Senior Leaders Need To Be Clued In

Do your employees truly feel heard? Even if senior leaders do listen to employees, when they don’t appear to respond to feedback, people might feel like they’re shouting into the void. Employees need to know senior leaders understand what the day to day looks like.

If senior leaders seem out of the loop, it’s just a little harder for an employee to connect with strategy and the organization’s mission. Plus, if senior leaders really are out of the loop, they’re missing valuable insight from the people closest to the customers. When senior leaders are truly clued-in, they are better equipped to serve the market.

In our annual surveys, only 57% of employees at average organizations tell us they feel senior leaders really know what’s going on. But at Top Workplaces, this jumps to 70% to 88%, or higher.

Here’s what we tend to see at high-performing organizations:

  • Everyone, especially leaders, is encouraged to practice active listening and then model it in conversations.
  • Make a point of asking employees for input during meetings.
  • Actively demonstrate a genuine open-door policy for all employees.

If you’re trying to improve on that connection, here are some suggestions:

  • Hold skip-level meetings to increase the connection with employees.
  • Create forums to encourage employees to share their ideas for improvement.
  • Don't limit getting employee feedback to an annual event. Survey whenever it makes sense – following an organizational change, acquisition, etc.
  • Make an effort to diversify feedback sources.

Sometimes, leaders get defensive when receiving difficult feedback. We encourage leaders to remain open-minded and solution-oriented. Also, don’t forget to close the loop on ideas you can't – or won't – act on. Take the time to provide feedback and offer suggestions for improvement. Finally, ask people questions and then focus on your response. Set aside time to listen and reserve judgments.

Bob Helbig is media partnerships director at Energage, a Philadelphia-based research and consulting firm that surveyed more than 2 million employees at more than 7,000 organizations in 2019. Energage is The Washington Post’s research partner for Top Workplaces.

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