5 Ways to Get Your Employees to Speak Up
If you want to create a work environment that is united and focused on meeting challenges effectively, you need your people to speak up. Making this happen requires open and active communication up, down and across your organization. If you're not used to communicating openly, then this approach might be a challenge to adopt. But by taking these actions, you will be well on your way to building a business filled with engaged and energized employees who aren't afraid to speak up--not to mention, a healthier bottom line.
1. Make it safe to communicate.
Encourage your people to communicate regularly, honestly and openly. The best place to start? With yourself. Model the behavior you want your people to follow, and guess what? They will. When employees know they can talk about their mistakes or ask any question, no matter how trivial, without judgment or punishment, then troubleshooting problems and leveraging opportunities will be faster, easier and far more effective.
2. Create new approaches to communication.
Introduce new ways to communicate throughout your organization. Sponsor an employee talent show or put on your own company Olympic games or charter ad-hoc employee teams that will look for ways to cut costs or develop new product offerings. This will help break old employee habits and organizational silos, while building new bridges.
3. Encourage and reward honest and open dialogue.
Honest and open communication is an essential ingredient in maintaining a successful company that can quickly respond to fast-changing market conditions and agile competitors. Give employees an incentive to speak up. Rewards can vary from a simple thank you to more authority and responsibility to promotions or cash rewards.
4. Criticize constructively, not destructively.
Although honest critique and criticism is an essential element of any successful company, make sure this is communicated constructively instead of destructively. Be open to what your employees are telling you--listen and learn from what they are saying. This does not mean that you will adopt or implement every idea your people bring to you, but by listening rather than judging, you will encourage your employees to be looking out for improvements that can be made.
5. Build team communication.
Instead of grouping employees together by department, try organizing them by project. This helps to create a team mentality among employees while minimizing the "us-versus-them" vibe that seems to be a natural part of many departments. When a new project begins, kick things off with a team-building exercise, providing employees with positive, personal interactions and opportunities to build relationships before the project even begins. By physically intermingling departments, you create an environment that encourages open communication while uniting your people in a common goal--the success of your company.
Are your people speaking up? If not, it's never too late to break down the walls that divide them. But remember: it begins with you. If you are open and honest, your people will follow your example.
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While Peter Economy has spent the better part of two decades of his life slugging it out mano a mano in the management trenches, he is also the best-selling author of Managing for Dummies, The Management Bible, Leading Through Uncertainty, and more than 75 other books, with total sales in excess of two million copies. He has also served as associate editor for Leader to Leader for more than 10 years, where he has worked on projects with the likes of Jim Collins, Frances Hesselbein, Marshall Goldsmith, and many other top management and leadership thinkers. Sign up here to always stay up to date with Peter's latest Inc.com columns, and visit him anytime at petereconomy.com.