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Wednesday, 7.12.2022
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While many industries and aspects of our lives have been transformed by technology in the last two decades, education has historically lagged behind. But now, driven by improved products, lower costs and a massive jolt from the emergency of Covid-19, education has finally begun to shift online and transform.

You might think a company like McGraw Hill, which has been serving students and educators for more than a century, would struggle to keep up and pivot to a digital-first mindset. But we’ve transformed quickly and become a digital leader by taking a somewhat counterintuitive approach: a focus on listening. By listening to educators, as well as to our own talented employees, we’ve gained the insights needed to develop tools that meet our customers’ evolving needs and to strategically build and foster an innovative culture over the long term.

There was no better example of leading by listening than during the Covid-19 crisis in the spring of 2020, when closed classrooms forced educators to develop new teaching methods that harnessed technology for remote and hybrid learning. Throughout the pandemic, many leaders have learned to listen more effectively as employees and customers adapted to the new normal.

The Need For Digital Transformation

More and more teachers over the years have expressed the need for easy-to-use digital products to create lesson plans and modify their teaching strategies. Meanwhile, colleges have faced pressure to reduce the cost of course materials because of the student debt crisis and, more recently, due to enrollment challenges.

Though the pandemic has dramatically accelerated the adoption of technology in education, for many companies, the digital transformation started long before Covid-19. For example, our team has been on the front lines of listening to and responding to the needs of educators and students for years. This position allowed us to recognize the importance of digital transformation in helping both groups navigate the rising costs of education and the changing classroom dynamic.

Listening To Users

Covid-19 intensified existing trends within the education system and challenged companies to listen even more effectively and accelerate digital transformation. The timing of the onset of the pandemic could not have been more challenging for educators as they had to immediately transition their courses online. They needed help, and thousands of them reached out to ask for support and training.

By listening and being empathetic to what educators or other users are going through, companies can respond effectively and gain their trust. Here are a couple of ideas for improving your customer listening.

  • If you have a sales force, they can provide a wealth of insights. They’re the ones on the front lines, so they know what your customers are thinking, what they’re worried about and what their challenges are. Most of us live in the communities they serve, so they knew what schools and colleges were going through during Covid-19. Try to meet with your reps regularly.
  • Be sincere. I’m genuinely fascinated by people—especially those who work in education. Meet your customers in person whenever you can, and spend 90% of the time listening. This may seem overly simple, but it takes practice and a mindset shift for some!

Listening To Each Other

Ongoing dialogue with customers helps to improve products, but a culture of listening begins at home. I believe that listening to employees and applying their skills, ideas and knowledge are essential to developing a culture of innovation.

Understanding how your people work, what drives them and the challenges they face daily are key to good management. Employers can listen in several ways.

For example, we do quarterly employee pulse surveys to get feedback on topics that might include whether staff feels ready to work in person in an office, whether they are getting value out of performance conversations with their managers or whether they are satisfied with the mental health support we are providing. Social intranets can also help to establish a vibrant community, where two-way dialogue is routine and encouraged and where employees connect via various employee resource groups. I also spend several days each month during the academic year working with our sales representatives to gain a better understanding of their needs, as well as how the industry is changing.

Employee communication means interacting with all levels of the business. It’s about sincerity, empathy and listening carefully. I know we’re making progress because a growing number of employees feel comfortable enough to email me directly with comments and suggestions.

How can you create a culture of listening in your organization?

  • It starts with authenticity and transparency. Work is not everything to your employees. Getting to know them as individuals helps you make connections one at a time. Follow that up by showing you are being transparent about your own work and the company. You want your employees to feel comfortable being themselves at work and confident that they can trust their instincts.
  • Take care of your employees. Identify your priorities—and make them clear in every communication with your team. We’re all human.

Ultimately, organizations can be stronger if leaders listen to and understand the needs of employees and customers—so they can build innovative solutions to help them into the future.

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Autor(en)/Author(s): Simon Allen

Quelle/Source: Forbes, 09.09.2022

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