Want a More Engaged Workplace? Listen to Your Employees

Companies invest a lot of time and money responding to customers, measuring results, and tweaking their product to meet market opportunities.

Got Feedback?

All of that is important, but companies can sometimes forget to tap in to one of their most valuable assets: their own people.

Inc. magazine published an article in April that focused on the importance of communicating with your employees. In fact, employee engagement and communication is something the magazine is particularly keen on. There are numerous blog posts and articles on the magazine’s website addressing those issues.

The magazine focuses on that topic for good reason. Businesses — especially at the start-up or expansion stage — should rely on successful communication with their employees to help execute their growth strategies. A company’s staff, after all, is the pulse of the business. Employees can provide critical feedback on what is or isn’t working and they’re the interface between the business and its customers.

As the Inc. article points out, successful businesses possess employees that understand expectations and feel welcome to share ideas. It’s a two-way street and companies’ executives and management teams need to free it of any hindrance. Employees will listen more if they feel like they have been heard. Below are some suggestions from the Inc. article:

  • Create formal feedback mechanisms: A suggestion box or some electronic method of soliciting constant feedback helps employees weigh in.
  • Take input seriously: If you don’t listen and respond to the input from a direct report, you won’t be taken seriously. That doesn’t mean you must implement all inputs your employees provide. You should, however, at the very least acknowledge them.
  • Check management attitude: An employer/employee relationship will not be healthy if the employer shows hostility or is extremely defensive to feedback. If an employee questions management, hear them out, talk it over, and make them feel involved.
  • Reward feedback: Harvard Business Review researchers found that employees are sometimes afraid to provide feedback. That’s largely because they have difficulty weighing the immediate risk of speaking up versus the potential reward for the value of their comments. To eliminate that friction, companies should develop a reward system that offers incentives to employees that speak up and offer input.

Engage Your Workforce

Chester Elton provides an interesting statistic in his article Five Ways to Communicate Better with Your Employees. Right Management Consultants surveyed employees at 336 organizations, revealing that a mere 30 percent of those employees had a clear understanding of their company’s business strategy.

That shouldn’t happen. As Elton points out in his post, marginal communication between managers and employees typically results in marginal company performance. If employees don’t understand the company’s long term goals and its strategy to get there, how can they possibly work efficiently to help guide the ship?

The key is to engage them. By doing that, it will open up lines of communication and encourage feedback. According to global research and consulting firm Gallup, one of the differences between world class organizations and average ones is their ability to engage employees. Their research suggests that, in world class companies, the ratio of engaged to disengaged employees is 9.57 to 1. In average companies, it’s 1.83 to 1. That’s a significant difference and it can make quite an impact on those companies’ performance.

Gallup’s research, in fact, has revealed that employee engagement can have a massive effect on several key factors, including productivity, profitability, and absenteeism. How does that translate to success? According to Gallup, engaged companies have 3.9 times the Earnings Per Share growth rate compared to organizations with less engaged employees.

Workforce.com offers up a list of 12 questions to ask your employees to assess their engagement. If those answers reveal a disengaged staff, follow the steps I mentioned above to open up lines of communication.

Remember, your employees are the lifeblood of your company. All the venture capital funding and senior management horsepower in the world will mean nothing if you don’t have a team to back it up. Make sure you have healthy relationships with your employees, listen to what they have to say, and you’ll see that investment pay dividends.

Kobie Fuller
Kobie Fuller
General Partner

Kobie Fuller is a General Partner at Upfront Ventures. Previously he was the Principal at Accel Partners in San Francisco where he helped identify and work with entrepreneurs who were building category-defining companies. He has more than 10 years of experience in funding and building software companies.
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