Listen, Then Act: How to Keep Employees Engaged, Satisfied & Loyal
One of the most desirable aspects of a career is happiness.
It’s a loaded word, but in this context, happiness is more about employee satisfaction. For years, it’s been difficult to measure and understand—largely because many people don’t feel comfortable sharing their unfiltered, honest thoughts.
Now, there’s less hesitancy to have conversations that were once difficult or “awkward” with leadership; as we get deeper into 2021, many experts believe this trend will only grow. Employees want options, but they also want a workplace that’s supportive and processes their feedback in the right way.
Loyalty is a two-way street, after all.
The Challenges of a Difficult Year, and What We’ve Learned
“Are they looking out for me and my safety?”
“Do they hear my concerns?”
“What’s the plan?”
These are common questions that managers faced in 2020, when the pandemic forced a shift to remote work. The idea of remote work had been something they have thought about, but not had the opportunity to explore—and then all of a sudden, many Americans got a taste of what working from home was like (the good and the bad).
The rapid flexibility businesses implemented is what employees say they want from their jobs: the ability to work when and where they’re most productive and comfortable.
“We are working to understand happiness and engagement in the workplace in an unprecedented time,” said Page Althoff, PHR, SHRM-CP, and Member and Community Relations Manager for The HON Company. “We have learned a lot over the past year as it relates to working from home. However, there is also a lot we are still learning. When the time comes to start the discussion about returning to the office, perhaps even in a blended model, it will be important to openly communicate and be transparent with employees.”
The Importance of Listening, Communicating and Acting
It’s not enough to simply listen to feedback.
Employees want to know that they’re sharing helpful and useful information that can make for a better work environment. If it’s met with inaction, what incentive does the employee have to provide input?
That’s why the act of listening is three-fold: receiving feedback, communicating that it’s been heard and received, and then following up with action (or a reasoning as to why something can’t be achieved at that time).
“This information helps leaders understand what that level of employee engagement looks like,” said Althoff.
“Managers have to be prepared to say ‘what can I be doing better?’ and based on that feedback, hold true to it. When we do that, we often see results, and sticking to this process will continue to be important going forward.”
Connecting the Dots of Trust & Communication
If you’ve ever felt that receiving feedback and enacting change have been two disconnected islands in the same archipelago, you’re not alone.
Bridging this gap is a core tenet of building trust.
“It’s important to understand that if you seek feedback, you must be prepared and aligned to implement changes,” she continued. “Without leadership alignment, it can be difficult to drive change. That full circle or 360-degree approach is sometimes what’s missed when we’re soliciting feedback and attempting to listen better.”
Employees also value communication—particularly when it involves a plan. For something like returning to the office, those discussions should include an action plan for safety, distancing and detailed protocols. Uncertain times call for more communication than we’re accustomed to, and that’s okay.
Linking feedback and action is the most crucial piece, Althoff said.
Transparency and forthright communication build trust and engagement, which ultimately leads to greater job satisfaction.
“If you don’t act on feedback you receive, or provide any communication, it may hinder your ability to gather authentic feedback in the future, or even impact credibility. It’s important to listen. It’s also important to seek alignment and then provide feedback and transparency,” Althoff said. “You have to make it clear that you understand and you’re listening, and that their voices have been heard, and will continue to be heard.”
For more information on keeping your team engaged during these challenging times, please visit hon.com.