We’re living through a unique time right now. What work means to us is changing, and the leaders paying attention to this are making changes accordingly. The future of work is here, and it’s already happening before our eyes.
We work with a lot of companies in transition, and we wanted to share with you some of the best moves to make sure your investors, employees, and customers stick around for the long run. Here’s a few tactics and techniques that we love.
1. Giving Employees a Voice
I’ll cut to the chase—savvy companies are listening to employees. This means engaging their employees, listening to their input, and integrating it into action. As an example, many of us are still in a return-to-the-office transition. After working on a remote or hybrid model for a year or more, companies are still making tweaks. What are the best means of communication? How do we come together intentionally? Do we have a cafeteria, and if so, what do we serve?
We’ve seen companies engage employees well in employee resource groups. In these groups, employers provide a forum for employees that is open-ended. One of our clients has a weekly coffee talk—it started as a small, organic event that became so successful that it’s now branded and managed by the communications department.
The concept is simple enough: By offering an open forum where leadership asked employees what was on their minds while also offering a space for folks around the office to share what they were working on, our client created an outlet for honest communication and collaboration. Since these weekly coffee talks began, people have been helping each other across business units and brainstorming ideas about how to work together better.
One of companies’ biggest worries about offering an open forum is that there might be griping. Let’s be real—whether this griping happens at the water cooler in hushed tones or at an open forum, it will happen. If you care about employee retention and the future of your business, you should want to know what’s on your employees’ minds. When you give your employees an outlet, you provide an opportunity to express and address it constructively. And when you allow your team to share concerns about the small things safely, they’re way more likely to raise the alarm about company-threatening issues.
People care more about something if they have a stake in how it grows and develops. By opening new avenues for feedback, you help your employees to be part of something larger than themselves.
2. Inviting Feedback from Customers
In-person client meetings are back, and it’s changing the dynamic. Especially when you’re dealing with sales, new relationships, and problem-solving, being in person changes the game.
Leaders are soliciting and tuning into the voice of the customer to add richness to their customer relationship strategy. The non-attribution interviews during voice of the customer surveys are invaluable whether you want to check the health of your customer relationship, inquire about your positioning among your peers, or simply understand what makes your client tick. Engaging in a voice of the customer analysis requires considering the information and insight your customers hold. This information can advance your market strategy and add nuance and understanding to face-to-face conversations—even when those conversations bring up uncomfortable feedback.
3. Having Hard Conversations
We love the companies doing this but wish we saw more of it. The benefits of having hard conversations can mean something as sweeping as revamping your value proposition or talking to investors about major business changes.
The consequences of not having hard conversations can be huge. One of our clients couldn’t give bonuses this year; employees found out in a piecemeal, roundabout, through-the-grapevine way, and it all blew up during an all-employee call. It was rough and highlighted how the hard conversations between leaders and among teams weren’t happening during the year.
Having hard conversations also means letting employees know when important changes in the company (like layoffs) are coming. The LinkedIn posts coming from former Google employees express a sense of deep betrayal. Layoffs, executive transitions, and other major changes are sometimes inevitable, but forums and clear communication help leaders communicate these issues with humanity and care.
A leader-employee relationship has an undeniable power dynamic, so it’s on the leader to initiate these conversations. Unfortunately, leaders and managers don’t always feel like they have the skills for these conversations. It’s hard to look someone in the eye who has worked overtime and canceled vacations and tell them that you can’t give them a bonus. These conversations are heartbreaking on all sides, but when deciding between a lie that draws a smile and a truth that draws a tear, the truth is always the better option. As Brene Brown says, clear is kind. Unclear is unkind.
We would love to see more celebrations at work. One of our clients was recently acquired, and we love how they continue to find ways to maintain their spirit and culture via service anniversaries, birthdays, and client wins. It’s not all sunshine and roses through an acquisition; celebrating helps employees see the positive things happening around the organization. Making time to celebrate sends the message that we celebrate together because we’re a team.
Here at Audacia, we got together in person last year to celebrate a fantastic year. When we can’t meet in person, we celebrate at the “water cooler” (AKA on Slack). Because we try to practice what we preach, we hope to get even better at celebrating the small and big wins this year.
The Future of Work: Choosing Courage Over Comfort
The future of work is upon us. The demands on employees are higher than ever, and in turn, employees have higher expectations of their employers. This isn’t bad; in the best-case scenario, it makes us all better. Being willing to listen to the voices of customers and employees, having hard conversations, and celebrating is a willingness to be aware of the many seasons that happen at a company. We love companies that do these because it shows their leaders know how to weather all seasons of the company lifecycle.
I love the Brene Brown quote, “Integrity is choosing courage over comfort.” Having integrity is not just about balancing your finances and answering your emails—it’s showing up for the highs and lows of running a business with presence and strategy.
If you’re looking for more guidance on driving meaningful conversations, integrating feedback into your business strategy, and building a consistent voice of the customer/employee program, Audacia Strategies has your back. Reach out to us, and someone on our experienced team will be in touch.
Photo credit: https://www.freepik.com/free-photo/people-taking-part-business-event_24483071.htm