Do you take time to listen to your staff?

The mantra “customers first” is one we hear all the time and it is clear that many of the businesses I talk to pay great attention to keeping their customers happy through satisfaction surveys, regular contact and thank yous for their business.  But, our ability to look after our customers is often critically dependent on our staff who we expect to do much of the work, being the “face” of our business, prepared to go “the extra mile” in the name of customer satisfaction and on-time delivery.

A common theme in recent discussions has been the importance of communication with staff so they understand the “big picture”, company priorities and their contribution. But these often “set piece” or written communication exercises are often one-way and top-down.  A recent visit to a local supplier of fresh produce highlighted the importance of listening to staff and acting on their feedback

Two employees from a highly successful farm shop had decided to set up on their own and were now running a thriving business. So why did these hardworking and popular employees leave? In short, they left out of frustration at not being listened to and not having their concerns addressed - unnecessary stress and long hours driven by lack of planning, poor processes and lack of investment in equipment that would help them in their work. Net result, headache for the farm shop owner, loss of two key employees and a number of customers.

Tools to consider include informal 1-2-1 conversations or drop-in sessions and staff meetings where you ask questions like

  • How’s it going?
  • What do you enjoy most about your job?
  • What can I do to make your job easier/more enjoyable?
  • What can we do differently to reduce cost/improve customer service?

You may not be able to meet all of your staff on an individual basis but you should have a clear plan of how you can get to hear their ideas and other feedback before it’s too late!