What Did You Do With My Feedback?


Asking for feedback is easy – acknowledging, accepting and making concrete steps to act and communicate changes within the organization is tougher.

As organizations try to stay ahead of the employee engagement conundrum and gauge perspectives  real-time, taking periodic feedback is a reality. This also has downsides – if you are taking feedback you also need to explain what you are doing with it and employees have a right to know.  If you take feedback very often, you may encounter fatigue. If you aren’t asking often enough you can be perceived as disinterested about your employees’ well-being. Furthermore, research studies also indicate that not all feedback interventions work and it is important to get to the core of the issue to make a real difference.

Employees are less concerned when feedback is sought and nothing can be done with it but when feedback is taken and no one gets back to communicate what is possible and what isn’t; and with a valid reason for that matter.

20151021_064129

Here are a few approaches that professionals dealing with employee engagement can bear in mind while manning their listening post.

  1. Acknowledge: The first and foremost expectation from employees is to know that their feedback reached its destination and there is someone looking into it. A simple and speedy acknowledgement is reassuring for employees no matter how small or big the feedback shared.
  2. Clarify: Not always will the feedback you receive be clear and explain the background or the expectation. Probe further to gain an understanding of the context and motivation for the feedback.
  3. Explain: Be transparent about the process and what will be done with the feedback and by when. Also share the rationale if you are not planning to do anything with the feedback.   Remember that not all feedback will be positive and differentiating a complaint from a constructive comment is helpful.
  4. Involve: Invite employees to connect and be hands-on in making their feedback work. It is an expectation from employees to be a part of solving what matters to their lives and to take decisions in such cases. Employee engagement increases as more power is shared.
  5. Act: Show tangible evidence of feedback getting acted upon and highlight what it took to incorporate feedback into the system and what the changes mean to employees.
  6. Communicate: Nothing can be more powerful that regularly updating employees about the progress you are making with the feedback shared. Also to share that leaders are listening intently to their needs.

While not every feedback taken and acted upon will solve engagement; however not accepting and appreciating your employees’ valuable time and interest can be detrimental in the long run.

What do you think? What can enable better transparency and engagement when dealing with feedback? Interested in your views.

How About An Un-Offsite?


Often the words ‘offsite’, ‘away-day’ and ‘team building exercise’ bring imagery of leaders sunning their toes in exotic locales on company funded jamborees and discussing strategic decisions that impact employees.  Offsites cost organizations millions and there are recommendations on how to improve the effectiveness of these meets.

However well coined the term – employees watch and wait for outcomes that relate to their lives right after such events.  Word also spreads about the costs incurred by the organization. Even income tax authorities view such initiativeswith distrust and challenge the benefits claimed.  Dpending on how well the business is doing, dissenting voices grow in number. Especially for key employee engagement indicators like trust, involvement and fairness, such company funded interactions may do more harm than good.

?

?

Long after the ink has dried from the marker pens and the flipcharts are converted into elegant presentations or gathered dust in a remote corner of the organization employees wonder how leaders taking time away from work to discuss ‘work’ furthered their best interests.  Without doubt there are immense benefits of aligning leaders (if they aren’t already) and thinking ahead for the business without the distractions of e-mail, phone and everyday challenges. Some organizations do take the onus to update employees by sharing progress against objectives set at the offsite and what that means for everyone.

Here are a few ideas on how to turn the perception surrounding an offsite into opportunities for employee engagement.

  1. Give employees a voice on the corporate agenda: To avoid what scholars refer to ‘organizational silence’ it helps sense to allow employees an opportunity to reflect on topics that shape their lives. Organizational silence is a collective phenomenon that can occur within an organization if employees feel that their views are not counted or sought and therefore avoid sharing their opinions and concerns about organizational problems. This leads to a poor understanding about how employees feel and thereby even poorer decisions made by leaders. Putting the agenda for review in front of everyone can tell a lot about the honesty and direct behavior that most employees expect within firms.
  2. View leaders ‘live’ at an offsite: Apart from confidential financial discussions which can derail strategy or expose plans to competition, what if employees got to watch leaders as they went about taking key decisions or discussing relevant projects on a webcast from an offsite. Would the meeting stick to schedule? Was there a chance that decisions made would get more pragmatic? Do you think there would be quicker outcomes? You can imagine what it can do for leadership accountability and employee trust.
  3. Publish the leaders’ goals and meeting minutes online: What if leaders demonstrated ‘leadership’ in putting out their objectives for everyone to view? If the minutes that include next steps and ownership are placed on the intranet you can be sure that employees will value the transparency and believe in leaders even more than ever. More so if they see action taken swiftly – be it tough or popular decisions that might improve respect for their leaders.
  4. Involve employees in action planning at the start: Form teams much before the offsite from among interested employees. Give them ownership to identify themes and support their effort on plans.
  5. The ‘deliver and attend’ offsite model: Have a model that clearly calls out why and how employees who have performed get to go for the next offsite.  It will hopefully send out a message on your culture and you can also get to differentiate between the performers and the underachievers.

