Friday, January 16, 2015

The Benefits of Active Listening for Employee Relations

It is difficult for manages to understand their workplace and how to improve performance if they are not actively listening to their employees. This means listening to their conversations, paying attention when employees are talking, and trying to find improvements in the workplace that creates congruence between employee desires and firm performance. Managers that listen are better able to coach and counsel their employees to higher levels of functioning.

Listening is a skill that takes considerable time to develop but can be learned with practice. Active listening is in presence form where the manager listens without interrupting the employee. They may ask probing questions but ultimately want the employee to express themselves fully because this adds to the managers knowledge of both the employee and the organization.

Those managers who fail to actively listen often find that employees no longer bring their issues to them nor are they enthusiastic about speaking up about operational problems increasing the chances of large problems down the road. If employees are prompted negatively to their managers they will not be open to issues, problems, ideas, or improvements; the organization ultimately loses.

Consider organizational cultures where there is a huge divide between managers and employees. These cultures develop due to the inherent separation that occurs between employee and manager communication. Using active listening and paying attention to employee needs can lessen this divide and help in developing an inclusive culture.

Once a poor culture begins to develop an in and out-group among managers and employees it is very difficult to counter that new development. Managers will need to engage workers, change their course of action, and open up communication lines. Organizations that foster a manager-employee divide or power-distance relationships will eventually find themselves falling behind their competitors.

 Open communication is also very egalitarian. Open communication helps to ensure that company employees, whether they be managers or not, are considered important to the entire organization. Companies that foster egalitarian environments may also find that employee loyalty rises as employees feel valued and respected.

Managers have a responsibility to coach and counsel to improve the overall performance of their employees. Without actively listening it will be difficult for managers to effectively coach and counsel their employees. They will not be able to understand the employees needs or make important contributions to their understanding.

Active listening isn't particularly hard but does require a level of engagement with employees. Paying attention to the employee, thinking about what they are saying, and asking questions about any areas the manager doesn't understand helps in fully understanding the situation. Once the employee's actual position is known the manager is then able to give appropriate direction and advice to employees.

Developing appropriate relationships with subordinates helps in the creation of an organization constantly changing through information sharing. Active listening is about encouraging a more inclusive and innovative environment so that ideas move between the functional layers of a company and to the right people. It also reduces employee issues as employees and company begin to similarities of perspective. The information gained by active listening will not only build stronger workplace relationships but also improve upon operational functioning. 

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