The Voice of Employees

As an employer you want your employees to listen to what you are saying, don’t you? So why shouldn’t your employees receive the same in return?

Here at Clare Stables we are a small team in an open office. We all get along well and are happy to speak up and share our opinions on various matters and topics. It means if some “screamer” who thinks the world owes them a living is driving me quite mad, we can all have a laugh about it and my sanity is retrieved. One of my colleagues, Chris, said the other day, “The law works on the basis that most people are reasonable and rational. Having worked here for three months, I can see that there are far more completely unreasonable people than you might imagine”. And we seem to see all of them!

We have created an open working environment and it enhances good communication between all of us. It means that we are all aware of what is going on and we are all able to contribute ideas to resolve a situation. As well as keeping the team in the loop it also helps in their training and education.

However, this kind of working environment is relatively unusual. In many organisations there is a division between employer and employees, with the feeling that the two are working against each other in some ways. It appears to be that while employees are happy to group together and have a good old moan about things in the work place they are not happy with or think could be improved, they don’t speak up and raise these issues with management in a constructive way. At the same time employers may not be particularly interest in what they see as petty gripes. Like any relationship poor quality communication and a lack of thoughtfulness and tolerance of each other’s viewpoint causes it to break down. This usually has a negative impact on the quality of working life. And funnily enough, that will then sink your profits.

All of us need help with things from time to time. Trying to resolve a problem can sometimes be difficult on your own and asking for help can bring new ideas to the table. Write down the problem and the ideas that you have come up with so far and share this with your employees; whether that may be by email or by taking it to a team meeting. Write down all the ideas that are given, even if you don’t think they will work (excluding someone’s idea won’t encourage engagement). Use these ideas to help resolve your problem. Provide feedback, thank employees for their contribution and tell them how the problem was finally resolved.

Hold team meetings regularly even if it is just ten minutes every week. Recap on the last week and tell them what to expect for the coming week. Team meetings should be friendly and positive, if you have something negative that needs to be said, make sure you set it our objectively. By this I mean, address yourself to the facts and provide evidence. Don’t use language which attacks the person; for example rather than say “You’re so sloppy. You’re always late” say “Our start time is 8am. On the last three mornings you have arrived at 8.10am. What are we going to do about that? If you can, add something positive to balance out bad news.

Keep meetings focussed, short and relevant otherwise people will switch off and stop listening. One of my clients always had “standing up” meetings. No chairs, no coffee, no biscuits, but an agenda which he cracked through in record time. He said that they always got through their agenda and meetings never lasted more than half an hour. I bet they didn’t. So there you go…. Take the chairs out of your meeting room.

Make sure employees are involved in the conversation; ask them if they have any issues or questions and remind them that you are there if they would like to come and speak about anything.

Social media has given a new slant to communication. Even in the workplace we are now seeing message boards and blogs being used for interaction between all staff. Employers can use these tools to start discussions with employees and invite employees to do the same. However remember this is a work place too and should be used appropriately by all.

The more you involve your team in an appropriate fashion the more they will feel they can talk back. These kinds of conversations shouldn’t be overly formal but at the same time that doesn’t mean you should act like their best mate. Friendly, but not friends is the key. Allow them the opportunity to speak up and be listened to. You might be surprised by what you learn from your employees!

Russell HR Consulting provides expert knowledge in HR solutions, employment law training and HR tools and resources to businesses across the UK.

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