Overall, the actions and communication before and after an offsite differentiates a great organization from an ‘also ran’.

What do you think?

10 Ways To Enlist Your Leaders And Employees For Corporate Social Responsibility


At most interactions with CSR and communication professionals I often hear this remark – ‘we do so much yet our leaders and employees don’t seem to care about Corporate Social Responsibility. How do we get them involved and excited?’

To begin, accept that CSR won’t appeal to everyone in your organization and that every employee has their own understanding of what denotes social commitment. Even if organizations claim to have CSR in their DNA and publish reports that allude to this fact getting employees and leaders to volunteer their time need different and unique approaches. Understanding employees’ motivations, aspirations and triggers can increase the chances of getting alignment and participation.

If you are expecting to make CSR a part of your employees’ lives you may want to consider the following tips.

  1. Reduce the barriers to participation: Make your programs simple, easy and accessible to sign-up. Appreciate that not all causes that your organization supports may be of interest to everyone. Give your employees the opportunity to engage in ways that are relevant and meaningful to their lives. For example, one company invited employees to do CSR from their respective desks since their work didn’t allow them flexibility to move away and participate in events outside the office. They were requested to pitch in with creating material for events or work up designs for CSR communication – which they loved immensely. Bust myths that CSR is serious and for those who can find time. CSR can be fun, enriching and for every individual who wants to make a difference in this world.
  2. Appeal to their inner calling: Every employee has a purpose which needs fulfilment. It isn’t often working that keep employees engaged. Academic studies have proven that employees committed to volunteering are more willing to go the extra mile for their respective organizations. Also if they see their organization involved actively and genuinely in CSR work they feel proud to continue contributing. Try creating an ‘individual social responsibility’ initiative that invites projects which the organization can back. This will hopefully appeal more and allow them to give back in ways that are enriching.

20150802_164926

  1. Make CSR a part of the ‘everyday’: If your organization’s core values don’t have ‘giving’ as a theme you can still find ways to link everyday engagement with customers and other stakeholders to CSR. Ask managers and leaders to slot time in their daily or weekly or monthly briefings to talk of the importance of ‘giving’ and how it adds value to the people your employees engage with. Be it supporting a charity in a region where the customer is or using technology to improve the community impact.  Understand where your employees currently spend their time outside of work on CSR and leverage their skills and talent in areas that are mutually beneficial.
  2. Focus on behavioral levers: Often what gets watched – gets done. Or, when there is peer pressure you see more interest to participate. Or when there is competition the engagement picks up. If you see a visual that depicts a human challenge you want to solve, there is greater energy to tackle it. Or for that matter, if you tell a story of an employee who made a real difference, others get inspired. These aren’t just tactics – these are derived from research studies and how we behave and what intrinsically drives us as humans. Make changes to your communication and programs to bring in elements that trigger action and lasting change.
  3. Leverage your company culture: Many argue that the culture in organizations can influence how CSR is done. If the leadership backs the causes you see more passion from the rest of the organization. Often, you may be in an organization that may not have a robust social responsibility culture or a ‘giving’ mindset. In such situations you need to adapt and adopt other practices to rally employees.  Starting ground-up is the best approach since grass-root impact has immense power to attract the masses. Pick one or two key initiatives and showcase it a case of how your organization is making a difference. Then work through your CSR champions and leaders to influence others. If you need to bring CSR back on the agenda as a value you need to table it at an appropriate forum.
  4. Show the ‘Big Picture’: One of the biggest reasons why employees and leaders avoid engaging is because they seem unaware of the CSR agenda or are overwhelmed by the numerous activities that take place. It helps to paint the broad picture of what and how will take the organization’s CSR effort forward. The ‘big picture’ can be a large goal which inspires and rallies everyone. For example, adopting a village and making it self-reliant in a year in terms of sustainability measures.
  5. Brand your initiatives: Add zing to your CSR communication by branding the events and initiatives. The brand must be visible at every possible touch point – be it at onboarding or while your employees become the alumni. Highlight the best work your organization does in CSR and leverage your internal and external digital media outlets to share progress and milestones with stakeholders. In this age of selfies and millennials it helps to know what they are seeking and map your programming around their actions. Tap into their motivation to promote CSR. For example, enable ease of publishing videos and photographs they take and craft a contest that draws their attention.
  6. Demonstrate transparency in decision making: Sharing how CSR decisions are made is crucial to enlist support. Be it on funds raised or allocated as well as for causes the organization supports employees have a right to know the thinking and rationale that goes behind the scene. When communication on this theme is limited or vague employees begin to distrust the process and system. Publish your charter, agenda, committee and principles so that employees know your organization’s approach to CSR and trust the team to do the right thing.
  7. Make employees a part of the solution: CSR attempts to solve larger issues that the world faces.  Break it down for employees to know what the organization can do to contribute to those issues. Invite employees to pick areas they can influence and provide solutions. Allow them to think creatively and own the challenge. Enable their work with resources and direction. Remove obstacles in their path and keep their managers informed of how the employees are adding value.
  8. Recognize your champions: Employees aren’t expecting rewards for CSR work. They expect appreciation and real-time. They are keen to see tangible impact on the communities that they support. Think of creative ways to recognize and improve their CSR understanding. For example, expose them to CSR best practices at conferences which you can fund or enroll them for online courses on CSR that broadens their perspective.

