icon Assessing & Enhancing Listening Maturity: A Comprehensive Guide Skip to content
Assessing & Enhancing Listening Maturity: A Comprehensive Guide - HRDQ

Assessing & Enhancing Listening Maturity: A Comprehensive Guide

Effective communication is an essential building block of all successful businesses, and listening is a vital component of effective communication.

When we talk about listening in organizations, though, it's easy to focus on the necessary task of helping employees hone their active or effective listening skills. Just as important, if not more important, is creating channels through which managers and leaders can listen to what employees have to say about their experience.

Creating a culture of listening is a holistic endeavor– listening in the workplace is a two-way street. Employees will be much more likely to take effective listening training to heart and utilize what they've learned when interacting with customers and teammates, for example, if they can see that leadership is leading by example.

Recommended Assessment
What's My Communication Style?
  • Improve communication skills
  • Tools for online or in-person training
  • Simple yet powerful framework
Learn more

Listening in the Workplace: A Two-Way Street

You may have heard that communication is a two-way street and that the foundation of communication is listening. Helping to strengthen your employees' listening skills is essential to running a well-oiled machine, but your efforts will fall flat if management isn't all ears.

Effective Workplace Communication

Being a great leader consists of a combination of different skills and abilities, including emotional intelligence, decision-making, adaptability, strategic thinking, integrity, ethics, vision, and more. Perhaps the most crucial skill, though, is communication. Leaders will struggle to bring their team on board without the ability to articulate their goals, visions, and expectations effectively and clearly.

At the same time, a leader who listens to their team can perform leaps and bounds ahead of the competition, led by a leader who sees communication and listening as a one-way street. When your employees know that you're listening to them, it can help build trust and loyalty. When your customers and clients know that you are empathetically and actively present, they'll choose you over the competition time and time again.

What Is Listening Maturity?

When an organization has reached listening maturity, it means that there are systems in place to ensure continuous conversation regarding the employee experience. There are multiple avenues through which individuals can provide feedback, and the entire organization is geared toward making necessary changes swiftly.

Team Members Communicating

Whether your business is facing challenges in terms of talent recruitment and attrition or employee morale, it's important to understand just how impactful these problems can be when it comes to financial performance, customer satisfaction, innovation, and more. 

What Are Listening Programs?

Listening programs are strategies or initiatives that organizations can implement to encourage and enhance effective communication within the company.

A Listening Program

Aimed at fostering a culture of open dialogue, understanding, and empathy within the workplace, some popular types of listening programs and strategies include:

  • Employee feedback systems: It isn't always the easiest thing for employees to share their suggestions, concerns, and ideas with management, so implementing employee feedback systems can provide a streamlined method through which individuals can provide feedback. By setting up these systems, you encourage employees to speak their minds, which can help them feel like their voice matters. Through surveys, suggestion boxes, and other feedback methods, your organization can identify areas for improvement, gather insights, and address employee needs promptly.
  • Employee engagement surveys: Though surveys are a common component of employee feedback systems, they can particularly hone in on how satisfied employees are and how engaged they feel in their work and as a part of the team.
  • Mentoring and coaching programs: In larger organizations, it's easy for employees to feel as though they have no connection to more experienced members. Mentoring and coaching programs involve pairing newer employees with individuals who have been with the company for many years, a relationship that can offer incredible symbiotic potential. These programs can help employees develop their skills while feeling personally supported.
  • Active listening workshops and training: Active listening is an essential soft skill in any business, no matter your industry. Workshops and training programs can be an effective way to help employees develop these skills. By improving their active listening skills, everyone in the organization can work better as a team, become more effective communicators, and improve company and client relationships.
  • Recognition and rewards programs: Recognition and rewards programs aren't specifically focused on listening, but they are a way that organizations can help employees feel appreciated and valued in their roles. Recognizing the contributions and achievements that people make to help the organization thrive clearly displays that every individual's voice isn't just heard and appreciated.
  • Town hall meetings and focus groups: While receiving individual feedback through surveys or other means can be useful, it's also great to get everyone together to foster a culture of transparency and open communication. During town hall meetings, senior leaders can directly address questions, concerns, or suggestions that employees have. Focus groups, on the other hand, are typically smaller, more targeted sessions where there is a focus on a specific topic in an in-depth manner.

Why Is Listening So Important in Leadership?

Listening is perhaps one of the most underrated skills in the business world. According to the author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, Stephen Covey, most people listen with the intent to reply rather than the intent to understand.

When a leader learns to listen to their employees, it can radically change an organization's ability to thrive.

Leader Listening to Employees

Some of the most compelling reasons why effective listening should be a priority among the leadership at your organization include:

  • Motivating team members: Team members are much more likely to feel driven to perform at their best if they feel heard. At the same time, motivation can have a direct and positive impact on the employee experience.
  • Boosting trust: Whether you're practicing listening to your colleagues or your team, listening helps to build an environment of trust. People will feel much more comfortable stating how they feel and sharing information when they know their thoughts and feelings are valuable.
  • Aids in decision making: The needs of your team, clients, and customers will be much easier to understand when you effectively listen. That means you will be privy to a great deal of valuable information that allows you to make the best possible decisions at every turn.
  • Drives innovation and creativity: One can only imagine how many brilliant ideas have been shoved aside simply because a leader wasn't willing or able to listen. The more you listen to the people around you in your organization, the more great ideas will start to shuffle in. Additionally, in the environment of trust created through effective listening, colleagues and employees alike will feel more comfortable sharing their creative ideas and taking calculated risks in their work.
  • Set a great example: You can send your employees to as many active listening workshops as you want, but your efforts will fall flat if you don't take your own advice. One of the best ways to influence other people's behavior is to lead by example, so if you want your team to be great listeners, you'll want to continue developing your own skills.

