Listening - the forgotten skill of management
Any leader or manager knows intuitively how important listening is as a leadership capability. It underpins the trust, respect and clarity that makes up successful relationships. However, we’ve learnt through our research that many organisations in the UK struggle to listen effectively to their employees.
How we define listening
If you’re listening effectively, you’ll be making sure people’s voices are heard, as well as giving genuine feedback to your teams. This covers conversations with your line manager, like an annual review, but it also covers the whole organisation, like an employee engagement survey.
According to our research, less than half of UK employees feel that their employer listens to them - a worrying statistic in itself. Even more shockingly - in the lowest performing 20% of companies (based on growth, profit and NPS), that figure rises to a whoping 95% of employees. Also, when we asked employees in the UK what they tell their friends and family about work, listening was one of the five most talked-about topics.
Our research - the business case for listening
We looked at over 2,000 organisations across the UK and found that when organisations were good listeners, there was a direct correlation to positive growth and net promoter score (NPS). Put simply, listening is one of the biggest predictors of both how quickly your company will grow and how positively your customers will rate you.
Net Promoter Score
In fact, companies with the highest listening scores (as measured by our Organisational Fitness survey) are 14.4 times more likely to have the highest customer NPS compared to those who score the lowest.
The findings are clear - when you listen to your employees, it has a knock-on effect on your customer service. As Sir Richard Branson famously said “take care of your employees and they will take care of your customers”.
Companies that listen well are also 4.6 times more likely to have the highest levels of growth as opposed to companies with poor listening. For companies in high growth mode, regularly gathering feedback on what is working and not working, changing course appropriately and at speed, is what makes the difference between success and failure.
So how can companies improve their listening?
- Start to gather company-wide feedback
In an organised and semi-regular way. You can use organisation-wide surveys, interviews or focus groups. Taking this first step will already go some way to making employees feel they’re able to give feedback about their organisation and that someone is listening.
- Provide timely feedback on the results.
Follow up quickly with a broad communication about what the results were. Let employees know their feedback is valuable and that they were heard. Communicate clearly what the main issues were and what the broad plan is to tackle these issues.
- Act on the results in a timely manner.
Employees want to see a positive change happening as a result of the time they put in to completing a survey or interview. Take action quickly, and share information widely - but don’t bombard people with information that isn’t relevant to them.
- Train managers in listening skills. Managers and leaders need regular training in active listening, how to give and receive feedback, and how to manage conflict. These are tough topics and training should be ongoing.
- Make sure communication channels are open for employees to provide continuous feedback.
Your teams should always have at least one way to give feedback so they feel like someone is always listening to them.
All of the research referenced in this article can be found in our Organisational Fitness Report. The evidence is compelling, and for a full view of the insights, you can download the report here: