Employee voice

How carefully and how often do you listen to your team members? Social media has increased peoples’ expectations that their opinions will be heard, and feeling listened to increases employee loyalty and engagement. Listening can also improve team effectiveness – even when every idea put forward isn’t great, some will be; and even when some of the comments are complaints rather than suggestions, they can point to problems that need to be solved and procedures that need to be streamlined.

Listen to people individually and listen to the team as a whole in team meetings, where ideas can be shared and built upon and enthusiasm generated.

The other side of the coin is communicating with your team about company updates and issues. People want to feel ‘in’ on the bigger picture and know what’s going on in the organisation as a whole, how well it’s doing, what plans are being made, and how they’re contributing.

Research by the  Cornell National Social Survey (CNSS) and James R Detert from Cornell shows that employees keep opinions and ideas to themselves because they think it’s a waste of time to speak up (26%) as well as because of fear of retribution (20%).

Although the CNSS sample was small (only 439 respondents who worked full time and were not self-employed), it also found that men and professional employees are just as likely to withhold information and ideas as women and nonprofessional employees and that even employees who seem to speak openly to their managers periodically hold back when they feel they have nothing to gain, or something to lose, by sharing what’s on their minds.

Discussion questions

How do you signal your team members that you’re open to their thoughts and suggestions? What might stop them holding their thoughts and suggestions back? How do you ensure that team members know it’s worthwhile to speak up?