A recent survey shows that twenty percent of employees are ashamed of the industry or company they work in – and thirty-five percent of those feel ashamed because of the way their company treats its employees.
I wonder how many organisations know how their employees really feel.
Does your organisation know how you feel about it?
In my work I frequently hear leaders say they have an open door policy, that they’re eager to know about any problems, and welcome feedback from their employees.
They are usually truly shocked, almost offended, when I say that this policy is pretty worthless in isolation, if they want their employees to tell them the truth.
“But I have such a great relationship with all my staff,” they say.
“I’m really clear about letting people know that I genuinely welcome their input.”
“It’s not a hierarchical company; everyone says what they think.”
Thing is, no matter how ‘open door’ an employer’s policy is, or how likeable and genuine a leader is, there is one simple fact that can’t be avoided:
The employer is in a position of power.
Your employees will smile at you no matter what
because you hold their livelihood in your hand.
An employee has no incentive to walk in through that ‘open door’? There’s no guaranteed reward for giving feedback or pointing out deficiencies – rather there’s real danger that doing so could stick them directly into the line of fire.
Why would they risk it?
So if you’re a leader…
…How do you find out the truth?
1. Recognise The Barrier
When a leader wants to uncover what employees really think, they first have to recognise what’s blocking this information – such as a mismatch between the system (the ‘open door’ policy) and the reality (the imbalance of power). Once they’ve located the barrier and can see the impact it has, they can ask different questions…
If you’re an employee
what system will enable you to speak the truth?
2. Commit To The Change
Feedback from employees is the best way to get improved performance, but listening to feedback comes at a price for leaders, which includes relinquishing some control. So a leader needs to do a values self-audit, to be certain that getting employee feedback isn’t just a ‘should-do’ thing, but is something they really want to promote.
3. Establish A Confidential System
Once a leader is ready to go ahead, they need to establish a system that breaks through the barrier, and enables employees to express themselves. There are various options – for example, the BBM Diagnostic is undertaken online, company-wide, and guarantees complete anonymity in the way results are presented.
An assurance of confidentiality means that employees are comfortable about speaking up; they appreciate that their views are being sought via a system that respects their situation.
As a result, the leader gets quantitative and qualitative data, obtained in a way that encourages an honest response, which provide a clear picture of their employees’ perspective.
Accurate metrics are important here
as elsewhere in business
4. Share And Act On Results
And finally, leaders need to share the results of the feedback with everyone, and to act on it, where possible.
This breeds confidence in the process, and trust that the only repercussions from giving feedback are going to be positive ones.
When employees know they can speak freely, they will.
No leader wants to have employees who are ashamed of them.
But leaders need to move beyond the ‘open door’ if they want to find out what their employees really feel about them.
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