<img height="1" width="1" style="display:none" src="https://www.facebook.com/tr?id=585972928235617&amp;ev=PageView&amp;noscript=1">
podcasts |


ENGAGE 2023: Valued Voice

ENGAGE 2023: Valued Voice
ENGAGE 2023: Valued Voice

CoC__Ep17_Cover Graphic

In this episode, we’re continuing our focus on ENGAGE 2023, our latest company culture and employee engagement report, by exploring the data related to Valued Voice. 

In this section of the report, we asked questions around the quality of Communication and Collaboration that employees are currently experiencing.  

Discussing these latest findings with Beth is the wonderful Emily Estey, VP/Senior Consultant at The Center for Sales Strategy 

Emily offers such great points to think about, like: 

  • How normalizing communication makes employees feel that much more comfortable sharing their opinions 
  • Why there is a difference between having a voice and having a vote 
  • And finally, why understanding how your behavior affects the roles of others just might make a world of difference when it comes to the quality of interdepartmental communication.


Interdepartmental Communication Needs to Improve 

“We're going to talk about the concept of valued voice,” Beth says. “And I think you are just the perfect person to talk to us about it. The way we talk about valued voice, it's a key component in a strong culture. It's really about two-way communication.  

“First, it involves employees feeling as though their manager shares important information with them, but at the same time, it's about employees feeling as though their ideas and input input are valuable as well.  

“So, I want to tackle both sides of that equation as we talk a little bit today....When you looked over the ENGAGE 2023: The Company Culture Report, were there any stats or findings, anything that just jumped out at you related to valued voice? 

“I know we'll talk about it a little bit further,” Emily says. “But the thing that jumped out at me the most was interdepartmental communication. And honestly, it not only jumped out at me the most, it scared me the most.  

“Like, if add up both of the columns [of those who said,] ‘we're good but could be better’ or ‘interdepartmental communication is not very good at all,’ that's 77%! That was shocking to me. 

“And I see that in my work. For departments that do communicate well, it's almost like, ‘oh wow, how do you do that?’ Think about the bottlenecks that create, think about the loss of time and efficiency that must create. It’s striking.” 

“It is a lot,” Beth says. “And I know, just with Up Your Culture, when we work with companies, it is often one of the reasons we get called into help. So, I wasn't surprised to see it. I know it's a pain point, but like you, I think it was one of one of the most striking statistics in the whole report.” 

“Right,” Emily says. “It's almost like it's a given that departments don't get along. And I just think that mindset is just antiquated.” 

For Expectations to Be Met, There Needs to be Transparency and Accountability 

“Let's go a little bit deeper,” Beth says. “Just a second ago, I mentioned that two-way street that comes with valued voice. And I want to start by talking about the information that's coming in and how much clarity people have on what's expected of them at work. 

“So, the survey showed, that only 60% of people feel fully informed. Leaving 40% who need more information in order to do their jobs. Well, you work with a lot of different organizations and, I'm just curious, are you seeing or hearing this need for more information?” 

Emily says, “Yeah. And to take that statistic even further, 54% of AE’s (Account Executives) didn't feel that they knew enough to do their job.  

“I can speak from experience almost because of our own culture. And one of the bases of our culture is transparency, transparency about all things.  

“And even if something's not transparent, I know that I could ask one of our leadership and they would give me a transparent answer. That's a trust thing.  

“And I think if you, as leadership, aren't transparent, I think what that says to your team is, ‘we don't trust you. We do not trust you with this information. You are not trusted.’ That’s not a great feeling, right?  

“So, we need our leaders to be transparent, and we need leaders to be able to define the ‘why’ behind certain expectations.  

“And then the second part of the expectation is, ‘what's the accountability?’ Because it's really difficult to have an expectation if you don't have the accountability factor there too. That's where I see things really falling off.  

“And that goes back to not holding people accountable because leadership doesn't have a great talent bank, or you can back that all the way up to them being afraid of people leaving because it's so hard to find people. I think people shy away from expectations because of the accountability piece.” 

Beth says, “So, if you set expectations, then it's required for you to keep up with them and hold them accountable. And if you don't, then you just assume they're going to do their best.” 

