Getting All Of Your Employees Can Be Worthwhile, Depending On Your Objective.
By Steve Schumacher
One of my consulting experiences involved a company that was experiencing a high rate of turnover within the employee ranks. This was becoming quite a concern for the company, as it cost a good deal of money and lost productivity when there was an open position. In addition, it was difficult to get new employees given the location of the operation.
One of the things that came out of my assessment of the situation was that employees did not feel like upper management communicated with them very well. They felt that they were kept in the dark and the only time senior management talked to them was when problems arose. Many of the employees that had left the company wanted a closer involvement with management and were not getting it, so they left.
I proposed that senior management start holding regular all-employee meetings to communicate better, listen to issues, and create more of a bond between management and employees.
One of the vice presidents took this assignment and ran with it. He understood the issue and wanted to make a difference. I helped him build the agenda in advance and set up the logistics for the meeting. Unfortunately, I was not able to be at the meeting and left the VP to facilitate on his own.
I called the vice president the day after the meeting was scheduled and asked him how it went. He told me that he cut the meeting short after 45 minutes because it had just become a complaint session and was out of control. He did not know what to do and said he would not be doing any more of them because he had better things to do than hear employees complain.
I went back to the operation, met with the VP, and encouraged him to try again. I told him it would be a bit more difficult this time because he set a precedent of not listening. He was willing to try and we moved forward and ended up with a success. Some of the things I told him are listed below.
Anticipate complaints and challenges. When employees get together, at any level, you must expect them to vent a bit. If they have never had the opportunity to do this, it is natural. People will complain about management and bosses, that is a given.
It will happen either in front of you or behind your back, but it will happen. It is much better to get those complaints out in the open so you know what you are dealing with.
Listen to whatever people have to say. When you pull groups of people together, they must see that you will truly listen to what they have to say. Most people are reasonable, and reasonable people do not expect you to have all the answers to their complaints.
They do expect, however, to see that you are willing to listen and that you care. Of course, getting answers to employee issues is important, but you must first show that you are truly concerned about those issues.
Share big picture information. Once people see that you truly care about their issues and are willing to take action to correct them, it is time to be transparent. That means that you share information about what the company is doing from a high level.
What is happening in the marketplace, company strategies, challenges and opportunities. Employees may not be directly involved in those things, but they want to know.
Walk around between meetings. The glue that makes all-employee meetings work is what you do between the meetings. If you just go back to your office and stay in hiding that sends a message. If you go out and get to know your people and their issues better, that sends a completely different message. That message is that you truly care about the employees.
Many leaders give up after an employee meeting becomes confrontational. Understand that employees need to vent a bit before they will truly listen to what you have to say. That venting is just a stage that you must work through.
Hang in there, keep the meetings going and communicate regularly in all-employee settings. You and your employees will feel better about the working relationship.