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3 Simple Steps To Keep Your Employees Talking To You Instead Of The Press

Posted by | September 20, 2017 | Communication, Workplace

Via Forbes : 3 Simple Steps To Keep Your Employees Talking To You Instead Of The Press

We live in an era when sweeping workplace problems under the rug is no longer an option for corporations—and thankfully so. Still, there are always going to be conflicts in the workplace, well-meaning policies that lead to unintended consequences, and employees and managers who cross the line despite clearly outlined regulations. So how do you stay on top of what’s happening in your workplace if you’re a CEO, senior leader, mid-level manager, or HR team member? How do you address internal conflicts and ensure that you’re promoting an inclusive culture?

Whether you’re leading a team, a department, or an entire company, your role as a change agent has never been more important. And your ability to hold your organization to its stated values and policies or to establish new ones when the time calls for it has never been more necessary.

We’ve all seen the headlines—“BetterWorks CEO Hit With Sexual Harassment Suit,” “Susan Fowler Alleges Sexual Discrimination Against Uber,” “Amazon’s Work Culture Really Is Terrible.” Employees who experience issues in the workplace that go unresolved, even after they alert management, can blog or go to media directly as a last resort. Allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct continue to come out about companies like Binary Capital and 500 Startups, meanwhile Uber is looking for a few new board members and had to recently hire a new CEO.

Too many companies today still respond to the whistleblower phenomenon by fearing their employees, introducing NDAs, or worse—policies that aren’t worth the paper they are printed on. Corporations need to respond to their employees’ concerns and needs, not try to control them from speaking out about problems. If there are problems brewing inside your organization where employees are feeling excluded by the company culture or that their concerns are going unheeded, you want to be the first to know about it. Not the last when it appears in the media for the whole world to see.

As an advisor and educator who specializes in helping Fortune 1000 executives become “corporate change agents” within their organizations, especially in relation to gender equality and diversity initiatives, I often see the blind spots and land mines from my outside-in perspective and help them to build effective channels for capturing and responding to employee feedback so that they can tackle issues swiftly long before they get to the point of a national media frenzy.

Here are the top three things companies can do to address employee feedback head on and avoid a whistleblower moment:

1. Don’t talk the talk, walk the talk.

Some of the most beloved companies have been exposed when their internal practices don’t match their external PR. The disconnect between appearances and reality reads as hypocrisy and lack of concern for employees, and this does more to fuel their discontent and make them ripe for reporters covering your industry.

Susan Fowler, an engineer at Uber, and her unaddressed reports of sexual harassment to HR, which echoed the complaints and experience of other women, ultimately led to the the CEO’s departure and the firing of 20 executives. More than 100 Amazon employees detailed the relentless and punishing work culture to The New York Times. Former Googler Erica Baker went public with a salary spreadsheet to help co-workers negotiate for more equitable compensation.

On first glance, the proliferation of blogs and publishing sites like Medium that make it easy for anyone to shout from their own soapbox might seem like a liability for corporations. But trying to quash this trend by establishing draconian PR policies or managing away leaks through damage control after the fact is not the answer. Instead, companies need to view employee feedback as an opportunity for senior management to empower employees to become courageous intrapreneurs—people within the organization who can not only speak up about an issue, but who can also contribute to the solution that improves it.

2. The three Cs: clarity, consistency, and C-suite commitment.

Organizations need to define and publish their core values and commitment to inclusive workplaces. What are your policies when it comes to gender equality and diversity, both inside and outside of the company? What kind of impact do you want your work to make on the world? For your employees? This also means getting rid of the old model where diversity initiatives are centered in HR. Progressive policies must be driven by a deep commitment from C-Suite executives. Diversity is now an imperative for any business that wants to remain competitive in the marketplace for customers and for talent.

3. 360 Employee Engagement.

Organizations must publicize their commitment to diversity and their process for engaging and soliciting employee feedback internally. Develop channels for employees to report problems or suggest improvements to company policy. Give workers the tools to problem-solve and make the workplace better for everyone. Designate leaders in each department across the company who will hold new mandates and policies accountable. Strive to engage with employees at all levels, from senior executives and middle management, to entry-level and contract workers.

Gender equality and diversity is not just a PR problem, but a business imperative. Research shows that companies with a more diverse workforce outperform others that are not. According to an MIT study, shifting an office from all-male or all-female to one that is split equally by gender can increase revenue by 41 percent. Stocks with higher gender diversity experience less volatility and deliver better risk-adjusted stock returns according to Morgan Stanley. Being exposed to diversity makes people more creative and hard-working, and companies with a reputation for having a good work culture attract and keep top talent more easily.

The landscape has changed for corporations. Whistleblowing is not a trend that executives can wait out, and organizations don’t have the luxury of thinking they are immune to a PR crisis. Instead, view employee feedback as an opportunity to empower your workforce and improve company culture.

The new workplace reality is one where corporations must reflect the population they employ, serve, and market to. Your employees are the soldiers on the ground; they know the ins and outs of your organization like the back of their own hands. Think of all the potential innovations and improvements you’re missing out on when you don’t have an effective way to capture and implement their feedback. Is that something you want to pass up?

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