The Heards and the Heard-Nots: Are you listening to your employees equally?

Dr. Chris Mullen reveals the shocking communication gap in our workplaces

The Heards and the Heard-Nots: Are you listening to your employees equally?

Even with all the regular pulse surveys and town halls in place, many employees still feel neglected by leaders. Recent findings from The Workplace Institute at UKG show an overwhelming majority (86%) of employees feel as if not all voices are heard fairly or equally. Nearly half (51%) of employees in Canada say that underrepresented voices remain undervalued by employers. Even when employees do feel heard, two in five, globally, doubt it leads to actionable change, with another 75% saying they don’t feel heard on important workplace topics like benefits, safety, and time-off requests.

“Most employees do feel heard at the workplace, but not all employees are heard equally,” revealed Dr. Chris Mullen, executive director at The Workforce Institute at UKG. “For me, that was an eye-opener.”

Global findings show that two in three (63%) employees feel they’ve been ignored in some way by their manager or employer. Staff feel that leaders lack the initiative in seeking out feedback (39%), that their leaders don’t care about them as a person (35%), or they’re simply not taken seriously (34%). This is why many staffers (43%) would rather tell leaders what they think leaders want to hear, instead of their genuine feedback.

Who feels ignored at work?

This gap runs deeper for specific groups of employees. In Canada, underrepresented minorities (51%), non-caregivers (48%), and essential workers (32%) feel especially passed over at work. Among younger workers globally, just 9% of employees believe everyone at their workplaces is heard fairly and equally. A whopping 78% feel that they’ve been ignored by their leader. For those who have managed to get a word in, 57% believe they’re not taken seriously.

This isn’t due to a lack of trying by employers. Younger workers (58%) do feel that their leaders empower them to express their views freely at work, though older staffers (74%) are more confident in speaking up. Regardless, Dr. Mullen believes it’s high time HR leaders take the initiative.

HR needs to step up

“The onus is on the companies and businesses to give them that feeling that they can speak up and be listened to,” explained Dr. Mullen. Increasing efforts in this area should be a business priority especially when findings show that 92% of highly engaged employees feel heard at work, compared to a mere 30% of disengaged staff. When employees feel their voice is heard, they feel more engaged (74%), they’re more effective at their job (74%), and are more confident to share feedback in the future (71%).

“Companies should be looking at how to listen to employees more,” he added. “Some companies will probably say: ‘hey, look, we have this survey tool and that’s how we listen’. That is a good tool for listening and hearing what your employees have to say, but are you communicating? Is it a two-way street? If you run a survey, are you communicating back to the employees what you heard – the results [and] what you’re going to do about the findings or what they had to say?

“If you weren’t going to do something, don’t just brush it under the rug. Say, ‘Here’s why we possibly can’t do this’, or ‘here’s a roadmap for two years from now, because it’s more of a heavy lift’. I think it’s also that piece that companies can learn from how we’re communicating.”


This feature was released as part of UKG’s exclusive magazine. Discover what HR teams can expect from 2022 and beyond and learn strategies for the new era of work here.

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