Is employee silence killing your business?

By Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock

Speaking up and sharing thoughts, ideas, and concerns is not always comfortable, but if your staff are silent, you are losing valuable insight and feedback on what isn’t working. You are also not accessing the knowledge, information and ideas they have that can enhance creativity and productivity in the business.

If you’d like to exponentialize generative communication, collaboration and innovation in your organization, here are some key ways to engage your people more effectively and get the most out of what they have to say.

Be curious, questioning and impartial

Managers and business owners don’t want to change if they perceive some things work well. However, this attitude can cause stagnation and stifle communication and collaboration across the organization.

Whether you’re addressing issues and sticking points, or building on strengths, you can apply the same principles to create mind-set in yourself and staff that facilitates innovation:

1. Be open-minded and curious. Avoid having expectation of results. Whatever information and ideas come your way, look at all of it without bias or significance. Any expectations or judgments you make of what should be said, discussed or given attention – positive or negative – can stifle authentic communication and creative thinking.

2. Ask questions of yourself and staff that keep you focused on creative ideas and choices, not just problem-solving. For example: What ideas do we have to change this? What are the possibilities and opportunities that we haven’t considered? Who else and what else could we add to this conversation/product/service/project that would be a contribution?

As the boss, you don’t have to have all the answers. By leading with an attitude of open-minded questioning, creative and non-judgmental communication, you will set the standard for the organization’s work-culture, and any other systems you implement to facilitate the voices of your employees will be much more effective.

Have a system for confidential and anonymous feedback and ideas

Create ways for staff to share anonymous information with you. One simple way of doing this is to have an “idea box” for your employees. Sometimes the old-fashioned methods are the best. Many companies hire consultants to help boost staff engagement and communication, and the reason this works so well is because the consultant offers several things the company often is not: confidentially, impartiality and the ability to contribute anonymously without consideration of how the information, feedback, or ideas will be received.

Encourage multilevel and cross-departmental collaboration and idea-sharing

Give employees a voice in different mediums to facilitate communication and idea-sharing, while allowing them to become more aware of and engaged with the overall organization.

Some simple ways to do this include:

  • Once a quarter, bring in people from different parts of the organization who normally don’t work together, to learn more of each other’s departments and come up with creative ideas for each other. An “outsider” point of view can offer new perspectives that people inside the same department may not even be thinking about exactly because they don’t have that outside view.
  • Create transparency and information sharing between levels of the organization: have managers do one-on-one meetings with staff where the employee gets to share what they know. Arrange “skip-level” meetings where the manager’s boss meets the employees, ask questions of each other and facilitate sharing of information and insight.These practices aid in eliminating the barriers between departments and levels, allowing employees to receive and contributes to a ‘whole pie’ view of the organization, rather than one isolated section.

    Increase peer recognition

  • Peer-driven recognition from colleagues (rather than from management alone) is another way for employees to have their voice heard and their insights valued. Create opportunities for peers to nominate each other for recognition, whether that is for standing out and doing something different, getting the voice of the business out in new areas, or for facilitating team productivity or innovation.

    Encourage creativity alongside complaints

  • Everyone should be able to voice their concerns or identify issues that need addressing but how do you make sure it doesn’t turn into a complaints party? Encouraging open conversation is equally important as facilitating that conversation to be creative and productive.
  • Implement a creative policy to go along with complaints: Ask employees to come up with 1–3 ideas or ways to turn that problem into a possibility or opportunity. Keep the conversation coming back to the core theme of, “What can we change, add or implement that would create greater for everyone involved?”

As an entrepreneur, your greatest gift is the ability to continually think outside the box. With these key elements and tools, you can invite employees to come out of limited boxes of thinking and acting, and empower their voices to contribute to each other, and the business.

Laleh Alemzadeh-Hancock is a life and communication coach, management and professional services consultant, and facilitator of several Access Consciousness® special programs including Right Voice for You and Being You. Laleh has inspired and empowered hundreds of thousands of individuals and families including Fortune 500 executives, government agencies, non-profit organizations, athletes and veterans. A lifelong entrepreneur and passionate change-agent, Laleh strives to seek out possibility in every problem and aims to facilitate strategic change and optimal growth for all her clients. Through her organization, Global Wellness for AllLaleh inspires individuals to create wellness in all areas of their life and seek greater success. Follow Laleh on Instagram and Facebook.

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