10 Active Listening Skills to Level Up in the Workplace

10 Active Listening Skills to Level Up in the Workplace

May 24, 2022 | WorkTango

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Active Listening as a survey methodology involves continuously listening to your employees and taking action based on the feedback provided. It is the latest wave in HR’s survey pool, that asks a few consistent questions to measure a baseline concept, then supplements it with rotating questions on that same theme based on responses or actions taken by the organization.  Active listening techniques lead to more effective communication across all areas of your organization.  

It is one of the best ways to measure the real-time employee voice in an organization. Actionable insights are received as they happen live, responses are acknowledged, and confidential conversations can be had (protecting the identity of the employee while identifying the manager looking to delve deeper). 

We have covered the evolution of employee surveys before—how annual surveys were slowly replaced by pulse surveys, and how those same pulse survey checks were used to actively listen to employees. 

There’s a science behind soliciting the voice of employees via surveys that becomes an art form giving shape and structure to your culture when the philosophy and principles of active listening are applied in a managerial communications context. 

Active Listening Skills and Effective Communication

The act of actively listening is an indispensable tool for leaders. If everyone across all levels of management in your organization practices active listening techniques, the result is a workforce that feels heard, valued, engaged.  

In a survey of 400 companies with an employee population of 100,000 or more, ineffective communication to and between employees was cited to be the reason for an average loss of $62 million per year per company. For smaller organizations with 100 employees, miscommunication was estimated to cost an average of $420,000 annually. An active listening approach can set the stage for broader effective communication among all employees.     

But where do you start? The benefits of active listening can’t be overstated, so when deciding to implement it in your organization, you want to be sure it’s done right. Use the experts at WorkTango to help you level up your workplace.

  Here are 10 ways by which active listening techniques can lead to more effective communication across your organization. 

Active Listening Techniques

1. Maintaining Eye Contact 

As the listener, it is best to let the speaker know they have your full undivided attention by maintaining eye contact. The same is true when speaking. Eye contact lets the listener know you are focused on them.  

2. Watch for Body Language 

Is the employee you’re meeting with sitting with their arms crossed as if to say they don’t want to talk, they’re resistant to the conversation they find themselves in, they’re feeling defensive? Is their foot tapping in a fashion suggesting anxiety, fear, insecurity, distress? Non-verbal cues are one of the greatest insights that come from one-on-one meetings. There are some body language books that explore the meanings behind gesticulation. It’s important to remember that human babies rely on body language to communicate long before they learn how to speak, so such signals rarely betray.  

3. Do Your Homework to Better Understand the Person

Review your notes for a refresher about past discussions. Prepare talking points and questions that can move your conversation forward as both the listener and speaker. Keep in mind: the best follow-up questions address something said in the past, or something brought up in the moment that isn’t sufficiently clear. 

4. Interject at the Right Time

Interrupting someone can make them feel as though what theyre saying is unimportant. Wait for a pause in the conversation to ask follow-up questions, make a comment, or paraphrase what you’ve just heard to confirm your understanding. Take notes so you can keep track of what’s being said without disrupting the flow of conversation. After all, unnecessary interruptions, even those that seem valid, can sidetrack a discussion and prevent the speaker from conveying their thoughts.   

5. Use Non-Verbal Cues to Reinforce You’re Listening

Smiling can ease tension. Nodding shows agreement, that youre engaged. For yourself and the person sitting across from you, over 90% of communication is non-verbal. Positive communication experiences are the result of facial cues or vocal elements (think tone) rather than the actual words spoken. 

6. Use Verbal Affirmations

While body language does a great job of letting the other person know youre fully present and listening, using verbal affirmations seals that understanding. Common expressions that signal you’re listening include: “I see”, “understood”, “how so?”, and “I hear you.” 

7. Ask Specific and Probing Questions 

Within the realm of effective active listening, asking the right questions is what leads to actionable insight. Create the right space for employees to express what’s on their mind by digging deeper and asking for clarification. This also helps both parties to agree on mutual responsibilities and followup. 

8. Listen Without Judging or Jumping to Conclusions

Have you ever caught yourself listening to someone and finding yourself distracted by something they’ve said that veers your attentiveness off course? If you start reacting to what is being said, or start forming your response, you miss out on key points being expressed.  It’s best to listen intently and not assume that you know what will be said next. The best active listeners hold back criticisms, suspend judgment and avoid imposing their own opinions or solutions.  

Active listening skills - camera focus

9. Staying Focused

It’s best to remove any sources of distraction when conversating. A lot of new information could come up which has to be duly processed while keeping concentration on what’s being said. Turn off your phone. Host the meeting in a quiet environment. And do not look at your watch or the clock. 

10. Pay Attention to People Analytics

Frequent pulse surveys are the mainstay of WorkTango’s Active Listening model. They capture employee sentiment on just about anything you can think of wanting to know: from something as essential as engagement levels and perceptions around health & wellness, to real-time feelings about the idea of a shorter work week policy (or even something as frivolous as we’ve been known to ask at WorkTango — whether pineapple and pizza are meant for each other).   

Take advantage of the people analytics that come from these surveys. Use insights as a springboard for conversations with your team and individual one-on-ones. Ask questions. Troubleshoot and problem-solve together.  

Above all else, use the data and conversational input from your people to guide your own actions. Lead by exemplifying how active listening as a practice and as a methodology builds work environments where everyone’s opinion is valued.  

Become an Organization Full of Active Listeners

Active listening, when done right, adds an important communication dimension to people management.  

Leaders who use it experience an increased sense of well-being. It builds positive emotional interactions and strengthens workplace relationships.  

Employees who feel heard are almost 5 times more likely to feel empowered to do their best work. It ultimately translates to other indicators of HR performance such as engagement and satisfaction.  

For any organization willing to take Active Listening beyond a conceptual idea and introduce it as an organization-wide employee voice strategy, WorkTango can offer a helping hand.



WorkTango is the employee experience platform built for the modern workplace.