“Right,” Emily says. “And the expectation doesn't really have a lot of weight if I don't know what's going to happen positively or negatively. 

“You fulfill this expectation. ‘This is how we're going to hold you accountable in a positive way.’ I think that communication, I think people want expectations. They want to know what's expected of them. They don't want that to be gray at all.  

“So as leaders, I think really defining what that is, is a gift to people.” 

“I agree,” Beth says. “I used to have a manager a while back, a long time ago, who used to joke around and say that he would give me information on a ‘need to know basis.’ And I never needed to know, apparently, because he would like to eke out information, never wanting to give the big picture.  

“And I kept thinking, if I had that bigger picture, if I knew truly what was expected of me, I could rise to the occasion so much better. 


Set Expectations by What You Measure 

 Beth asks, “What do you recommend, how would you help managers do a better job of setting clear expectations and giving people the information they need to be successful, to reach a higher standard?” 

“Obviously, be very clear about expectations,” Emily says. “But, I'll hear managers say all the time, ‘Well, they hit their budget, but, you know, the couple of reasons they did that was because they were call-ins.’ 

“I'm like, ‘What? Wait a second.’ So, I think you have to be very clear about the expectation but not overload the expectation.  

“Whether it is hitting your budget or attendance or whatever it may be...What are you measuring? And also have expectations around those things that you want to see growth in. 

“That could be different for different people. Maybe somebody needs an expectation around new business development and maybe somebody else needs an expectation about just hitting an overall budget or whatever that is. 

“So, I think different expectations for different people is smart.  

“Also think we need to limit those to three or four expectations. We can't overload people.” 

“And based on what you said a moment ago,” Beth says. “As a manager, you might actually be able to hold people more accountable, right? A more manageable number makes perfect sense.” 

There’s a Difference Between Having a Voice and Having a Vote 

“Let's flip that over,” Beth says. “A lot of people reported feeling that their opinions don't matter at work. So, it's not about getting information now; it's about their manager being open to hearing from them.  

“And one of the numbers that jumped out to me was 1 in 3 employees, and 1 in 4 managers feel that their opinions don't matter at work. First, let me just ask you, what is your take on that?” 

“I don't know if this is true or not,” Emily says. “But, coming out of the pandemic, thinking about the hybrid work environment or not hybrid work environment, there's been a little bit of a disparity between people being heard. In terms of their needs being met and what's working for them, and what managers want.  

“So, this doesn't really surprise me right now. It kind of breaks my heart to feel like, ‘Oh, my voice doesn't matter.’  

“There's something that I love that I talk to managers about a lot, and that's the difference between having a voice and having a vote.” 

“We want our team to have a voice for sure, but we also want it known on what they actually have a vote on and what they don't.  

“Because, a lot of times, if you're asking your team how they feel about something, it's important to put that disclaimer out there. Like, ‘I want to hear from you, but I'm the one that's ultimately going to make the decision. But it's important for me to have your input.’ 

“A lot of times, I think AE’s confuse that. They think, ‘Oh, if I have a voice, that means I'm making the decision.’ Then they feel like they're not heard because management didn't go with their opinion, you know what I mean? 

“So, I think it's important for managers to be very clear on what they're asking for and what that means as far as, ‘Do I have a vote here? Or are you just asking for my voice? Are you just asking for me to speak up and give my opinion?’ 

“I think it's important that you be very clear about that.” 

Beth says, “Everybody has a voice. Not everybody has a vote. I like that a lot.  

“That's the stage for a better outcome. That's a good tip.” 

Normalize Townhall Meetings and Opinion Gathering 

“Besides that,” Beth says. “How can companies get better at seeking and valuing employee input so people know that their voice really does matter?” 

“I think continually asking where we can improve,” Emily says. “Maybe you have a quarterly town hall, or maybe you have culture meetings. Especially those organizations that have new managers or new ownership...where culture can really be turned on its head, there's a huge opportunity to lay down culture.  

“Have some sort of regular self-improvement meeting or town hall where you can gather people's opinions. 

“And, you know, you have to take action on some of those things you hear, right? But I think normalizing the behavior of having those town halls is important.  

“We normalize that. We want to hear what you have to say. So, schedule those town hall meetings and have four of them a year. Everybody knows they're coming. I think anything like that is really, really important.” 

