Give Employees A Voice. And Then Watch What Happens.

Post Author: Mic Johnson

One of the items that stuck with me throughout all of my classes in college was a lesson I learned in Organizational Communications (Coincidentally this was also the class where I met my wife Missy, so I guess two things stuck with me from that class.)

I remember the professor reviewing various business case studies and then she said something that hit me right in the heart. I’ve believed (and preached it) ever since:

“In organizations, people want a voice more than a vote.”

That lesson has remained with me throughout my career. Unfortunately, what I too often found, particularly in larger organizations I worked for, was that although I always had a voice and wanted to share ideas to make things better, there weren’t always people (particularly in leadership positions) willing to listen.

VoiceThis decades-long trend continues to be a problem and is a missed opportunity for organizations of all sizes to grow in ways they’ve never imagined. There are countless ideas, solutions, process improvements and more that employees have, but no one is taking the time to ask them or provide an engaging platform where they feel comfortable sharing.

I guarantee that the more you engage your employees, the more you give them the opportunity to speak into how your business is run, the more you get their ideas on how best to serve your customers, the better your company culture will become.

On top of that, your company will become a place where other talented people will want to work. This is critically important to organizations that want to be successful in the future, particularly with Gen X’ers who are ready to move into leadership positions, and with a growing Millennial workforce that are known for wanting to voice their ideas. The organizations that figure this equation out the quickest will be the winners over the long term.

So what can organizations do to create a culture where employees feel engaged and comfortable sharing their voice?

Here are just a few ideas:

1. Commit to Regularly Scheduled Meetings

If you aren’t already, schedule weekly, bi-weekly or monthly meetings with your team to give them an overview of what’s been going on in the company. Give them an opportunity to share their thoughts and ideas and champion the idea of being open, honest and transparent.

2. Encourage Employees to Write for the Company Blog

If you’ve got a company blog, encourage your employees to share their stories, both personal and professional, with your audience. We have several clients that are doing this. Most employees enjoy it as a creative outlet and a way to be engaged in something other than their normal day-to-day job. It gives them more of a sense of ownership in the overall success of the company.

3. Talk to Them…and Then Listen

Business owners, managers and others in leadership positions should get into the habit of walking around and talking to employees each week through informal discussions. Stop by their office or cube. Take them to an impromptu lunch. Ask questions. See how they’re doing. Ask what they need help with. Give them opportunities to work on special projects. Schedule monthly touch base meetings.

In Closing…

For too long in my career I was one of those employees that had a voice, but felt like my ideas, energy and passion were falling on deaf ears. To be honest, that was one of the primary reasons I kept moving in my career.

As I work with organizations and talk to prospects, it’s clear to me that what I have believed for a long time is still very much a problem:

There’s a culture crisis in many companies throughout Kansas City.

There are incredibly talented people working for organizations all throughout the city who desperately want to have a voice, but who are stuck in cultures that don’t give them that opportunity. We’ve all seen reports about how low employee engagement is. This has to change.

If you’re one of those companies and truly want to change your culture for the better, start by giving your employees a voice…and then watch what happens.

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