Engaging Employees in the Reimagined Workplace

/ Christine Andrukonis

After experiencing close to two years of disruption and uncertainly, companies are longing to return to some degree of predictable order and structure. And while establishing a sense of “normalcy” sounds appealing, the truth is that we are all on the brink of even more dramatic change. Here’s why. Amidst all the unknowns companies and their people are now facing, one thing is clear: Employees across geographical location, industries, pay grades and tenure are demanding to have a say in how, where, and how long they work — and what constitutes a safe and supportive workspace.

Some organizations may find this shift in power between employer and employee unsettling. Personally, as a founder of Notion Consulting, I believe the reimagined workplace presents leaders with an exciting opportunity to engage employees on a far deeper and more productive level than before. For me, the first step in this journey is deep listening — listening without judgment, acknowledging what we’ve heard, and taking productive action wherever possible

Here are 4 reasons why we as leaders should leverage deep listening:

We’ll inspire greater trust and loyalty: The ups and downs companies are experiencing in their return-to-office efforts involve, in part, a breakdown of trust between leadership and employees. People question the necessity of working onsite after having performed their jobs remotely for the past year-and-a-half. And yet, instead of engaging these employees in conversation, many companies insist on taking a blanket approach —with everyone working onsite. And thus, the exodus of talent begins.

We’ll design better solutions: Successful leaders know that working in a vacuum, with no outside voices of influence, results in poor decision-making. Having fresh perspectives helps you lead your business with deeper insight and a wider lens. I find that soliciting a range of perspectives helps Notion design even better solutions for our clients. That’s why we have an informal “board of advisors” who provide useful counsel and why I personally encourage my team to freely share their input and ideas.

We’ll better attract and retain talent: Businesses typically offer customers several avenues for feedback, while rarely asking employees for theirs. Some employers, even those representing prominent global brands, rarely go beyond the annual employee survey to find out what employees think and feel. What’s more, they fail to deliver meaningful follow up and change, based on the feedback they do get. Employees today are not content with cursory attempts at engagement. They want to be heard, and we as leaders need to listen all year round, if we want top talent to join us and stay.

We’ll build, through co-creation, a superior work experience for everyone: The work experience is far more than what employees do each day, it’s about what they live each day. So, as we envision the “new” work experience, let’s partner closely with our people, so we two-way feedback process, we can create a work experience the motivates and inspires employees and enables both them and our organizations to thrive.

I understand that deep listening and co-creation may require a significant cultural shift for some organizations. It might also entail careful coaching and retraining of leaders who bristle at what they perceive as employee “entitlement.” Admittedly, it’s a heavy lift, no matter how you look at it. But those businesses that are willing to make that leap and meet their people where they are now, will likely find outstanding talent eager to join, and stay, with their organizations.