SIMPLE TRUTH #6: People want to be heard and understood

Home / SIMPLE TRUTH #6: People want to be heard and understood

As leaders communicating all types of information to your organization, please know your people, in return, want to communicate with you. They want to give you input and feedback based on their perspectives. However, in order to have the ongoing dialogue your employees expect, you need to be receptive to hearing what they have to say and be prepared to make behavioral or operational changes needed to address their concerns.  SIMPLE TRUTH #6: People want to be heard and understood.

Your employees’ beliefs, thoughts and actions impact your organization’s operations a great deal. The closer you are to understanding the daily activities, conversations and beliefs of your people, the more effectively you can manage expectations and lead the business. The further removed you are from the collective ‘pulse’ of your people, the higher the chance your company has misaligned activity, waste of resources and frustrated employees.

Because your employees hold the key to productivity, improvement, innovation, and ultimately, the profits of your company, you need to provide ways for them to speak to you and be heard.  Not providing avenues to hear from employees, limits your ability to learn useful information, process improvements and other creative ideas they have to share. Besides that, you hire smart, talented, insightful people who want to be involved and who know how to solve your business problems – you should be tapping into your valuable investment.

A novel retention technique I think most companies don’t take advantage of, is implementing “stay interviews.” These are when you interview current employees and solicit feedback you need to hear while your talented employees are still working for you (i.e. “what is working?” “NOT working?” etc.)  The resulting information is more useful and relevant to improving your organization and/or addressing concerns than if you wait to survey someone who has resigned and scheduled to leave your employ.  The stay interview is concerned with keeping great talent by giving leaders a chance to address potential issues in real-time. The more popular exit interview is retrospective and doesn’t help you keep a talented employee who is walking away.

The second half of SIMPLE TRUTH #6 is harder to accomplish but worth the effort if you intend to keep high performers, increase productivity and ultimately – profits. In order to show you understand your employees, you first need to know what they expect.

What employees expect from their employer is not the same across the board. They come to work for your company for different reasons. Over the course of their employment, those reasons change priority as time passes and their career evolves.  It is important for you to understand what I call – employment variables – that both potential and current employees make their work/life decisions based on.  Psychologists usually refer to them as tangible and intangible benefits or rewards. They include, but are not limited to:

  • Company culture
  • Job content
  • Job title/level
  • Ability to learn (both formally and informally)
  • Manager quality (competence)
  • Available technology
  • Caliber of team members
  • Compensation
  • Benefits
  • Training opportunities
  • Job location (length of commute)
  • Work environment (includes ability to work remotely)
  • Financial stability of company
  • Company’s views on diversity & inclusion
  • Company’s actions re: giving back – philanthropy, the environment
  • Etc.

Whether they’re candidates interviewing for a position, or current employees, people base their employment decisions on a combination of the variables listed above that are important to them.  On a regular basis, they review those variables and determine whether they want to spend their discretionary time and energy contributing to the company’s success.  Thinking “is it still worth my time?”  They continually gauge if they are getting what they expected and their resulting engagement – and productivity reflects where they are.

Here’s how it looks: Ed Employee’s top 3 variables are job location, caliber of team members and compensation.  Some of his teammates have recently left for other jobs, his recent pay increase wasn’t what he expected and didn’t reflect his high performance rating, and company leadership announced it’s moving the office 20 miles from its current location – further from Ed’s home.  For these reasons, Ed is now an unhappy employee.  His level of engagement decreased because his current reality is out of sync with his expectations.  If Ed is a top performer, it is likely his manager will see a change in his attitude and behavior including absenteeism – and he will likely pursue new employment making his productivity lower as well until he accepts a new job and leaves.

In order to more fully understand employee expectations and the variables impacting their engagement, leaders need to solicit different information than what current employee satisfaction and engagement surveys measure.  Surveys need to ask: “What are your expectations of…” (and provide a list like that above.)  Then, after 6 months or a year, ask: “What have you received in relation to that same list?”  These questions, in addition, to the usual ones like: “How satisfied are you with your benefits?” and “What could be improved for you to be more engaged?” will result in better data.

If you understand my equation and apply it to the decisions you make related to the employment variables I listed, you have a better chance of increasing engagement.  Remember: profits are a result of human behavior. Employees’ behavior either helps or hinders business activities that lead to increased, or decreased, profits.  The more leaders understand the expectations of employees, the more effectively they can lead.  When you start asking the right questions, your employees will know you, in earnest, want to understand them. When you then change things within your organization based on their feedback, your employees will know they are being heard.  This SIMPLE TRUTH is important to them — and your company profits reflect it.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

About Author