6 Steps to Cultivating a Culture of Active Listening

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A lot of people don't feel that their opinions matter in the workplace, according to a recent survey we conducted at Waggl. We asked business and HR professionals about how well their organizations listened to employee input and found that 57 percent of respondents felt their leaders did not do an excellent job of actively listening.

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Employee engagement has consistently averaged less than 33 percent of the workforce for the past 15 years, and there are real costs associated with these low numbers. Thanks to low engagement, the U.S. economy loses $450 billion in productivity every year. A recent Gallup study paints a bleak picture wherein 50.8 percent of employees are disengaged and another 17.2 percent are actively disengaged.

Despite these numbers, "listening" in business often consists only of measurement through one-way communications like annual surveys. Of course employees are disengaged! Their leaders aren't paying any attention.

There is a better, more human way to listen to employees, and it's called "active listening."

Here are six steps your organization can take to cultivate an active listening culture:

Instill Solid Values: Believe that people deserve to be heard. Openly share the principles of respect, humility, curiosity, empathy, and inclusion with everyone on your team and in your organization.

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Reduce Stress: Stress causes people to stop listening to one another. To avoid stress, carve out time for everyone to reflect on three levels: individual, group, and self.

Enforce Humility: Don't take personal stances when listening to employees. Recognize that great insight can come from anyone. The stronger someone feels about an issue, the less likely they are to accept input from others.

Remove Distractions: In the current digital environment, people are relentlessly barraged by distractions via social media and smartphones. To really listen, you have to put those distractions aside when talking with others.

Repeat What You Heard: Doing this will ensure that you've understood the message and let the sender know you've received their feedback.

Innovate Communication: Annual surveys are outdated, one-way, and too slow for this generation of smartphone users and video streamers. Instead, try short, quick surveys aimed at gathering real-time feedback. This will lead to increased participation and more authentic insights from your workforce.

If you want an engaged workforce, you need to start listening to what your employees have to say. Cultivate a culture of active listening today.

A version of this article previously appeared on Waggl's blog.

Waggl is a simple way to surface and distill real-time actionable feedback.