Only 1 Out Of 4 Leaders Encourage Suggestions From Their Employees, New Data Shows
This article originally appeared on Forbes by Mark Murphy, Founder of Leadership IQ
I recently conducted a study called The Risks Of Ignoring Employee Feedback that involved 27,048 executives, managers and employees. And what I discovered, among other things, is that very few leaders encourage, or are open to hearing, suggestions for improvement from their employees.
The study found that only 24% of people say that their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement, while 16% say their leader Never does so. The chart below shows the full breakdown:
Even if we combine those who say their leader always (24%) or frequently (23%) encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement, that still leaves more than half (53%) of employees who feel their leader is not doing a good job encouraging and recognizing suggestions for improvement.
Leaders Who Listen To Suggestions Radically Improve Engagement
As you might imagine, smart people with great suggestions really want their leaders to solicit and hear those ideas. And that’s why this issue has such a large effect on employee engagement.
When we asked employees whether they would recommend their company as a great organization to work for, we found…
- 62% of employees who say their leader always encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement will strongly recommend it as a great organization to work for.
- By contrast, only 5% of employees who say their leader never encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement will strongly recommend it as a great organization to work for.
Just ponder that statistic for a moment. For all the money that gets spent trying to engage, inspire and retain employees, by overhauling compensation systems and all the rest, wouldn’t some of those resources be better spent teaching managers how to encourage and listen to employee suggestions?
And if winning the talent war is important to your company, maybe you should be tracking a metric along the lines of scores on the survey question we used in this study “My leader encourages and recognizes suggestions for improvement.” You can see the other questions we asked here.
Certainly, your company will have leaders doing brilliantly on this issue, and that’s great. What concerns me are those managers who are not only performing poorly on this issue, they’re not even aware of how poorly they’re performing. Ironically, the leaders most likely to dismiss this data, or assert how wonderfully they listen, are the leaders who are most likely to perform poorly in the eyes of their employees.
Now, think about what types of employees are going to be most affected by this. Is this going to impact a consistently low performer, someone with little or no suggestions for improvement? Of course not; what do they care if their boss doesn’t encourage suggestions when they don’t have any to offer? Rather, leaders who neither encourage, nor are open to hearing, suggestions for improvement are going to utterly demoralize their high performers (the people your company can least afford to lose).
Think about all the great ideas you’ve had about ways to improve your company, department or job. If your ideas were heard and accepted, remember the fulfillment you felt. But if your ideas were ignored or rebuffed, remember the despair and disengagement you felt. Every leader at every company faces the choice to either encourage or ignore their employees’ suggestions. If those ideas are heard, employees will be inspired. But if those ideas aren’t solicited or heard, those employees likely form a festering pool of disengagement or they simply quit.
Use This Data To Recruit High Performers From Your Competitors
If you know your company’s leaders actually do encourage and listen to suggestions for improvement from their employees, use this to your advantage in recruiting. For example, imagine that you’ve heard that your competitors do a lousy job of encouraging suggestions from employees. You could write a recruiting pitch that starts out something like this:
Are you a superstar with great ideas for making businesses run more efficiently? Would you like to work at a company that actually encourages and listens to your great ideas? Are you looking for a chance to implement your suggestions to deliver bottom-line results? And are you tired of having your ideas rejected? If you answered YES, then apply to work at ABC Company today!
That’s a recruiting pitch that directly attacks the weaknesses of your competitors. And the people who are most likely to be intrigued by that messaging are the folks who actually have great suggestions and want to implement them.
Mark Murphy is the founder of Leadership IQ and author of Truth At Work: The Science Of Delivering Tough Messages.