A Google search for “My boss doesn’t listen” yields twice as many hits as “My boss listens”. Yikes! There’s even more for “My boss doesn’t like me”. Is it just skewed perception? Perhaps. But an HR Solutions study cites that among the top 10 complaints employees have is a lack of communication with management. Employees want to have face-to-face time with you. Having meaningful conversations with employees seem easier for small businesses, since managers actually know all the names of their employees. But truthfully, within a small business, time is often in short supply, and stopping to have a conversation doesn’t always feel the best use of it. However, if you can set aside time to listen to your employees, that time can help them solve the problem.
Most companies include an “Open Door Policy” chapter in their employee handbook. Some even go as far as including openness and transparency in their company culture. Make sure this attitude is actually implemented amongst you and your management team. Encourage employees to seek out supervisors to discuss problems or ideas. Do more than a suggestion box. Anonymous notes don’t allow you to address issues with that employee unless you address them with the entire staff, and even then, problems may still go unresolved. You want a dialogue, a conversation where you can ask questions for deeper understanding and where they can provide further feedback.
The first step is the attitude your company takes toward complaints. Complaints can be viewed negatively or they can be viewed positively as an opportunity to improve. The former corner drugstore Eckerd Drugs employed a philosophy that a complaint wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. For them, a complaint was a chance to fix the problem. It was the customers who walked away without complaining that they knew they lost for good.
Does your company send out surveys and follow-up emails to clients and customers asking for feedback to seek out what needs improved? Try doing the same with your employees. Employees know what methods work, when customers could be served better, and what duties are redundant. When an employee brings up an issue, ask him or her how they would fix it. They may already have an idea, or they may engage in a brainstorming session with you. Both of you are then working towards the solution. You may even want to set up quarterly or bi-annual reviews with your employees to address complaints before they grow. A chance to fix their complaints could not only keep them happier (and retain your valuable employees), but may even encourage employees to seek out better processes for their tasks.
During these conversations with your employees, let them know you trust and value their opinions. You hired them because they have the skills to do their job well, and you believe they can solve the problem. Employees should feel valued, and should know you trust them to perform to certain expectations. Employees will feel more invested in the success of the company.
Most of all, make sure you listen – and I mean, really listen. If an employee tells you, “I feel weighed down”, what do you assume they mean? They are overwhelmed by work? They have a guilty conscious? They had too big of a lunch? Sharpen your listening skills and ask questions when the conversation isn’t direct. You also don’t have to wait for the employee to come to you to discuss problems. Make sure when any problems are affecting the employee’s job performance to bring them as soon as possible to discuss.
Taking time out to sit down and talk isn’t always a priority for managers, but it’s one of the most important tasks for managers to perform. Showing your employees you care enough to listen will boost morale and productivity. If you need help getting the conversation started, set up a time for us to talk. Bring your complaints to us so we can turn them into positivity for your company.