Listen to the Quiet Whispers Around the Water Cooler

Years ago I was listening to a radio interview with an employee engagement specialist who discussed “quiet whispers”. These whispers at organizations are the telling signs about what’s truly going on at a company. This had a huge impact on me as a leader and is something that has stayed with me throughout my career.

 

Recently, a former colleague shared with me some challenges that she was having with her senior leadership. Despite her best efforts to provide feedback about her team’s needs, her leaders weren’t responsive. The senior leadership team could have easily improved her team’s engagement if they had taken the time to listen to what was being discussed by the employees around the water cooler, or these days, on social media.

 

As this particular organization found out, engagement surveys tell us what our employees already know. If your engagement scores come as a surprise, you haven’t been listening to those “quiet whispers”.

 

Here are some things you can do to help you turn up the volume on what’s being said:

 

  1. Read your company’s Glassdoor reviews with an open mind. It’s easy to dismiss reviews from former employees. But instead, ask yourself if others in the organization might feel the same way. What would you do if a current star performer gave you the same feedback? Remember the old adage, “where there is smoke, there’s likely fire”.
  2. Talk to the employees you don’t typically hear from. Take them out for coffee, ask them how they’re doing, how is the team doing, or what could you do better or differently. 
  3. Watch how your team interacts with each other. Do they go out for lunch? Celebrate life events? Participate together on sports teams outside of work? Do they have fun together? Compare this to how they interact with you or the leadership team. If the fun and engagement factor declines when you participate, take a step back and ask yourself why.
  4. Have one-on-ones with your managers and their employees. Create an open and honest dialogue. If you ask for feedback, listen. Practice good listening techniques and take notes. Follow up on the feedback to demonstrate that you heard what they said.
  5. Review your engagement results. Take them to heart. Regardless of what you might think, or the explanations you have, this is direct feedback from you team. Remember that their perceptions impact their engagement and their productivity.

 

We spend a lot of time and money attracting, engaging, hiring, and retaining talent. Make sure you’re hearing what your employees are saying!

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