How do I retain valuable employees?

You’re a leader. You speak to a lot of people every day. You issue a lot of instructions.

They must listen to you, but do you listen to them?

Listening is more than just an important skill when it comes to communicating in business. It’s paramount.

You can build strong relationships with your employees and motivate them.

You can spot problems and resolve them.

You can improve productivity. You can boost sales. You can grow your business.

That’s only if you listen, though. If you really tune into them, you can identify the issues and make things happen.

What’s your employee really trying to say?

Rather than stating something outright and risk upsetting you, an employee will go around the houses if they’re not happy about something or want something.

They might ask about their responsibilities, about other areas of the business, extra projects or new opportunities within the business. They might talk about other areas of the industry frequently. They might make suggestions regarding existing processes.

They’ll open with statements like ‘Have you ever considered….?’, ‘Have you tried…?’ and ‘I wouldn’t mind….’ and similar introductions.

Attention. What they’re really telling you is: ‘I need a change’ or ‘This needs to change.’

If you fail to listen properly and detect these underlying messages, a good employee could head for the door.

Look into the matter further to see if there is any relevant training you could offer, scope for them to work on the project or to implement the changes they’ve stated. Don’t fob them off with a small project or excuses.

Is it in one ear and out the other (and is it obvious)?

Has an employee raised an objection? Have they plucked up the courage to ask for extra training or to make some other demand?

How did you deal with it? Just say ‘Let me look into it.’ and then steer clear of the subject (and the employee) for the rest of your working days?

That’s no good, especially if this is your go-to response.

If, despite all the benefits they’ve highlighted and sound reasoning they’ve employed to back up their grievance or suggestion, you always say ‘No’, you can count on it that they’re not feeling heard.

And you can get ready, in that case, for apathy, lack of motivation and mistrust.

You’ve got to act.

Think about the request, and then go back to your employee and let them know the score.

Listening is about more than just hearing someone. It’s about what you do once you’ve heard them.

Like the time my daughter smashed my phone to make herself heard. When she explained what was bothering her, I changed how I organised my time to achieve a better work–life balance. It was a true sign I’d listened.

What can you do to improve your listening?

Listening, truly listening, is a hard skill to cultivate.

It’s not an impossible one, though. Get it right and you can boost productivity, employee morale, sales and the general growth of the company.

Here are a few tips:

Develop your curiosity

When a team member or employee asks to speak with you, be curious. Don’t sigh, roll your eyes and think to yourself ‘Here we go….’

This is a valuable opportunity to get feedback or discover something new.

Perhaps they’re flagging something that, if you listen sincerely enough, you could resolve and improve productivity.

Maybe it’s a new approach to lead generation that you could use to help your business grow

If you’re genuinely curious, you’ll be more receptive to suggestions and take them on board better.

Be present

You’re busy. Your employee gets that.

The last thing they want is to feel as if they’re hassling you, though, so make some time for them. Real time. Time that allows you to hear them out properly.

Don’t cut them off half-way through and answer an incoming text message or phone call, or agree to speak to them at a time when you’ve got other issues on your mind.

Responding to distractions will frustrate them and feel disrespectful to them.

Let them receive your full attention.

Take some notes

Make some notes to help you remember the key points. They’ll come in handy when you feed back to the employee on any courses of action you plan to take.

Remember to show people you’re listening while taking them. After they finish speaking, quickly recap from your notes what they’ve said. Check if there’s anything you’ve missed.

Don’t focus solely on the employee’s words as you scribble away. Observe their body language and how they express themselves. Do they seem fed up? Excited? Stressed?

Make a note of it. Their state during the conversation may influence some of the decisions you make after it.

Final thoughts

Listening well means offering someone your full attention, giving what they have to say full consideration and then acting on it.

It’s an important part of communication in business.

Listen carefully enough and you’ll uncover opportunities to have a meaningful impact for the better.

Don’t let them pass you by.

Ask for more information, more feedback, and then act.

Now is the time.

Make that conversation count.

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