Tuesday March 17, 2015
I’ll be honest here. I don’t like incognito methods of providing criticism. Hidden behind the veil of anonymity, many people will say things that they do not have the guts to say face-to-face. And they’ll often say them in ways they never would live. Sometimes those ways are contrary to basic standards of decency and respect.
Don’t get me wrong; there are times when it makes sense to use a survey or tool that allows anonymous responses. But those should be only a means to an end – the end being open and direct communication; an “open door.” The survey should never be the end, as if there was some inherent value in doing anonymous surveys for the sake of doing anonymous surveys.
If you sell employee surveys – which I do – it may be lucrative to promote them as a recurring event into perpetuity. But does it really benefit the employees or the employer in the long run? If the need for doing anonymous surveys isn’t ever resolved, what’s the point? I believe that you can get a lot of good feedback through a confidential process such as a survey. But ultimately, you can either develop a Survey-Dependent Culture, or you can develop an Open Door Culture.
A Survey-Dependent Culture reinforces anonymity. The culture doesn’t teach nor expect direct communication as the best way to resolve issues. Employers learn to rely on the survey to provide the best feedback, rather than engaging team members in collaborative culture, process, or business improvement. Problems may get resolved after trends are identified in surveys, but the organization needs surveys to point out the problems that need to be addressed. Everyone’s hearts are in the right place, but it doesn’t create an ideal culture.
An Open Door Culture reinforces the idea that the best way for employees to raise concerns is through open, direct, face-to-face communication with those in a position to be part of the solution. Though a survey may be used occasionally, there is no expectation that the survey will become part of the fabric of the organization. Instead, the culture of the organization is one of open, direct communication, short lists, inclusion, and engagement in real work issues.
Building an Open Door Culture isn’t a quick fix. But then, neither is improving a culture by identifying issues in a survey. Either takes work. One, however, changes the culture to where anonymity, passive aggressive behaviors, gossip, and other unproductive behaviors can be curtailed and effective relationships can be built. If you want to build such a culture, you need to:
- Lay a foundation. Your mission, vision, and strategies are the foundation. Define and discuss what you are here for and why. Engage your team in that rather than just engaging them in employee engagement. You’ll build an Open Door Culture and you’ll see your mission, vision, and strategies fulfilled.
- Lay ground rules. Your values are your ground rules. They can be the distinctives that mark your organization both externally and internally. Done right, they become the group norms for how your team will function. You’ll build an Open Door Culture and reduce all kinds of bad team dynamics that can make a workplace toxic and no fun.
- Listen. Sometimes it is useful to do a survey, but the survey isn’t the point. You can listen other ways also. A real Open Door Culture is not just one where employees are free to come talk to the boss in his or her office, it’s also one where the boss exits his or her office and initiates conversations with team members. Ask questions. Sit down over coffee with one or more team members. Create as much rapport as possible and portray interest in hearing issues. You’ll build an Open Door Culture where employees learn to be direct and to listen.
- Act. When issues come up, fix the low hanging fruit first, but act on it quickly. Next, communicate thoroughly on the issues that can’t be fixed. And then further engage employees on issues that take longer. Take action wherever it makes good business sense so that your team sees that being straightforward was valued and listened to. You’ll reinforce an Open Door Culture as the best way to build a great place to work.
- Communicate. Use every opportunity to reinforce that improvements made are a direct result of feedback provided from valuable team members. Give credit where credit is due. Appreciate suggestions, appreciate efforts, appreciate improvements. You’ll build an Open Door Culture where employees also listen to you because you’ve modeled that, and they know you to be sincere.
Open Door HR Solutions helps organizations create culture and an enviable employment brand. Every organization has a culture by intention or by default. Why not create a culture that you enjoy?!