From my own experience and observation, the best way to connect staff is to provide them with an internal Facebook type platform and mostly leave them alone to talk. There are two caveats:
- Leadership should get involved now and then to share key messages and to respond to issues of significant concern.
- You can’t penalize people for expressing strong negative opinions.
We could debate whether the internal conversation platform needs to have a project management component. I personally think the two should be firewalled from one another to promote the idea of a safe space for watercooler discussion.
The higher level strategy behind letting people have “complaint sessions” within the firewall, safely, is that you’re actually hearing what they perceive rather than issuing missives from an echo chamber on high. If you take the time to create a true environment of trust, my guess is that people will also take the time to listen to leadership messages that clarify misperceptions. They will also be less likely to seek solace by giving anonymous interviews to the media.
It should also be considered that a “true environment of trust” requires skillful partnering and buy-in among all leaders and managers as well as the subject matter experts connected to human capital. All of these parties not only need to understand “how people are thinking and feeling about work” but also need to participate in framing a rules-based environment for discussion so that it does not degenerate into a free-for-all.
The software itself will likely be a difficult learning curve for some and attention will need to be paid to ambassadors whose entire role for the better part of a year is to train people in its adoption.
Give them the tools, give them the rules, get out of the way, but be ready to step in when there’s a problem.
By Dannielle (Dossy) Blumenthal, Ph.D. All opinions are the author’s own. This blog is hereby released into the public domain.
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