Are Your Leaders Ready to Listen?

One of the primary objectives for most new communities is to give employees a way to become more social, voice their opinions and allow your company to move away from one-way push communications towards two-way conversations.

You’ve chosen to build a new community for your employees, giving them the voice they’ve been requesting for eons. But are your leaders ready to listen to what they have to say?

It’s the right direction for you and for them. Congratulations, you know it and you’ve managed to persuade your enterprise that it’s the right way to go. Your leadership have agreed that they want to hear what their employees really think - in a very public transparent forum, but are they really ready for what is about to happen?

We often see senior leaders who are fearful of the potential for what may come. It is sometimes unfounded, but often not. They probably already have a pretty good sense of the feelings amongst employees but feedback in a public forum can be different. A strategy for dealing with what arises, both good and bad, needs to be agreed before you launch.

You’re going to need to measure the maturity of your organisation, and keep measuring it as your journey continues. It will change, and it will probably mature faster than it has previously with the addition of your new community. 

It’s worth remembering that you’re bringing tools into the workplace that employees are already comfortable with. They’ve been crying out for them, so you can expect it to take longer for the senior leaders to learn to deal with the new operating model than it will for the employees to learn to use them.

The main point to convey is that your new community will not (or at least is very unlikely to) generate ill feeling within the company.

It will highlight where that ill feeling already exists, and it will give you an insight into what it is, but you know what? It existed before the platform did.

Now, you get to see your employees talking about it when you couldn’t before. As an effective leader would you rather know what your employees are feeling and be able to react in a safe environment, or would you rather continue in blissful denial?

It does mean listening, acknowledging the issues that may arise and explaining the leadership position behind the subject.

Most companies operate with an annual attrition rate of around 12%. It is often the case that the best and brightest talent will leave quickest because their path is smoother. They are in demand and they want to work somewhere that they - and their co-workers - feel appreciated.

You now have the chance to prove that your enterprise is one of those places. One where it is encouraged to speak up and make the collective working environment a better place. But if you give them the chance to do that they will take it. And that means your leaders have to be ready to listen to the feedback and act upon it.

This doesn’t mean agreeing with every request, or ending up in a company with double pay and free lunches.

It does mean listening, acknowledging the issues that may arise and explaining the leadership position behind the subject. And hey, maybe some of the concerns are actually valid and easily fixed for employees, making them happy and motivated again. Wouldn’t that be awesome?!

As you embark on this open conversational model, keep the following points in mind.

Respond, respond, respond. People have taken the time to raise issues, questions or concerns to you.
  1. Stick rigidly to your usage policies and community guidelines. Constructive feedback is good but workplace concerns can be very emotional to employees. Manage the tone of the conversations carefully.

  2. Never remove or censor content unless it breaks those guidelines or rules you’ve put in place. Removal or censorship of content will destroy the trust in your community immediately. Your community needs to be seen as a place for employees, not a place for senior leaders to control employees.

  3. Remain authentic. Use extreme caution when responding on behalf of senior leaders. If a response from a senior leader is required, make them post it. Users need to trust that they are in a conversation with the person they think they are, not a ghost writer.

  4. Respond, respond, respond. People have taken the time to raise issues, questions or concerns to you. The fastest way to neuter your new community is to have people think it’s a waste of time because they never get heard when they speak. The response does not always have to be a resolution, but manage the expectation of the employee and let them know you are aware.

  5. Continually measure the state of the community to see if you’re making a difference. Your aim is to increase employee engagement, so keep measuring it to prove you’re making the difference. This is a big change and a big investment for senior leaders, so you’ll need to show them it’s making things better.

  6. There will be tough times and prickly conversations. Deal with them head on. It’s better that they are happening in your community instead of on GlassDoor.