- Leandro Herrero - https://leandroherrero.com -

Debunking the Myths of Employee Engagement (2/7): Giving employees a voice. So, now we have a choir. And then what?

Model 1 of my 6  [1]is what I call, ‘Air time’. It translates into: ‘we recognise that employees’ views are not properly heard; employees need a voice’. And, I am not talking Unions here.

Model 1 usually comes as one of two solutions:

Solution one: we will go around the sites and affiliates and will carry out lots of Town Hall Meetings, Open Forum Executive Roadshows, All Hands meetings etc. (Sometimes, it’s funny to hear this because the planning of actions seems to be about giving more voice to management than to employees). But of course there will be a big Q&A at the end. Scenario A: following the 250 PowerPoint slides, management is seriously puzzled because there are hardily any questions. “They don’t ask anything!”. Scenario B: there are questions by two people who express incredibly negative views. These dominate all the Q&A airtime and people go back to their offices with negativity reinforced (‘be careful what you ask for, you might get it’. Tip: doing ‘Town Hall’ type of meetings and ending up reinforcing negative feelings is stupid, and worse than not doing Town Halls at all). Scenario C: Everything goes well, there is a reasonable dialogue, everybody feels good.

Solution two: we do an Employee Engagement/ Employee Satisfaction/Climate survey. Giving voice? Yes, sure, here is the questionnaire. As we all know, there is a whole industry here. Survey is done, Gantt charts are displayed, numbers find home in spread sheets, but there are these little red asterisks in the bars that say that your division is below average. Not good. Emergency Management Team meeting dictates that we need to tackle those little red asterisks. Particularly the ones that say that people do not feel heard. We must give more voice to people: go to Solution one. For the rest of the asterisks, we will create lots of mandatory workshops to find solutions, and each sub-management team will report back (mandatorily).

Ok, but what about this “Air Time” model:

Pros. Increasing employee voice and giving employees more air time is much better than (a) the absence of either or (b) a poor state of affairs in this area.

Cons. When implemented as a tick-box exercise, it’s a complete waste, a lost opportunity and, in some cases, an insult and source of further disengagement. Employee Surveys are often executed as an annual or bi-annual ritual, something to go through, and something that triggers ‘actions’ to show that we listen to employees, that ‘they’ have a voice. I have asked a few times: ‘Why do you do an employee survey?’ and more than once have been told: ‘Because the Board wants one’.

So what? When Model 1, ‘Air Time’, is used in isolation, it’s hardly a solution to anything. It does not mean that some people won’t like it or will be grateful. However, ‘Model 1’ in isolation, can have the opposite affect to that which is intended, and often, is a bit of corporate exhibitionism. Model 1, makes sense when it is not the only model in town, when it’s part of a wider and more mature engagement plan. Trouble is, many Employee Engagement programmes in organizations are full blown ‘Model 1 only’.

Next is ‘Model 2’, The ‘Happy Cows’ model (‘Happy Cows’ deliver better milk’). See you later.