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How active listening can help businesses retain, develop female employees

Posted by Neha De

November 2, 2021    |     3-minute read (459 words)

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to take a toll on workers, especially women. McKinsey & Company’s annual Women in the Workplace report reveals, “Women are even more burned out than they were a year ago, and burnout is escalating much faster among women than men. One in three women says they have considered downshifting their careers or leaving the workforce this year, compared to 1 in 4 who said this a few months into the pandemic. Additionally, 4 in 10 women have considered leaving their company or switching jobs — and high employee turnover in recent months suggests that many of them are following through.” 

Then, there is InHerSight managing editor Beth Castle who cites another survey in her article on Fast Company that reveals, “half of women don’t feel heard at work.” 

Burnout is a state of mental, emotional and physical exhaustion due to prolonged stress. This was reiterated in CNBC and SurveyMonkey’s Women at Work survey. According to the survey, the pandemic has made things worse for women in the workplace (59% overall, and 66% of women with and without children agreed). The survey also shows, “Over half (53%) of women say their mental health suffers to the point of burnout because of their jobs, all or some of the time. This is true for women with and without kids, white women, and women of color alike.” 

In her article, Castle explains that even though the key to retaining women is offering them work-life integration and flexibility by giving them flexible working hours, focusing on deliverables versus time in the seat and encouraging them to take time off, it is active listening that is actually crucial to employee satisfaction. By actively listening while keeping an actionable and open mind, employers can better motivate, strengthen relationships, offer release and build trust.

Active listening allows the listener to pay attention to the speaker’s verbal communication and non-verbal cues. It calls for truly hearing what the other person has to say and understanding their feelings and thoughts during a conversation. 

Castle also suggests, in order to avoid “another mass exit among women,” employers should look at introducing channels dedicated to groups, such as working parents or singles living alone during the pandemic, holding town hall talks that go beyond business news and encouraging managers to talk to employees about their lives

As a leader, it can be simple to make decisions using only one’s own knowledge and experience, but a truly empathetic and successful leader takes in information and feedback from their team members and peers as well. This allows them to make more informed decisions because the leader knows what's going on with everyone in their company and takes their perspectives into account on crucial decisions.

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