As the landscape of our workforce continues to change, it is more important than ever to provide an environment where employees are informed and have a voice to share their opinion. The percentage of millennials in the workforce is expected to supersede that of any other generation, and companies will continue to be challenged with the notion of creating more transparency in the workplace. My recommendation is to embrace it.
I have found that creating a culture of sharing leads to the best outcomes. Giving people the opportunity to have a voice creates a deeper level of employee engagement. However, this can be a slippery slope if poorly executed. For example, when managers don’t respond to employee feedback, that can lead to your people becoming disengaged at work.
In a Forbes article Glenn Llopis states:
We are all living during a time when people want and expect their leaders to be more human, less perfect and at times a bit vulnerable—regardless of hierarchy or rank.
I couldn’t agree more with Glenn. Unlike other generations, millennials put everything on the table, despite the fact that some HR folks may say, “TMI!” That being said, I don’t share the commonly-held belief that different generations value different characteristics in their leaders. I think that millennials are just more likely to express their thoughts, demand results, and seek outcomes that will shape our future world of work.
As you read on, you’ll find the three steps that are essential for creating a culture of sharing. Each new step intertwines and builds upon the other. As a system they can significantly improve employee engagement throughout your organization.
“The most important single ingredient in the formula of success is knowing how to get along with people.”
Having worked in the hospitality industry for 11 years, I learned early in my career the value of connecting with others, understanding their needs, and fulfilling those needs in order to create the best possible experience for guests. I think that this same learning can be applied to leadership.
The most successful leaders are those who are genuinely interested in connecting with their people. They truly find that creating a relationship with their employees is a key element in achieving desired business goals. At Clearlink, our mission statement is “I Will Create and Maintain Valuable Relationships.” This statement rings true for our clients, customers, and most importantly, our employees.
As a manager, if you have a great relationship with your employees, it allows you to build trust with the people you lead and achieve greater business results. This is a critical component of creating a sharing culture. When employees have trusted professional relationships with managers, they are more likely to work harder, care more, and play an active role in maintaining a healthy culture.
Easy and unlimited access to information has shaped the mindset of the modern workforce—setting expectations for sharing knowledge in real-time and company transparency. By being transparent, employees are more apt to respond to situations quickly, problem solve more effectively, and align with overall business goals.
Provide transparency all the way down to sharing the financials of the company. This has allowed us to engage our employees to rally behind our business goals. For example, five years ago we held a town hall meeting so our CEO could engage with the front-line folks who had the most visibility into what was happening in the trenches. He spent time with them, getting to know their desires, and figuring out what would make them feel valued. He learned that our employees felt that having their health care premiums covered was the most desirable company perk at the time.
As a result, we banded together to hit our company’s profitability goal by the end of the year so that we would introduce this new benefit. We spent the entire year talking about the goal, sharing how we were pacing, and holding each other accountable as we championed the effort. We hit our target, and that very next January we implemented what is now our 360 Fit Wellness Program that allows employees to have free health care.
To create a culture of sharing, it is important that you build employee relationships on a solid foundation of trust. If you are transparent, they will feel encouraged to provide insightful feedback. If you have already built relationships and created transparency, then encouraging feedback should be even easier. Without taking the prior two steps, receiving meaningful, actionable feedback is nearly impossible.
There are several vehicles that you can use to solicit employee feedback. I’ve found that a survey can be a good starting point. However, you not only have to be ready to collect the data, but you also need to be willing to follow up and take action. Over time, feedback can become disingenuous if there is no loop back. For example, after gathering information through survey results at Clearlink, we follow up with focus groups.
One benefit of having millennials in your workplace is that they often want to throw everything on the table. This has worked to our advantage as we’ve pulled together focus groups, shared survey results, and asked for feedback, which has resulted in great dialogue. Focus groups are a great way to engage your workforce because they make your employees’ opinions feel valued, and can be of great help in resolving business problems that arise.
Recently, we had an increase in our attrition within the first 90 days of employment. As a leadership group, we were puzzled. We felt that we had a good onboarding process, provided extensive training…etc… We decided to get feedback from those that go through our training to find out how it could improve.
We hosted a full-day hackathon with a blended group of new hires, longer-term employees, coaches, and trainers. We shared with them where we’d been and what had recently bubbled up, and we engaged them for the remainder of the day on how to address the issue. The hackathon resulted in a new hire training program that ultimately helped us rediscover our core values as a company, resulting in a 30% increase in our retention rate.
When engaging employees in the feedback process, it is critical that you are ready and willing to take action on their ideas. This doesn’t necessarily mean that every idea needs to become an action-item, but you need to be realistic. Ask yourself if you have created the foundation of trusted relationships, so you can be transparent about the “why” behind decisions and be willing to share that with employees. I encourage you to be open, let yourself be vulnerable as a leader and as an organization. Err on the side of full transparency, and really let your guard down. You’ll find that amazing things will happen.
With 17 years of experience in the industry, Cammie Cable oversees all aspects of CLEARLINK’s human resources department in Salt Lake City, Utah. She was recently recognized as one of Utah Business’ “30 Women to Watch,” and she is the driving force behind CLEARLINK’s acclaimed employee benefits package, which includes 100% premium healthcare coverage. Cammie frequently presents at workplace wellness conferences, and she also co-chairs the Utah Technology Council’s HR Peer 2 Peer program. When Cammie isn’t working, she’s seeking out new experiences through travel, food, and meeting new people.