At the same time, effective listening can have a tremendously positive impact on your organization when your employees are willing and able to hone their skills. Some of the benefits of promoting a workplace that engages in effective listening include:

  • Improving accuracy
  • Building relationships
  • Allowing for better problem solving
  • Wasting less time and operating more efficiently
  • Reducing errors
  • Encouraging a welcoming and understanding culture

If you're searching for a listening program that can be incorporated into broader training programs or stand alone as a listening skills workshop, you'll want to check out our Learning to Listen assessment.

What Is Effective Listening?

Also known as active listening, effective listening is a term that describes the skill of consciously working to understand what another person is saying. It's not just about hearing what another individual is saying but about working to understand the intent behind the message they're sharing.

According to American educator Stephen R. Covey, there are five different levels at which we listen:

  • Ignoring: Just what it sounds like; this is when we aren't listening at all. Not only are we making an effort not to participate in the conversation, but our desire to not listen or communicate is reflected in our body language.
  • Pretending: Pretend listening occurs when we use cues or body language to communicate to the other person that we are fully engaged in what they're saying, even though we're actually busy thinking about other things.
  • Selective listening: Basic listening is involved in selective listening, and it's a step up from ignoring and pretending, but it's still a far cry from effective, empathetic listening. While our body language tells the other person that we're listening, we're picking and choosing the parts of the conversation that we find interesting and valuable and otherwise stop listening. Selectively listening is a great way to create misunderstandings with others and lead to many organizational challenges.
  • Attentive listening: When you attentively listen, it means concentrating on what is being said and fully paying attention. We respond appropriately, and our body language is active. Though this is a step in the right direction, it falls short of effective listening because we aren't actually working to understand the intent of the communicator and the message we're sharing.
  • Empathetic listening: Beyond simply showing that we are listening and consciously focusing on what is being said, empathetic listening involves actually working to understand the intent behind the message. This type of listening requires the most energy, as we aren't just hearing what is being said and providing appropriate responses, but we are actually doing the work to fully understand what is being communicated.

Though Stephen Covey uses the phrase "empathetic listening," effective listening is another term that can be used to describe the same phenomenon.

Effective Listening in the Workplace

One way you can work to boost effective listening skills in your organization is to help others develop these skills, but another is to ensure that your team isn't constantly facing common barriers to effective listening.

The list of potential barriers that can get in the way of one's ability to effectively listen is quite long– these can be physical, cultural, emotional, and physiological barriers, just to name a few.

Another type of listening that is worth understanding in the context of your organization is passive listening. Passive listening can either be an indication that an individual isn't fully present in the conversation, while it can also simply mean that the individual isn't well-versed in the body language and cues that indicate full attentiveness.

You can learn more about the different types of listening in our guide to six essential types of listening skills. 

Assessing and Enhancing Listening Maturity

As with most soft skills, one of the most important first steps to improving effective listening and developing a mature culture of listening in your organization is self-awareness. After all, it's difficult for individuals and organizations to understand how to improve when they fail to see where there's room for improvement.

Luckily, HRDQ has created a customizable course to help organizations and the individuals that make the organization what it has become more self-aware of the barriers that stand in the way of their ability to effectively listen.

Enhanced Listening Maturity

In this course, participants will learn that there are two primary obstacles that can stand in the way of effective listening– bad habits and style differences. Recognizing our bad habits is the first step, allowing us to eliminate those habits and work toward being more active listeners. When it comes to style differences, we can work to understand our communication style and how it differs from the communication styles of others, helping us to burst through the line that separates attentive listening from effective or empathetic listening.

If it's time for your team to improve their listening skills to improve customer relations, relationships within your team, accuracy, and productivity, our Effective Listening Skills Customizable Course will allow participants to improve communication skills, eliminate barriers to good listening, build interpersonal relationships, and maximize productivity.

Do you have any questions about listening maturity, effective listening, or anything else we mentioned? If so, be sure to leave us a comment down below, and we'll get back to you within a day or two! We make it a point to reply to every comment and question we receive, and we'd be more than happy to help you out however possible!

Recommended Assessment
What's My Communication Style?
  • Improve communication skills
  • Tools for online or in-person training
  • Simple yet powerful framework
Learn more
Previous article 15 Online Whiteboard Tools for Training Online (Free and Paid)

Leave a comment

Comments must be approved before appearing

* Required fields

About our author

Bradford R. Glaser

Brad is President and CEO of HRDQ, a publisher of soft-skills learning solutions, and HRDQ-U, an online community for learning professionals hosting webinars, workshops, and podcasts. His 35+ years of experience in adult learning and development have fostered his passion for improving the performance of organizations, teams, and individuals.