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 need.
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…
Fran Melmed likes to write everything in lower case letters over on her other blog, free-range communication, because she finds it more aesthetically pleasing… but we took away that freedom from her on FOT because the consistency of capitilization on this blog is more aesthetically pleasing to the editor. Her blog is an offshoot of context communication consulting llc, which Fran founded to help organizations communicate better on workforce issues… imagine that. Organizations not doing a good job communicating around workforce issues…