Human Resources mentor Rudy Karsan responds:
Over the years, I have learned that fostering communication is one of the most important parts of providing leadership to a growing company. I use three methods:

  1. Direct, one-on-one communication. Look for opportunities to develop strong, one-on-one relationships throughout the organization. One approach that has worked well for me is to go up to employees and ask them two questions: "What is the best thing about Raymond Karsan Associates?" and "What is the one thing that you would change about Raymond Karsan Associates?" These questions usually generate a lively discussion. If the conversation is going well, I ask for more detailed feedback about the little things that are causing stress for that individual. I have found that this approach works if done consistently over a period of time. An added benefit is that I develop strong relationships with individuals with whom I would not normally come into contact.
  2. Group forums. These create an environment where true dialogue can take place between the leader and the rest of the company. In larger companies, the key is to find ways to limit the size of the group at the forum. A forum can also be used to announce changes within the organization. One practice I've adopted is to have quarterly meetings in all of our locations, built around a theme. Before the meeting, we ask participants to send in questions that can be addressed during the meeting. Those questions alone are an important means for me to become aware of concerns throughout the company. While the theme of the meeting can be anything at all, the feedback received through the questions creates its own dialogue regarding issues that the organization is facing -- and the steps being taken to address those issues.
  3. Anonymous, companywide feedback. Raymond Karsan Associates uses a companywide employee engagement questionnaire, administered anonymously. The questionnaire is fairly thorough, with more than 60 questions that cover topics ranging from personal engagement and satisfaction to the employees' perception of their supervisors and the leadership of the company. (If there aren't enough direct reports to ensure confidentiality, then certain supervisors do not receive their own data.) Administering the questionnaire twice a year allows the organization to keep a finger on its pulse and to create dialogue throughout the organization, based on the findings.