“I agree,” Beth says. “At our State of the State meeting, we do something that I think a lot of companies do. Tell me what you think about this.  

“We ask all of our employees to submit questions in advance so that they don't have to say them out loud. But, at the same time, they know that their voice is valued and then they get answered during the meeting. Is that something you're seeing other companies do?” 

“A little bit,” Emily says. “I don't think people have a routine around these meetings, right? 

“We have a routine around that. And some companies do, but I don't think there's a routine around it. It's not normalized behavior.  

“So then when you're like, ‘oh, they're asking my opinion, should I give it? I don't know. They never answered my opinion before. I don't know how that's going to be used against me.’ 

“But, if you're normalizing it, and you're seeing it welcomed, people get excited about your ideas. I mean, we see that all the time. When we collaborate within our team, everybody's like, ‘Oh, that's a great idea’ Even leadership's like, ‘oh my gosh, that's a great idea.’  

“There's no ego involved in it. But I think normalizing the asking of opinions is probably the most important thing.” 

People Bringing Their Authentic Selves to Work Lifts the Spirit of the Organization 

“So, when valued voice is strong, in general, we find that people are very comfortable being themselves at work,” Beth says. “They just show up as their authentic selves.  

“This survey showed that 65% of people are comfortable doing that. And I think that's a respectable number. But that still leaves 1 in 3 people who aren't.  

“Why do you think it's important, in general, for people to be able to show up and be their authentic selves, to not have to mask their true personality or their true style? Why is that important?” 

“You know, we spend 40, 50, 60 hours of a week at work,” Emily says. “To not feel like you can be yourself? That's a chore. That's exhausting. I don't even know what that would be like. 

“For that reason alone, you want people to be able to show up as their authentic selves. And part of that ‘showing up as your authentic self’ is being able to voice your feelings and your opinions.  

“I mean, all of us have those. So, if you can't show up and do that, then you're not going to last very long. You're going to find someplace else where you're accepted. 

The other thing that I think about too is to make sure, as a leader, that people fit into this organization. Who is a good fit...that goes back to hiring, right? 

“I work with one of my clients, and they recently hired a woman. She moved across the country to take the job. And I can't tell you how much she's changed the culture in a good way. She's showing up. She knows herself, and she is authentic as all get out. And she literally has changed the spirit of the team. 

“Ahe's kind of leading others to be their authentic selves. It's been kind of amazing, actually. But I think that's the point. When people are able to show up as their authentic selves, it just lifts the whole spirit and culture of the organization.” 

“I can see that,” Beth says. “So, what can be done to improve here? Because I know that doesn't exist for everybody. What recommendations do you have?” 

“That's a tough one,” Emily says. “I mean, again, it’s making sure that people are heard that the people who are coming into the organization are helping shape the environment. That they're allowed to help shape the environment.  

“And there's a lot of things you can do with your team. There are a lot of ways to get input from people about the ways that they want to show up at work, what they want to see at work, and what they need at work. So, again, normalize those questions. Much of the work that we do at Up Your Culture is helping people do this and have these conversations.  

But I think it’s also allowing people and accepting people for who they are. I know that sounds cliche kind, but it really is that acceptance factor.” 

“Yeah,” Beth says. “We're learning more and more that the more diverse an organization is, and I don't mean diversity in just ethnicity or religion or gender, I mean diverse thinking, diverse backgrounds, different skills and perspectives, the better the organization performs. And that's because of exactly what you're talking about.” 

We Need Progress, Not Perfection 

“I know psychological safety has become quite a buzzword,” Beth says. “I imagine a lot of people have now heard that term. And a lot of what we're talking about really involves psychological safety.  

“Because when you feel as though you can speak your mind, you can be who you are, you can make a mistake, and know that it's all going to be okay, you have an environment of trust. 

“And I think this just really affects how employees handle a lot of things. One of which is how they handle mistakes. We all make them, I seem to make more than my fair share of them, but only 90% of employees feel comfortable admitting to the mistakes that they've made.  

