gothamCulture’s team of organizational development and change management consultants aim to heighten the discussion of organizational culture, strategy and leadership with articles grounded in our own experience and expertise. Over the years, we’ve found that sometimes even the smallest nugget of insight can prove to be a hidden gem — providing fresh perspectives and new strategies for large-scale, productive transformation. We hope these articles serve as a resource for you in thinking about your own organization’s performance.
Guest article written by Kelly Andrews
We all talk, but do we really say much? Perhaps it’s that conversation by the water cooler, the whispering of the coworker across the cube, or better yet, the post on social media that tells more about your company than the values uttered every week during team meetings.
True open dialogue is a diamond in the rough within corporate America, and it’s not until recently that many organizations are starting to lend a listening ear to this simple, yet misunderstood principle. In fact, back in 2012, Salesforce conducted a study where they found that a whopping 86% of executives blamed workplace failures on a lack of collaboration and poor communication. What’s more, research by the Project Management Institute (PMI) showed that 1/3 of all project failures can be attributed to ineffective communication within the walls of your organization.
You get the picture. So what can be done about it and what are some best practices leaders in the industry are using to combat this ineffectiveness?
Make Time for Questions. If you were to visit the Googleplex campus in Mountain View, California, one of the first perks employees might highlight are the forums held every Friday. During these sessions, the 20 most frequently asked questions throughout the company are answered by leadership candidly and openly. At times they may even share new developments or proprietary information – yet leadership trusts employees and, because of this, employees trust them right back.
Gather a Wide Variety of Feedback. DaVita’s CEO, Kent Thiry, is a firm believer in gathering honest and holistic feedback. To get a wide sample, he actively solicits the opinions of customers, suppliers, employees, and even ex-employees for how to improve. Moreover, to continue this flow of open dialogue, he and top managers throughout the organization make sure to follow up with these responses – further establishing credibility in his purpose and values.
Capitalize on Social Media. Writer Roger D’ Aprix, an IABC Fellow, recently called social media the “communication crowbar” to creating dialogue within organizations. For example, some companies such as Cisco Systems now use platforms like Twitter and Instagram to give employees a voice that was perhaps less heard. Additionally, company leaders such as Jeff Weiner, CEO of LinkedIn, use the same applications to help disseminate thoughts and information in a more informal – and usually more relatable – way.
Be Honest and Transparent. Rochelle Dire, Chief People Officer at Quirky, explained the difference between the two in her role when stating, “Transparency is the surfacing of data and events; honesty is about your interpretation and desires. We are committed to being open about both.” Moreover, Jono Anzalone, an executive at American Red Cross, further clarified that in her job, “A good leader must balance an environment of ‘need to know’ versus ‘nice to know’ when dealing with client confidentiality that may impact lives.” In order to create the type of dialogue that sprouts transparency and openness, it must accompany the safety of honesty.
Encourage Dissent. Peter Drucker once said, “All the first-rate decision makers I’ve observed had a very simple rule: if you have quick consensus on an important matter, don’t make the decision.” To carry out this maxim, some companies such as Intel train employees in conflict management and create competencies centered around identifying and surfacing dissent. If you really want to measure how open of an organization you are, survey how frequently your employees are willing to speak up.
Don’t Be So Rigid. While some companies encourage accountability up to the 15-minute increment and unpaid lunches, others like to make sure that fun and collaboration are also included in the department budget. This can range from Zumba classes and softball teams at GEICO, to game nights and karaoke at CreditKarma. Sally Herships from Marketplace summed it up well when she said, “It can be hard to keep corporate hierarchies in place when you and your boss are singing to strangers.”
Open dialogue can be a tough pursuit for some, while others may ask why anything else could be tolerated. In a world of technology and endless information, dialogue is now easier than ever to start. Ultimately, talk is going to happen whether you like it or not – it is your choice as a leader to be a part of it.
Kelly Andrews is part of the Development and Delivery team at VitalSmarts – makers of New York Times Bestseller Crucial Conversations. With a keen interest to empower behavioral change, he researches and writes on topics related to communication, e-learning, organizational change, and human resource management.
In a world where the term “big data” is being thrown around like the next coming, many business leaders still struggle to understand how more information is going to help them make better decisions that drive their businesses forward.
But the real challenge goes well beyond merely accessing more data. The key is accessing data in the right way, at the right time, and in the right format to generate beneficial insights.
Internal improvement is a constant and often invisible process. There is no silver bullet and you can’t solve every problem overnight. It is a long slog and you have to balance short-term ‘putting out fires’ with long-term process improvement that will (hopefully) make life easier and set you up for future success.
A CEO’s departure is like a captain leaving his ship. A smooth, amicable transition lets the company weather the storm; anything less destroys the boat.
“With the CEO gone, who will steadfastly guide us through choppy waters?” employees wonder. Will the fresh CEO be an adept navigator, adjudicator, and leader? Those closest to the outgoing leader might even jump ship with her, meaning new crew will have to be hired, too.
With proper planning, even the snowiest of CEO storms won’t knock the craft off course.
Today, digital innovation influences every aspect of our workplace, and more recently, many tech startups are setting their sights on the advancement of human resources.
“Ask any industry veteran and they’ll tell you that human resources is notoriously slow,” says Vip Sandhir, CEO of one such company, Highground. “It’s almost synonymous with red tape, approvals, and the like. It’s quite the juxtaposition with the tech world, that moves at a near mach-5 speed.
“The relationship with HR and tech is important because they’re helping each other reach a middle-ground of proactivity and reactivity,” he continues. “HR tech start-ups are the ones pushing us all forward to help solve organizational challenges, better engage their employees, and improve business outcomes.”
Most organizations still regard Millennials as somehow different than their Gen X or Boomer co-workers, but do these assumed differences really hold any weight in the workplace? Or are these stereotypes merely a byproduct of a business environment that looks starkly different than it did 20 years ago?
A surprising study from IBM sheds some light on the truth: Millennials, Gen X, and Boomers all share very similar opinions of the workplace.
It’s no secret that infrastructure in the United States is in disrepair. One recent study found about 60,000 U.S. bridges are structurally deficient, and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. It seems like everywhere we look, things are falling down around us.
These issues will only become more pressing as populations grow. According to UNICEF, about 70 percent of the world’s population will be living in cities by 2050. That urban growth means our need for dependable, efficient infrastructure is also on the rise.
Whether you’re a human resources director, learning and development manager, or vice president of talent development, chances are you’re reading this article because you believe in making your organization a better place to work. But, there’s a common challenge that internal practitioners face.
For example, you just left a meeting with your C-Suite discussing their concern with employee engagement survey results. The C-Suite thinks they don’t have the right talent on board. You think it’s an opportunity to establish a learning culture and a robust professional development program. What do you do?
There is an average of 12 job-related fatalities every day in the U.S., according to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). 893 incidents are listed on their website so far in 2016 alone, each involving a serious injury or fatality to one or more employees.
If you spend every workday sitting in front of your computer with the occasional walk to the break room to top off your coffee, safety likely is not top of mind. Yet, for millions of workers across the globe, their jobs can put them in some extremely high-risk environments where valuing safety can mean the difference between life and death.
I saw the impact of unethical behavior firsthand when I grew up in Moscow during the late 80’s and early 90’s. As a result of the establishment of the Russian Federation, private businesses were created. And during the transition, economic inequality, increased corruption, scandals, and bribery became the new norm.
I moved to the U.S. in 2006 for my own freedom and an opportunity to have more than two pairs of jeans in my wardrobe, and I immediately recognized differences both in geography and culture.