How to Cultivate an Excellent Workplace Culture that Engages and Retains Your Employees
According to the 2022 SHRM Global Culture Research Report, employees are feeling that their workplace cultures are both “positive and safe.” In fact, “globally, 82% of employees said they feel safe voicing their opinions about work-related issues.” This is great news!
However, the report also shared that nearly half (45%) of workers are considering leaving the organizations they currently work for, and 30% have searched for other jobs within the last six months. So, the question is, “If the workplace culture is strong, why do employees still have the desire to leave?” To answer this question, consider these last two statistics from the report:
- 90% of employees who see their workplace culture as poor consider leaving the organization and,
- 72% of employees who see their workplace culture as average think about quitting.
What does this mean for our leaders and organizations? It means we have to create a culture that is above average. If we are to retain and engage our employees, the workplace culture cannot just be good. It must be excellent.
To achieve a workplace culture of excellence, we, as the leaders of the organization, must understand how we are showing up in the workplace and for our direct reports. Consider these questions:
- Do you set aside time to connect with each of your direct reports?
- Do you prioritize the growth and development of your direct reports? How do you go about showing them that this is a priority?
- Are you consistently increasing your self-awareness as a leader so that you can better understand how you relate to your team and how they relate to you?
- Are you a personal learner? How do you go about getting to know your people?
- Are you listening generously to your direct reports? How so?
Each of these questions has a direct impact on workplace culture, but let’s explore the idea and impact of generous listening in particular.
Generous listening requires us to build deeper connections with others. It is about building meaningful relationships based on honesty and vulnerability, kindness and empathy, and seeking to fully understand and be present for others.
Given our busy lives, the multiple demands we experience day to day, and the fact that being vulnerable is not how many leaders were brought up in the world of work, generous listening can be challenging. Yet, the greater the challenge, the greater the reward when we overcome that challenge. Generous listening is no different.
When we practice generous listening in our leadership,
- our well-being, and that of our employees, increases. In fact, a Harvard study that has been going on for the last 80 years shows that we are happiest when we have real, genuine connections to others.
- We become more self-aware and increase our cognitive abilities. Research shows that listening not only improves our self-awareness but also our memory.
- Employee engagement, productivity, and retention grow because our employees have more trust and loyalty and less burnout, stress, and emotional exhaustion.
- Conversations are had, voices are heard, and relationships are strengthened.
So, how do we, as leaders, cultivate a workplace culture of generous listening?
- Be a personal learner and get curious.
- Practice compassion, empathy, and kindness in your actions and responses.
- Pause and create the space for your direct reports to be heard. There is power in slowing down, staying quiet, and making space. Though this may be opposite to what many leaders have learned over the years, it may be exactly what you and your direct reports need to operate at your best.
- And when your direct reports share, show gratitude for their willingness to do so, remember what they have said is important to them, and show up for them by being fully present with them.
You might also explore my colleague and author of Overworked and Overwhelmed, Scott Eblin’s “Three Levels of Listening,” to better understand how to become a more generous listener.
- Level 1: Transient listening occurs when we stay in our heads. We ask “yes” or “no” questions and often interrupt the person talking because we want to quickly wrap up the conversation. We spend most of the conversation distracted, impatient, and telling the other person what we think.
- Level 2: Transactional listening is more focused on the other person. The quality of the conversation is purposeful. We listen with the intent to solve a problem. Given this intention, questions are open-ended or lead to the next steps to take.
- Level 3: Transformational listening is creative, connected, and focused on both the listener and the speaker. There may be silence because we are not thinking about the next thing to say. Rather we are fully present, engaged, and genuinely interested in learning more about what is being said or not said.
As you practice becoming a generous listener, notice the level you are listening at throughout the day. In what situations do you find yourself listening at level 1 vs. level 3? What do you believe leads you to be more of a transient or transactional listener? How might you become more of a transformational and generous listener?
Like anything that leads to significant, positive change, cultivating a workplace culture of generous listening requires an investment in ourselves as leaders and our team. This type of workplace culture does not happen overnight. Yet increasing your self-awareness as a leader and practicing generous listening with your direct reports at every opportunity will certainly transform your culture into one of excellence.
If you would like to learn more tools, resources, and strategies to become a more generous listener and cultivate a culture of excellence, reach out. We help leaders of Fortune 500 companies and national organizations better understand the actions they can take that work best for themselves, their teams, and their organizations. Contact us to learn more about our executive coaching opportunities and Leadership Evolution Program at [email protected]. We will talk soon.