Five Reasons to Get Off Your Butt and Go Listen to Employees

franmelmed Employee Communications, Fran Melmed

There’s a lot of yada
yada yada about listening to employees. Companies know it contributes to more
effective communication, increased productivity, improved retention, higher
engagement.  They know it’s the smart thing—the “right thing” to do. Heck,
even if they don’t know that, they sure know it’s good optics. Well, I’m not
going to scream from the rafters about it anymore. I’m simply going to state my
case; you take it from there.

Reason #1: You can’t see
everything from that big ol’ desk. 

En route to the train
station one morning during the Philly SEPTA strike, I asked my taxi driver
whether he was busier as a result. Here I was, thinking the strike would be a
boon for him. He said yes, busier—but he wasn’t earning more. Turns out,
traffic kept him from getting places fast enough to benefit from the increased

Perspective. There’s
only one from your chair. Maybe more if you swivel. 

Reason #2: Contrary to
popular opinion, you don’t know it all.

I recently chatted with
someone who told me how a new product idea was developed. Turned out, a focus
group participant had essentially made a prototype of this company’s eventual
award-winning communication. 

Who knows better than
the person with the problem? 

Reason #3: You really
think that’s gonna fly?

In a recent trip through
a manufacturing facility, I noted the posters the company had created and
distributed for an upcoming walking challenge. They were up on the plant walls
in various places. +1 

I looked around: all
men, over 50, various degrees of overweight. The poster? A young, pencil-thin
urban chick walking her dog. Sure, she’s cute. But you think her perky self was
going to get their feet moving? –5

You can’t create
communications that’ll hit their mark without knowing the environment and the
people in it. And you can’t get that on a fly-by.

Reason #4: Hey, I got
somethin’ to say!

I have kids. You? If you
do, or if you’ve had a chance to interact with kids, you know that they demand
to be heard. And they won’t budge until they are. In my experience, there’s a
simple, effective response. Listen and acknowledge their feelings. Often,
that’s all they want. 

A lot can be learned
from interacting with kids. 

Reason #5: Defuse—don’t
detonate—a problem.

Some time ago, I was
working with a client who was changing their sick day policy. Because the
policy had been extraordinarily generous, they were scared silly that employees
were going to revolt. By design, we test-drove the proposed changes and
communications with representative groups of employees. We pre-surveyed them
about their attitudes, walked them through the planned presentation, and
post-surveyed them. You know what? They thought the changes were not only fair,
but far better than what was coursing through the grapevine. We said thanks and
sent them back to their work locations.

And defused a
potentially bad situation with our newly made friends.

So, in the words of James Brown, the King of Soul…