Improving the Culture of Listening

By Kellie Wagner
February 5, 2020

Millennials. As of 2020, they are estimated to make up nearly 50% of the workforce.

As a generation raised on heavy parental communication and our adulthood cemented in instantaneous likes and comments from every social feed we subscribe to, we are a generation that values ongoing communication and feedback. And that desire doesn’t just stop at our personal lives, it extends to our workplaces too.

At Collective, we work with dozens of millennial-driven workplaces each year, and we’ve learned that cultures of listening are the foundation for cultures of empowerment. With that in mind, here’s what you need to know in 2020 about building a culture of listening that empowers and drives inclusion:

1. Effective communication is ongoing.

The last several years have paved the way for the rise of the employee engagement survey. We’ve come to see that giving a voice to employees and building workplace experiences that address their stated needs is a key ingredient in driving retention, feelings of belonging, and engagement.

Moving into 2020 and beyond, we see listening evolving into being about more than just the simple act of doing it. Thoughtfulness around the when and how is already beginning to take center stage. While annual or biannual surveys are a great way to see zoomed-out, big picture themes, they fall short in their inability to allow leaders and companies to be responsive in real-time, nipping emerging challenges in the bud before people leave or morale is crushed. Pulse surveys and feedback tools like AllVoices are a great way to keep your ear to the ground in an ongoing way.

2. Meaningful communication is driven by more than just skills. Having clear processes and pathways is key.

At Collective, we get lots of requests for training on feedback and effective communication. And while we’re the first to champion the power of having the language and skills to surface the tough stuff, we’ve also seen the necessity for having clear and formalized channels for doing so.

Often times, especially when it comes to less overt cultural barriers, like addressing microaggressions or subtle bias, employees struggle with how and where to surface issues. Being proactive in offering pathways to do so can lead to heightened experiences of empowerment, as well as more forthcoming feedback that, ultimately, can strengthen your culture and boost inclusion.

3. Open lines of communication can foster trust, but only if it’s followed up with action.

Here’s the dirty little secret everyone should know– a culture of healthy feedback and communication is only impactful if true and meaningful action follows it. One of the big stumbling blocks for companies is one-sided communication that disappears into the ether. It’s not enough to provide opportunities for employees’ voices to be heard if there is no sign that they’ve actually been heard. When people feel like their feedback isn’t leading to change, they’re less likely to communicate it moving forward and way more likely to just leave.

To combat this, be transparent and timely in addressing actions taken related to feedback. Consider sharing out feedback themes at all-team updates coupled with the action the company is taking to address them, even if it’s not perfect or fully fleshed out. It’s totally okay to say that you’re still working on the best path forward! Consider also ways of developing a coaching culture– things like the AllVoices platform’s anonymous messaging feature can be used to coach and to address feedback or concerns in real-time.

Don’t get caught off guard by employee feedback. AllVoices can help.
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