Getting employees and leaders aligned is important for the success of the organization. How and what you do can make a difference between action and apathy. Try these steps and let me know how it goes.

Happy to hear your views and success stories.

I Have Done My Bit. Why Isn’t It Enough?


Vanessa is very disappointed.  Her manager had just completed a meeting where she was told that despite her best effort in getting a campaign over the line, her inability to transcend the role and partner effectively was creating friction in the team.

Her communication team was tasked with launching a CEO Forum across its 6 offices in the country.  Pintop United, her company is a leading medical equipment manufacturer and the communication team is considered key to the success of their employee engagement initiatives.  Over the last two months Vanessa and the team planned the events to ensure the CEO’s interactions with employees went smoothly. Vanessa was particularly in charge of organizing the events while her counterparts were on point for crafting messages and communicating the forum’s benefits to employees. They also rallied employees to ensure the participation rates were high.

Vanessa believes she has exceeded expectations on her specific part of the campaign and therefore deserves a fair share of credit. Unfortunately, her team members felt that she wasn’t involved as much as they would have loved her to be and never really demonstrated ownership of her piece. Here is a discussion between Vanessa and her manager. I invite you to reflect on this conversation and share your perspectives.

Vanessa: “Dileep, I called for this meeting to share my point of view on the feedback you received from the team.”

Dileep: “Sure Vanessa, go ahead.”

Vanessa: “I am deeply hurt that others in the team felt I wasn’t contributing to the event. You know how hard I worked on what was on my plate. It took me so many hours of planning and thinking to get the concept and campaign in shape. How can they say I wasn’t partnering?”

20150919_114442

Dileep: “Vanessa, appreciate you sharing your views. You are right; the team has indicated that you weren’t in effect working as a team. Yes, you did your part. It was delivered well and finally we did end up with good outcomes. The stakeholder was pleased. However, that isn’t good enough. It also matters ‘how’ we delivered the outcomes and as a manager it is also my ownership to ensure you all work cohesively.”

Vanessa: “You called out everyone’s responsibilities and that clarity helped. Everyone had a role to play and I did what I was supposed to. Why should it be a problem?”

Dileep: “Yes, agreed. But, just doing what you are supposed to is a given and an expectation. By adding value to everyone else and contributing to the overall success of the team is what makes the role more gratifying is how I see it.  We are not debating if what you are saying or what the team said is right or wrong. There can’t be a right or wrong answers.  However, why is it that there is a perception which exists about your ability to contribute collaboratively?”

Vanessa: “I don’t know. If the perception stays what can I do? It is for the individual to think about. I am not bothered. Why must I be doing so?”

Dileep: “Why don’t you tell me then – if you were leading this team, what would you think of such a behavior? What will you take-away as an inference?”

Vanessa: “Hmm. Unsure. I can’t figure out.”

Dileep: “Why don’t you think about this and let us meet again in sometime to overcome this concern”

Vanessa nods her head and leaves the room.

What are the issues on hand and how will you help Dileep and Vanessa address them? Please share your views here.