Digital networks and mobile capabilities are equipping organisations with the ability to listen and respond faster than ever, but the technology alone is not enough to get the conversations flowing.
Having recently concluded a two-year study into organisational listening, Professor Jim Macnamara of The University of Technology Sydney found that an average of 80 per cent of institutional resources devoted to public communication are focused on speaking not listening.
“An organisation needs to have a culture that is open to listening and clear policies, as well as resources such as staff with appropriate skills assigned to doing the work of listening,” says Macnamara.
Nick Baker is no stranger to this, having built a strong career around listening to customers and employees, first as CMO at Tourism Australia, and most recently as chief executive at Australia’s leading gift experience retailer, RedBalloon.
“We are in an era of user generated direction, meaning your customers and your people must have a say in what you do as a business and where you’re going,” says Baker. RedBalloon’s recent rebranding campaign is reflective of this customer-centric direction.
We are in an era of user generated direction, meaning your customers and your people must have a say in what you do as a business and where you’re going
Here are five reasons to listen more and talk less – in all aspects of business:
1. Building trust
Listening builds trust, which is essential for effective governance and strong business relationships, Macnamara says. If people don’t feel heard, they won’t feel adequately represented and won’t put their trust in your organisation.
2. Sustainable business
Better listening contributes to business sustainability in the form of more successful strategy, effective management, and long-term gains such as staff and customer retention, improved morale and increased productivity, Macnamara says.
3. Creating social equity
Having conversations with customers, clients, stakeholders and staff is crucial to building relationships of value between parties, says Baker. “We’re now inundated with channels that allow us to communicate and gather feedback instantly, meaning we can assess the sentiment of communications, and act and react accordingly,” he adds.
4. Fostering collaborative practices
Leaders need to realise when to listen and when to ask questions, says Baker. “It’s not just managers who have innovative and creative ideas. Businesses have the chance to thrive when there is opportunity for conversations to occur,” he says.
5. Maximising engagement
Listening engages people across all areas of a business, bringing together a wealth of experience to shape growth. “It not only makes good business sense to listen, it also makes for a more engaged workplace,” Baker says.