One of the greatest attributes a leader can have is the ability to listen. Listening to your staff and peers and then taking action on what you hear is often the key to keeping an engaged and happy workforce.
I have found in my own work a few things that have made listening easier and providing feedback on that listening more effective.
The easiest way to receive feedback is being in a position where employees trust you and are willing to share. For most leaders, this may take some work. Many think they are very approachable but spend most of their time locked away in meetings or their office. Don’t expect approachability to mean people will naturally come to you. You need to go to where the people are and strike up conversations.
Let people see you as not just the supervisor or boss, but rather a real person. Setting aside a regular time to get out and just talk with employees is key to building approachability.
If you are open and honest with your employees, they are more likely to be open and honest with you. Generally, unless there are legal or privacy issues keeping you from sharing something, let employees know what is going on with the practice.
Whether it’s the current state of the business, plans for a future expansion, or new goals, share them. Employees want to feel like they are part of the company so don’t leave them in the dark.
Regular one-on-one meetings with employees are a great way to get direct feedback. However, just meeting with an employee doesn’t necessarily mean they will be engaged. Instead of taking charge of the one-on-one, let the employee drive the conversation. These meetings are a great opportunity for employees to lead the discussion and bring up topics they have questions about, are concerned about or are passionate about.
Focus groups are another way to receive immediate qualitative feedback. Identify a problem in your facility and bring together a small group of employees to find out how they would solve problems and other ideas they have for improving your work.
Another good way to get feedback from employees is through surveys. This is especially true for those employees who feel more comfortable submitting their feedback anonymously.
However, the key to a good survey is making it realistic. Don’t ask questions if you have no intention of acting on the feedback you receive. Also, make sure you are ready to report on and share all the results.
Act on Feedback
The key for all of these listening tools is acting on the feedback you receive. Whether in a one-on-one meeting or in a big employee survey, you need to outline how you are going to respond. You also need to share with your employees the things you are doing to address their comments. Whether it’s something as simple as installing a pebble ice machine or something bigger like expanding maternity and paternity leave, let your employees know that you not only listened to their feedback but implemented it as well.
When we were trying to decide the location of our new headquarters, we surveyed our employees to find out where they wanted it located. We then used that feedback to decide on our final location. We used similar means to determine what amenities the building should include and added things like standing desks, a cafeteria, and a health clinic—all due to employee feedback.
Listening and acting on what you hear is key to engaging your employees and knowing what you need to do to keep them happy and productive.
Lisa Grabl is president of the locum tenens division of CompHealth, a division of CHG Healthcare.