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How Listening Can Help You Build a Culture of Trust in Your Business Employees are your most valuable asset. Here's how to listen up to ensure they feel valued and seen.

By Kara Hoogensen

entrepreneur daily

Think about the last conversation you had in which you could tell the other person was distracted or just plain uninterested. How did it make you feel: Frustrated? Disrespected? Unimportant?

Now, recall a conversation in which the other person was engaged and actively listening. I'll bet you felt seen, heard, and respected. And perhaps you left the conversation with an increased sense of trust in the person.

As business leaders, the way we listen — or don't — to employees can have a similar impact on our relationship with them. Truly listening is a way to build trust and rapport. But when we don't, we can misinterpret or misunderstand our employees' needs—and may remain puzzled about disengagement and turnover.

An environment employees want to be in is one grounded in trust. Listening is a key component. Here's how we can ensure our ears are open.

Establish effective methods to listen to employees.

Employees expect their employers to stay in tune with their evolving needs and keep up with workplace trends. This requires careful listening.

Take workplace benefits as an example. According to a spring study by Principal®, employees want their employers to add benefits at significantly higher levels than small and midsize businesses are considering. The most desired additions are health insurance, mental health benefits, paid family/medical leave, dental insurance, and retirement benefits.1

Even if you are already offering all the right benefits for your employee base, there may be a knowledge gap. For example, employees cite not understanding how to use benefits—particularly retirement benefits, dental and vision insurance, and life insurance—as a main reason for not using them, according to the Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM.2

How can you ensure this gap doesn't exist in your business, or if it does, how can you close it?

Many employers have great success pulling all their employees together on a regular basis — food and games included — to create an environment that invites two-way dialogue. It's mutually beneficial: You can share key messages and updates with all employees at once, and employees have an opportunity to ask questions and hear the same message at the same point in time.

In between these group meetings, keep a pulse on your employees' needs and sentiments with anonymous surveys. Online tools and resources can help you compare your offerings to businesses recruiting the same talent. Combine both this internal and external data to give you a clearer understanding of what's working and what needs to change.

Follow up and take action (when you can).

After listening, it's important to act. Follow up with your staff: Summarize what you heard from them, what you're going to do as a result, and why. Keep them updated on your progress.

Remember: You don't have to keep decisions indefinitely. Reevaluate in six months or a year to see if you're achieving the intended result. (And include employees in that evaluation.) If it's working, great. If not, pivot and try something else.

The reality is that not everything can be acted on — or maybe not all at once. If you can't remedy an employee concern, explain why. Even if they're disappointed, it signals that you did indeed hear them, and this reinforces they can expect honesty and transparency from you.

Ultimately, creating a culture in which employees feel seen and heard will allow them to do their best work, leading to well-served customers and potential business growth.

Take the next steps to grow your business principal.com/benefits.

1 Principal survey of small and midsize businesses (fewer than 500 employees), including 531 business clients and 262 employees, April 25-May 7, 2023.

2 The Principal Financial Well-Being IndexSM (February 2-9, 2023) surveyed 500 business owners, decision makers, and leaders at companies with 2-10,000 employees, as well as 200 full-time employees.

The subject matter in this communication is educational only and provided with the understanding that Principal® is not rendering legal, accounting, investment or tax advice. You should consult with appropriate counsel, financial professionals, and other advisors on all matters pertaining to legal, tax, investment or accounting obligations and requirements.

Insurance products issued by Principal National Life Insurance Co (except in NY) and Principal Life Insurance Company®. Plan administrative services offered by Principal Life. Principal Funds, Inc. is distributed by Principal Funds Distributor, Inc. Securities offered through Principal Securities, Inc., member SIPC and/or independent broker/dealers. Referenced companies are members of the Principal Financial Group®, Des Moines, IA 50392. ©2023 Principal Financial Services, Inc.


Kara Hoogensen

Entrepreneur Leadership Network® Contributor

Senior vice president and head of Workplace Benefits for Principal®

Kara Hoogensen is a senior vice president and head of Workplace Benefits for Benefits and Protection with Principal Financial Group®. She is responsible for group benefits, as well as the strategy and innovation function and claims operations within Benefits and Protection.


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