An important component in Employee Engagement is trust. Two factors which help employees determine their level of trust are: “Does the company have my best interest in mind?” and “What is the company doing, if anything, to address any concerns I have?”
From surveys, to town halls, to the old-school comment boxes, organizations have long sought to know what’s on the minds of their employees. Although hearing or knowing is only the tip of the iceberg. There is a 3-step process to fully grasp and understand employee engagement: Listen, Understand, and Address.
Hear: perceive with the ear a sound made by someone or something.
Listen: to give one’s attention to a sound.
The difference between hearing and listening is the attention you give. Whichever methods your organization use to retrieve employee feedback, the key is to give it your full attention. As leaders you want to grasp the entire scope of the message being conveyed by your staff.
Understanding consists of analyzing the concerns based on the information you have collected. Once you have received the feedback from your employees, the next step is to analyze the feedback. Are there repetitive themes? Are there issues which were thought to have been previously solved? Are there concerns which will involve a larger effort to rectify? Most importantly, how are these concerns impacting their ability to do their job?
Lastly, now that you have listened to their concerns and have taken the steps to understand how their daily functions are impacted, now is the time to craft the company’s response.
This is not to say that as a leader you will agree with or even act upon every concern that an employee raises. What this means is that at a minimum, you must acknowledge that you have heard their feedback and this is the reason we the management have chosen this action.
Addressing the issue isn’t about some elaborate fix or even an immediate solution. The goal is healthy employee engagement and one of the first steps in engagement is letting the other party know that you care about them and the issues that face them. Part of that caring is not whether or not you agree with them, but giving the respect of a response will help foster that trust that employees look for.
A restaurant I worked for in college would do an annual internal guest survey to get feedback from the employees on the work environment. One particular year, many of the employees were critical of the general manager. Rather than speaking to the staff to understand their concerns and look for ways to address them like an effective manager, he hid the responses from corporate. Ultimately, his negligence led to his termination. The lesson: people don’t want to be heard, they want someone to listen.