“Listening to your people is one of the most powerful forms of recognition you can bestow. Genuinely seeking their opinions and feedback costs nothing but your time and the dividends are priceless. You’ll see increased morale, more open communication and greater sharing of solutions to business challenges. You’ll also get to know some truly remarkable people in the process.”

We all like to be asked our opinion about something, not just whilst in work but when we are out socialising too. Why? Is it because we feel left out of the conversation if we don’t get the chance to add our voice? Ignored, belittled, not important enough to be considered worthy of a contribution to the debate. We want to be heard, to feel wanted. Included even.

Increasingly there is a malaise spreading throughout offices across Ireland, we’re a nation forgetting how to have a discussion at work unless email is involved. Employees and clients are surveyed online, asked for their views, if asked at all. At home the TV, Laptop, Tablet or Smartphone are killing conversation. Silence is not always golden, hallo darkness my old friend, I’ve come to speak with you again. (Thank you Mr Simon)

This epidemic of indifference to the opinions of employees is leading to a plethora of problems building up in workplaces everywhere, including those far from Ireland. Management, CEO’s in particular are finding themselves unable to converse with people they share office time with every day. They have less in common, albeit they may well have worked their way to the top taking many years to arrive. They have forgotten how to listen, they do the talking bit instead. This approach will inevitably lead to the one way disastrous diatribe, no way people, just my way.

Can we get back to truly listening to our people, is it too late? I don’t think so.

Start by walking around a little more, discover who is working for you and where they sit. Use small talk, take a different route around the work space to the canteen or washroom, or wherever you take a comfort break. Be aware that your presence will be noted, helping you to start the conversation. Make eye contact, take your time instead of striding past in your usual ‘too busy to talk’ fashion. Be ready to actively listen, not easy at first.

(Have you Listened to Your People Lately)

After all, it is likely your audience, heaven forbid employees, will not be prepared to enter into a chat with you lightly as they may not have seen you for a while. They could clam up.

This is where you begin the journey to getting back on track with your people. Demonstrating that you are willing to listen, to empathise with their views if not agree outright.

What has ‘Undercover Boss’ got that we cannot replicate ourselves? The popular TV documentary series allows CEO’s of major national and international organisations meet their people whilst in disguise, getting down and dirty doing every day jobs that their workers do each day. The Fact Finding mission concludes with an end – reveal that improves lives.

These enlightened CEO’s are listening to their people in the most effective manner, having a conversation leading to improved productivity, the most likely outcome of a more engaged employee. It’s never too late to listen with intent, not an email in sight.

Don Harris is CEO of TalkBack (www.talkback.ie) and Presenter of ‘You and Your Business’ on Dublin City FM. www.dublincityfm.ie)