How To Be Visible To Large Teams

I have a large headcount and I am not able to connect with employees on the ground! I do not understand their pain points, and the updates that travel to me through my leadership team are not always grounded with accurate facts! I conduct town halls and share updates regularly but somewhere something seems to be missing! What do I do?

This is probably a dilemma that many Managers, CEOs go through and this primarily happens due to the internal structures we have built where we expect every person in the structure to remain connected with the teams and resolve/ future proof aspects of the business. Many of us would rely on annual satisfaction surveys to understand the pulse of the people, but many a times it’s too late to wait for an annual report. So what can we do differently? What if we could dedicate an hour a month to understand key issues, and what would be the most effective method method?

Many years ago realising the need to connect with employees, I developed the concept of Councils (I used to call them People Representative Groups). These are individuals who are democratically elected by their teams to represent them, and they then meet with the company CEO/MD/HOD on a regular basis. In these meetings, they table teams view/comments/trends covering both going well as well as not going well, and its also an opportunity for the CEO to share important updates and respond to any queries regrading the same. Many a times this helps set the base for a wider communication, as these members can help develop the Q&A that may follow. These points that are discussed are then documented and plans built around resolving them. Post these meetings, the council members go back to their teams and update them with the discussions thereby keeping them connected and engaged. As the “to do” list gets actioned, the updates for these too are sent to the entire group on a real time basis.

Here are some things that I feel need to be catered to basis experience in running these councils

1.. The election has to be democratic and fair. Multiple people may want to stand but you may want to elect 1 to 2 members per team(another as back up),where a team is a distinct unit of people doing a specific task. You may also choose to combine a few teams and allow only 1 nominations thereby building on connect and team work.

2.. Council members are briefed in advance that their job is not just to listen to the employees and their concerns but ask pertinent questions linked to the topic. e.g. have you raised this with HR previously, and if the response is “no” the ideal next step is to ask the employee to first exhaust normal channels before bringing the issue forward to the council.

3.. Council members need to be honest – they cannot be twisting facts or adding substance which does not exist, as it not only provides the CEO with inaccurate information, but during team cascades may cause panic due to an inaccurate explanation.

4.. It is not the CEO’s job to fix all issues, most of the times the council members should be guided to connect with a concerned person in the business, and try resolve through collaborative working. The CEO may choose to mentor and coach aspects of the meeting, but the council member needs to organise and run it. (this is also linked to capability development for future leaders)

5.. Always document and share discussion points with employees, this ensures transparency of communication and supports the council members with coverage of the message.

6.. Tenure of the council can be for an year, and rotated- those who did a good job will anyways get re-elected.

Such a model is very useful in an organisation that is large, and spread over multiple locations and centres. Try it out and let me know how it went. If you have questions feel free to write to me.

@creating great workplaces.

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