Listening Skills in the Workplace
How Employers Can Increase Listening Skills in the Workplace
Listening skills are an essential aspect of any company or business. Without proper listening skills, a company can find itself floundering under mismanagement, confused employees and a significant amount of frustration and, in more extreme cases, even profit loss. Even outside of the workplace, listening skills are considered to be the backbone of communication. Of someone is unable to listen well, they will find certain tasks and relationships difficult, if not impossible, to maintain. This importance does not, of course, restrict itself to life outside the workplace. In fact, the workplace may be one of the most important areas where good listening skills must thrive. The workplace does not only affect one individual, but thousands—or even millions—of people.
For this reason, employers must ensure that their employees are able to manage good listening skills, both passive and active, in the workplace. They must be especially vigilant about listening skills in positions with a high level of responsibility and a higher level of social interaction. These positions are usually those such as managers, supervisors and others who may be called upon to handle a large amount of people. Many managers, for example, are responsible for handing out duties for certain positions and otherwise managing a group of lower level employees. If a manager does not have good listening skills, they may find it difficult to effectively handle their responsibilities to the company and to their fellow employees, both those higher and lower on the workplace ladder. Listening skills can increase workplace relationships, customer service, and even productivity in the workplace—there are almost endless benefits to good listening skills in employees in the workplace.
There are several ways which employers can strive to increase the quality of their employee’s listening skills in the workplace. The first way to ensure that employees have basic level listening skills is to require them and look for them in job interviews and other recruiting services. Employers should instruct their interview personnel to look for listening skills during an interview—first impressions may indicate whether someone is capable of handling basic listening communication, while also looking for the potential of growth in their skill.
Another way that employers can strive to increase their employee’s listening skills is a little more unconventional. However, these practices have been increasing in popularity over the years, especially as more research on the quality of working life and the quality of productivity and work has been conducted. In short, employers can use a variety of team exercises, team practices, and even social games to test their employee’s listening skills—and actually increase them. The following are some increasingly popular exercises or activities which employers can take advantage of in order to increase the quality and successfulness of their employee’s listening skills.
The first most common listening skills activity used by employers is called the “Repetition” Activity. The Repetition Activity is a listening skills activity which is meant to first test how well employee's listen and then help them improve their listening skills. Many employees will probably remember this exercise as a childhood game, which is sometimes called Telephone or Gossip. This particular exercise works best with a somewhat larger group of employees. The way this activity works is this: The employees who are participating in the exercise should sit or stand in a line. The employee who is at the front of the line must think up a statement or phrase. They must then whisper that phrase to the employee behind them in line, who in turn whispers the phrase to the employee behind them in line, and so on until the end of the line. The last person in line should say the phrase out loud as it was spoken to them. The Repetition Activity is intended to teach employee’s how listening skills, such as focusing and paying attention to what words are being said, can ultimately affect the words which are being perceived or heard. The goal of the exercise is to ensure that the phrase at the beginning of the line is the same as the one repeated to the last employee. Employers may help drive home the point of this activity by applying it to a work related topic. For example, they could ask employees to think about this situation as it relates to work. If the CEO of a company wants orders relayed to the worker bees at the bottom, poor listening skills may essentially change his orders by the time they get to the people who must follow them.
The second most common listening skill activity is called the “Verbal” Activity. The Verbal Activity is an activity which tests how well an employee can listen to verbal instructions. Because not all communication in the workplace is done through memos, letters or emails, being able to follow verbal instructions exactly is an important skill. The way the Verbal Activity works is this: Employees should be broken into groups of four or five individuals. One employee in the group is designated as the listener. The rest of the employees will create a set of instructions which will instruct the listener to draw something on a whiteboard, flip board or other piece of paper. They will then verbally instruct the listener to follow those directions and compare the listener’s end result with their actual instructions. Typically, the instructions will have employee’s draw circles, connect lines, write words in specific locations, etc. Each employee in the group should have a turn as the “listener.” The goal of this exercise is to measure how well employees can follow verbal instructions and help them increase those skills—such as focus—which enable them to successfully comprehend and follow verbal instructions. The goal of this exercise is to help employee’s focus on carrying out verbal instructions and to make them realize how even one simple mistake can affect their end result.
The aforementioned exercises can help employers not only measure their employee’s skills but, more importantly, help them increase listening skills and improve their overall performance in the workplace.