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Creating a Culture of Listening


Wed Apr 21 2021

Creating a Culture of Listening

Over the last 12 months, we have witnessed the effects of a global pandemic and economic downturn. Organizations can be seen desperately trying to master the art of building resilience so they can bounce back to be better and stronger than ever. But to do that, they need to address the evolving needs and concerns of their employees who are also struggling to adapt to continuously changing circumstances.

The pandemic hasn’t just disrupted multiple industries. It has also dramatically affected the lives of employees. But leaders know that it’s people that drive their organizations forward and something needs to change. By embedding a listening culture, I have seen how much easier it is to build trust, boost morale, and engage your workforce like never before. But how can you tell if you need to create a listening culture?


Where Are You Now?

There are many signs that can indicate when your corporate culture is in trouble. A failure to listen to your employees often results in low motivation and morale. There seems to be little point in sharing their opinions when nobody is listening. When employees feel that their voices are being disregarded, they will eventually grow resentful, which will slowly sow the seeds of a toxic workplace.

With nobody listening or apparently caring, miscommunication and mistakes will quickly slow down your team’s rate of progress and harm productivity. The good news is that employees who feel their voices are heard are 4.6 times more likely to feel empowered and as a result will perform their best work.

Employees can feel empowered when you show how much you value their perspective, trust in their judgment, and see their potential. There are many tools at your disposal. You will need to start thinking differently and, most importantly, listening to your employees.

How Is a Culture of Listening Created?

The annual employment survey is traditionally the tool of choice to benchmark your employees’ overall relationship with your organization. But after years of inaction, many will question their effectiveness and say something along the lines of, “What's the point? Nothing ever changes.” If this response resonates with you, consider this a wake-up call to explore new ways to seek unfiltered and trustworthy feedback from your employees.

Focus groups containing a cross-section of employees throughout the organization are a great place to start. If you are serious about wanting employees to loosen up and open up, I recommend ensuring that management is not present in these groups. Another effective way to obtain raw feedback is through one-on-one interviews in which employees are asked to anonymously share what they really think. But it’s what you do after listening that matters.


At the manager level, establish a cadence of one-on-ones with your team members. Make sure to include time for chatting about their dreams, fears, and goals and not just projects and processes. You will learn more in that interaction than any report will tell you. You will also build trust and loyalty with your team.

If you feel that your employees do not trust your intentions, you can also bring in an outside consultant. A unaffiliated individual can quickly garner trust to perform an employee happiness audit and gather unfiltered feedback. But what you do with that feedback is crucial.

The Connection Between Empathy and Compassion

There’s this connection between empathy and compassion. When we actively listen, we are more apt to be empathetic. However, when we act, it’s about being compassionate because we are taking a problem and alleviating the pain of others. Gathering feedback will help you identify issues hiding in your organization. Nonetheless, it will be your plan of action and how you respond that your employees will be looking for.

When you directly respond to your employees’ specific needs and suggestions, you will also organically rebuild your trust with them. If you ignore the feedback and do nothing, a breakdown of trust between the organization and the people who keep it moving forward will quickly follow.

If You Can’t Measure It, You Can’t Improve It

When listening to your employees, drawing a line and measuring where you are will enable you to measure your improvement efforts. Documenting and measuring your journey must play a critical part in your listening strategy.


Creating a culture of listening will enable you to hear the voices of your employees. But the magic happens when you act upon that listening. Organizations that listen and act accordingly make employees feel valued and heard. These are just a few simple ways that trust can be built and culture can be curated. Who wouldn’t want to work for an organization that produced those kinds of results?

By providing your employees with a better experience, you can inspire them to sell more products, improve customer interaction, and empower them to make a difference anywhere within your organization.

In a digital world, the creation of inclusive workplaces has never been more critical. By ensuring that everyone feels heard and prioritized, caring leaders can inspire and empower their teams by sharing the floor with their employees rather than dominating it.

For more insight, join me August 29, 2021 during the ATD International Conference & Exposition for the session "Showing More Heart at Work: How to Attract and Retain Top Talent by Putting Your People First."

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