Why Listening Is Key to Onboarding New Hires—Especially If They’re Virtual

Why Listening Is Key to Onboarding New Hires—Especially If They’re Virtual

Onboarding a new hire is a significant investment in time and energy—with the hope of getting a new employee up and running quickly. You share vital information, paving the way for your new hire to contribute value sooner. So how can you set your new employees up for success?

Communication is often the foundation of a successful onboarding operation—but not the aspect of communication you’re likely thinking about. Most of us know how important it is to present your ideas clearly. But, how we listen, how we take in information, is just as critical. This is increasingly the case as we work virtually. That’s because many of the subtle visual and contextual cues that come from an in-person experience don’t come through via Zoom. In response to this new reality, you need a new set of skills to understand what new hires are taking in. And your new hires need to polish their listening skills for a virtual world too.

As you read this blog, consider adding listening training to your onboarding. Think about how a new hire could integrate and contribute more quickly by knowing their own listening preferences—and how it relates to the styles of everyone else on the team.

Types of listening styles

Listening happens in our brains. No two brains are the same, suggesting no two people hear the same thing or interpret information in the same way. While listening is not a skill that most organizations have traditionally focused on developing, we now know that listening is a habit that can be modified and refined for different situations and audiences.

As part of our research into listening intelligence, we’ve detected four listening styles (or preferences) of how people listen. These four listening styles cover what individuals pay attention to, as well as what they are likely to miss in any collaboration. Each of the four has an associated set of strengths and challenges. Let’s take a look at them:

Connective: The Connective listener focuses on what the interaction means for other people, groups, and audiences before considering what it may mean to them. They are socially intuitive and can pick up and respond to subtle cues.

Reflective: The Reflective listener focuses on what the interaction means to them personally. They filter what is heard through their own interests, purposes, and even past experiences.

Analytical: The Analytical listener focuses on facts, data, and measurable information. This type of listener adds a “reality check” to the rest of the team.

Conceptual: The Conceptual listener focuses on brainstorming and idea generation. They love collaborating about big ideas and tend to be future-oriented, with eyes and ears trained on what “could be.”

As you can see, the four listening styles above are very distinct. Each has its own nuance in terms of what listeners care about, what they search for when listening, and how they apply what they hear to their work on a project. All are important for a well-rounded, effective team.

Bringing new hires into the fold

When a new employee joins your company, adding listening training to their onboarding curriculum helps them to quickly and successfully plug into their new team. Sharing the new employee’s listening style with the rest of the team then readies the entire group to begin communicating and collaborating effectively. This is a huge time-saver as it gives the new employee access to information that could take weeks or months to otherwise experience. It creates the best chance to make an instant impact and transition more smoothly with less stress.

Creating a team-based listening culture

Research shows that diverse teams are better at solving problems—as long, of course, as they are able to unlock the specific expertise of all of the members. That’s where listening training comes in.

Knowing one’s own listening style is critical, but it’s also important that each member understands the listening styles of everyone else on the team. In our Listening Edge workshops, we train teams to use the mix of individual styles of each of their members most effectively. Each team member learns about his or her own personal listening style and how to best communicate with others who have different listening styles.

Want to know more about how Mandel can help you increase listening intelligence across your organization? Whether you’re looking for large-audience training or more focused workshops for smaller teams, we’d love to talk to you about how we can help you build and sustain a culture of listening that transforms relationships, improves team performance, makes employees feel valued, and gets your new hires contributing quickly.

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Dana Dupuis

Dana Dupuis

As Executive Director, Research & Development, Listening Science, Dana is responsible for leading Mandel’s Listening Science Practice. Dana brings a wealth of expertise in leadership development and communication to Mandel. A pioneer and expert in Listening Intelligence, she has spent her career exploring corporate communication and interpersonal collaboration to understand their effects on organizational well-being. Dana is a renowned speaker, presenter, and consultant. As a key member of Mandel’s executive team, she provides ongoing research into how listening serves management and leadership development. Dana is a member of The International Listening Association, where she speaks annually.
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