management to better learn about unforeseen barriers that may impede the performance of an employee in the long run emphasised Debanjan Dutta, Sr Vice President - Global Delivery Head and Global Branches, NEC Corporation.
“At NEC, we foster a culture of transparent and open-door leadership and give utmost importance to the feedback shared by NECians. Our structured manager connect sessions, 360-degree feedback mechanism and exhaustive annual e-sat ‘ONE NEC Survey’ have been instrumental in helping NEC become an employer of choice. The insights collected from these programs are translated into concrete actions to improve work-life balance for employees, customer focus and talent transformation,” revealed Debanjan Dutta.
Anonymous feedback channels
Implementing anonymous feedback channels allows employees to express their opinions and concerns without fear of consequences, promoting an honest and transparent environment by encouraging more one-on-one interactions between managers and employees, and allowing for free expression of feedback, advised Mili Panicker and further suggested to:
- Conduct regular anonymous surveys to gather feedback on various aspects of the employee journey. Assure complete confidentiality and emphasize the importance of their honest input.
- Provide a mechanism for employees to share ideas, suggestions, or concerns anonymously. This enables them to freely express their thoughts without fear of judgment or negative consequences.
- Actively review and analyse the feedback received, identify recurring themes, and communicate the steps taken to address concerns. Demonstrating that feedback leads to tangible action fosters trust and encourages ongoing participation.
Fostering a culture of action
A culture of action is a catalyst for progress and success. By empowering employees to take initiative and fostering an environment where ideas are turned into actions, organisations can drive innovation, growth, and collaboration, creating a vibrant and thriving workplace.
“Being receptive to feedback is however just the first leg to this exercise, and what really goes on to reinforce the confidence of employees in a company, is when they see their feedback being taken into account and actioned upon. Adopting the right blend of empathy, emotional intelligence and pragmatic outlook is what will nudge HR leaders to fly to places with feedback and make the company a great place to work at. An employee-first company ourselves, at Razorpay we are committed to continuously curate, implement, and revisit policies while keeping the welfare of our employees at heart,” stated Chitbhanu Nagri, SVP, People Operations, Razorpay.