The Employees speak
Planet Earth supports at least 7 billion humans.
By 2030, according to McKinsey & Company, there will be 3.5 billion workers. Of this figure, 38-40 million with tertiary education will be in higher demand due to a dwindling supply of such professionals.
Now your company employs a few thousands, yet you are convinced that their world revolves around you, your reputation and your operations. You have even expressed an inflated sentiment that it is either your way, or the highway.
We initially couldn't be bothered to set the record straight. However, with the new, rather green C-suite team in place, an education into the psyche of your experienced staff has become necessary.
We live in the digital age and as experienced workers, we have access to information that enables us make self-serving career decisions.
The plethora of communications devices and the prevalence of social media in this global village, means that we can easily share best practices across industries and regions.
Consequently, we have become more discerning about opportunities and have developed a keen sense of our worth. We are the driving force in our professional development and are finicky about our work/life balance.
Simply put: We now know what we need, what we expect from our employers and why we won't settle for less.
And your top-down, commando-style management won't cut it any more.
Nor will your semblance of nurturing a transparent atmosphere; nor will your lack of true commitment to a culture of communication at the workplace.
We won't accept the status quo any longer.
The entire executive cadre needs to change the way it thinks, how it makes decisions and how it deals with its human resources.
One point should be central in efforts to create a more conducive environment for the workforce:
Empower your employees.
Although it sounds simple, this is not simplistic. You could achieve this feat by:
1) Involving staff in your change initiatives
Don't just tell us and expect us, like robots, to execute your every command.
Involve us in the process from the beginning. Ask us questions. Conduct surveys. Use focus groups.
Be creative in the ways you craft and distribute content, to keep us interested in your plans. Avoid making sweeping changes without our input. Some of our trusted line managers, supervisors and divisional heads will have useful suggestions about your operations, so identify these gems and seek their advice as well.
Yes, we want to know the nuts and bolts of your programmes, so adopt an effective communications strategy, which addresses the six components below:
The 'When/How Long';
The 'Crisis-Mode Plan'.
Note also that consistency in the delivery of timely, factual feedback ensures steady performance. So learn to give feedback, even when the outcome is unfavourable.
Don't misunderstand us: We don't want the data overload, but having relevant information will enable us handle change initiatives affecting our work.
Moreover, being prepared will reduce our resistance to change. Since we'll be convinced you know what you're doing, we'll get on board and support the company's plans.
2) Prioritising effective communication
And we mean open, two-way communication using various formats.
Whatever meetings/forums, company videos, Q&A sessions, internal social networks, traditional newsletters, etc. are used, note that communication should be useful. The focus should be on creating a collaborative atmosphere whereby communication freely flows and insights are harnessed for prompt action.
Don't listen to those misguided executives who regard communication skills as 'soft' and not to be taken seriously.
In fact, you'd be surprised to note that the return on effective communication is well documented. Evergreen research from Towers Watson links a communicative culture to stronger financial performance. Companies considered highly effective communicators had 47% higher total returns to shareholders than those labelled the least effective communicators.
So there's even a business case for promoting effective communication at the workplace.
3) Valuing staff
This issue of value is the culmination of the previous points.
At the risk of sounding painfully repetitive, show us by your words and consistent actions that you truly care about us and we will trust you.
We realise that your top executives are busy people juggling multiple functions in high-responsibility roles, but get them involved. Make a few accessible to staff for operations-related concerns, especially during times of organisational changes. This move will also promote transparency and fairness at the workplace, making us feel valued.
And that changes everything.
Here's how it works:
By involving us in crucial decisions impacting our work and by fostering effective communication strengthened by feedback, we see how our work contributes to the company's goals. We feel 'listened' to; that we matter; and that our worth is recognised. Trust in the leadership then becomes certain. We become emotionally attached to your company and our engagement levels soars.
Don't take the employee engagement issue lightly. It significantly impacts the workplace when present.
If you need further convincing, then this infographic from The EmployeeApp explains what we already know:
Effective communication - highlighted by using the desired methods with increased frequency - was linked to employee engagement and job satisfaction.
Naturally, happy employees increase productivity.
Which company wouldn't want excellent performance from its engaged staff?
So in this global village, whereby a few talented professionals are aggressively targeted by your counterparts, the status quo, dear Management, needs to change.
Actively empower your employees whose skills you require to remain competitive.
Remember that you could achieve this by involving us in change programmes which directly affect our work; by encouraging effective two-way communication; and by valuing us.
Do these actions consistently and then be patient.
When we are happy and engaged, we will return the favour. We would go the extra mile and ensure that your company's business performance is amplified...much to the bewilderment of your rivals because you were once the underdog.
And you can take this assurance to the bank.
What other tips can you give to empower your employees? Let me know by posting your comments below.
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Management 101: Creating A 'Listening' Culture
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N.B: First image courtesy of Nirots; via freedigitalphotos.net. Second image courtesy of Iosphere; via freedigitalphotos.net. Third image courtesy of Jscreationzs; via freedigitalphotos.net. Fourth image courtesy of Ddpavumba; via freedigitalphotos.net. Last image courtesy of Jesadaphorn; via freedigitalphotos.net.