You want to create a work environment that is united and focused on meeting challenges effectively. How do you get your staff to speak up and tell you what is really going on? What are all those whispered conversations about around the water cooler that suddenly dwindle when you appear?
So, what’s stopping you? Achieving a successful speaking up culture will reep many rewards. For example, happy and energised employees who aren’t afraid to speak up will be more engaged– not to mention a healthier business! Here are 7 of our best tips to help you get there.
1. Understand the source of silence
First things first, you need to understand why your employees are remaining silent. Often, silence means people are holding back – whether that’s clamming up in a meeting or only talking behind closed doors to other colleagues. The issue here is, it’s not up to them to tell you why they aren’t talking. You need to find out and understand it. Are they worried that if they speak up about a problem, they will be punished or lose a bonus? Or do they think there’s little point in putting their neck on the line. Perhaps other suggestions they’ve made in the past have been ignored or sidelined.
Understanding the source of the silence in your organisation, will help you start to implement change. Leading to openness, and a willingness to want to have those crucial conversations.
2. Make it safe to communicate
Encouraging people to communicate regularly, honestly and openly means earning their trust and demonstrating to them that is it safe open up. The best place to start is with yourself. Managers need to model the behaviour they want to see in their teams, communicating openly and being role models. Nine times out of ten, employees will follow their leaders. Employees who feel safe to talk about their mistakes, ask questions or raise concerns (no matter how trivial) openly and without judgement or punishment, are much more likely to do so.
Making your job easier to troubleshoot problems and leverage opportunities, not to mention the opportunity to implement changes to improve your business.
3. Create new ways to communicate
Introducing new ways of communicating within your business can also help foster a more open culture. If you feel that your employees are more comfortable raising sensitive issues anonymously, then invest in a platform that allows them to do it. If you think a lack of inter-departmental relationships is the problem, organise a social event with teambuilding tasks to encourage communication and co-working. You could even address it in small stages, creating ad-hoc employee teams, bringing smaller groups of people together to look for ways to cut costs, or develop new product offerings.
By providing multiple ways to communicate, each employee is more likely to find a method they feel safe and comfortable with.
4. Encourage and reward open and honest feedback
Honest and open conversation is essential if you want a successful company that can quickly respond to a fast-changing market while still retaining happy, healthy employees. So give your employees an incentive to speak up. Depending on the purpose, rewards can vary from a simple thank you or small gift, to giving them more responsibilities, promotions or even cash incentives.
All employees are different, which is why you should offer a variety, and tailor them to the individual employee.
5. Build team communication
Most businesses group employees together by department, and this can lead to clique type behaviour that stifles speaking up at every level. To avoid this, consider grouping your employees by project, instead of department. This helps to create a team mentality among employees and minimises the ‘us vs them’ mindset.
Teams change with each project, so you will foster an openness and communication culture across the entire company, instead of being limited to one group.
6. Criticise constructively, not destructively
Critique and criticism are an important part of employee development, company growth and success. But if it’s not done correctly, it can also be very damaging to an employee’s morale and their willingness to communicate. When managers are called on to give feedback, it’s vital to listen fully and be willing to learn from what they say. Approach criticism constructively – not as a tool for punishment, an outlet for frustration or to dismiss ideas.
You might not adopt every idea brought to you, and not every employee will be stellar, but if you listen and communicate effectively instead of judging, then you’re encouraging your employees to be open with you, not scaring them away!
7. Create an ownership culture
When it comes to speaking up, a lot of employees will think: ‘why bother? It’s not as though my opinion matters?’ In reality, every employees opinion is valuable to a business, since it is the only way they can learn and improve. To avoid this, you need to create an ‘ownership culture’ within your business. This means helping employees feel involved, as though they have a stake in the success of the business, and that speaking up, admitting to mistakes and addressing concerns are a collective responsibility. Ensure your management team are leading by example, owning up to mistakes and not punishing employees for speaking their mind, or for admitting fault. Instead, you want employees to feel that they can make and admit to mistakes without fear of repercussions, and that your motivation to improve the business is high.
At WorkInConfidence we are so passionate about encouraging workplaces to open up communications with employees and encouraging an open, honest environment where everyone can share their ideas, report negative behaviour and contribute to the business success without fear of reprisal.
We have lots of great resources and useful information freely available on our website, drop in and see for yourself how we can support you in achieving a better company culture.