Is Your Workplace a Community That Communicates?
By Paul Matalucci, ABC, and Patrick Castrenze
The following notes were collected on June 30, 2011, during a conference call with business communicators who attended the IABC World Conference 2011 in San Diego, California.
Is your workplace a community that communicates?
Presenters and attendees of IABC’s 2011 World Conference offered insights into the challenges facing communicators, summarized here as a series of tips.
- Employee engagement through empowerment. As the effects of recession linger, many U.S. employees feel powerless in their search for job stability. Creating opportunities for dialogue gives them a chance to speak their mind and feel powerful. A discussion board, for example, is a great tool for employee empowerment that also creates an opportunity to listen to conversations, find the patterns, and address employee concerns proactively.
- Dialogue isn’t always about solving a problem. We often resort to dialogue when we want to solve a problem that has already happened. But dialogue can also be a great tool for talking about possibility, and for creating across-the-board opportunities. In Community: The Structure of Belonging, Peter Block refers to this as a transformative conversation, not the problem we simply want to correct.
- Don’t get hung-up on participation. Leaders often look for 100% participation rates from their employees during dialogue. But people interact differently, and true participation is voluntary, so be willing to hear different points of view or sometimes nothing at all.
- Successful communities are self-sustaining. Business communicator and IABC member Betsy Pasley compares employee-based community to the way flowers grow at home, and in the wild: A landscaped flowerbed is controlled and managed. It needs constant care and attention, but offers a predictable consistency. Wildflowers, on the other hand, are self-sustaining and self-nurturing, but they’re also less organized. While each environment has its strengths, it’s important to remember that wildflowers, like employees, can be trusted to take care of themselves and their communities.
- Think small for group conversations. There’s a time and a place for the town hall meeting, but keeping the conversation at the level of small groups is a critical element. This is a space where employees can work closely with each other to speak and to be heard.
- Ask Questions. Questions are more transforming than answers. When a senior leader asks employees a question, it demonstrates an interest in the employees’ well-being and demonstrates respect for the employees’ point of view.
- Consider the amount of control that is appropriate to your message. Maintaining control over your messages can be essential when you’re announcing lay-offs, but in other situations, like the roll-out of a new company policy, having less control can go a long way.
Block, Peter (2008). Community: The Structure of Belonging
Bernoff, J., Charlene Li (2008). Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social Technologies