“90 is a big number, don't get me wrong. But, there are still people out there, 10% of the people, who don't feel comfortable admitting to the mistakes that they've made. So, in your experience, what is the downside here, first of all? What happens when an employee doesn't feel comfortable admitting to their mis mistakes? What do you see as a result? 

“Well, I think the downside is it just slows everything down,” Emily says. “If we can't admit a mistake, if we don't move forward, if we're hiding it or if we tell a different story about it...it slows it all down. It's unnecessary. 

“I'm a big believer of owning my mistakes. I'm like, ‘Oh, I did that!’ And I'll be the first one to admit, ‘That was me.’ Because I feel like I can't get to a solution unless we point out, ‘Here's the mistake. Now what's the solution?’ 

“We can't get to the solution piece if we are not owning up to where we misstepped, you know?” 

“Well said,” Bety says. “So how can managers improve here? How can they encourage more openness so that when an employee makes a mistake, they have that comfort level to come and say, ‘That was me, and I need help.’ How do you make that happen?” 

Emily says, “I think you model that behavior, right? 

“Also, I'm not a big fan of perfection. I just think that idea is silly. And again, to your point, we all make mistakes. Even though I kind of hold myself to perfection in many ways, I really have to fight it. Like, ‘no, that's not really true. Perfection is not a thing.’  

“So, I think being open as a leader, being open themselves and modeling the behavior and saying, ‘wow, you know what? I messed that up. I was unclear about that. I'm really sorry. I can see how that must have slowed us down.’ That is really hard for some people. It really is hard, and I get that.  

“But I think, if you want a fast moving organization, if you want to be solutions based, those are the things that you have to do.  

“If you make a mistake, know that not owning up to it just slows the whole thing down. 

“We can't get to the solution until we're open about, what went wrong.” 

“I, like you, struggle with perfectionism,” Beth says. “I want everything to be so perfect. And I used to work with someone who always said to me, ‘progress, not perfection.’  

“That's what we need. Progress, not perfection.” 

Interdepartmental Roadblocks Are Not Acceptable 

“I want to come back around to the thing that jumped off the page for you in the beginning, because that was really striking,” Beth says. And, as I said before, one of the most common reasons that companies call on us to help them improve their culture is because they have internal silos.  

“They have something happening that has created a breakdown in communication between departments. So definitely an important thing for us to focus on. A hot button for many organizations out there.  

“Just to restate the statistics, only 23% of the survey respondents reported that departments communicate and collaborate extremely well at their workplace, which is actually down from last year as well.  

“So, not only is that a terrible number, but it's lower than it was before. 65%, as you mentioned, believe that there's room for improvement. And 12% say it's a serious problem. What are some best practices that you recommend when working with organizations to help them improve here?” 

Emily says, “Well, you usually have someone at the top who oversees all departments, right? I think you have to take a hard line which is that it's unacceptable. Interdepartmental...skirmishes, and roadblocks are not acceptable. That's not okay.  

“And working with leaders of all departments, they need to come to the table first because we know it starts at the top. Because we will never be able to do our best work if we don't work together. Period. 

“Then, from there, I think you do have to, as they say on Seinfeld, have an ‘airing of grievances.’ I think that's important. There is something getting in the way.  

“Usually, it's ‘who's the most important department,’ at least with people that I work with. Or, ‘Who's actually rowing the boat here?’ Part of it is also, ‘What's going wrong with this department and that department? Why aren't you communicating the way that you should?’ 

“And then I think you have to have buy-in from that leadership to develop a plan to solve those things. Knowing that it starts at the top. And if the rest of the team starts to see that leadership's working really hard at this, then there's really no way to not fall in line, right? 

“All of a sudden, this department's working well with the department they've never worked well with before. Then we're like, ‘Oh, okay, we're getting along now. Great.’ It’s like we have divorced parents, and now they've decided to figure it out. You know what I mean? 

“The other thing I think is really important is understanding the job of other departments. So, if I get this to you at the last minute, that affects your job in this way, right?  

Maybe get a peek behind the curtain of what other people on your team are dealing with and see how your behavior might affect their job or whatever you might be doing that makes their job harder. We need to know that.” 

LISTEN NOW: The Culture over Coffee Podcast with Beth Sunshine

Return to Blog

About Author

Brent Tripp
Related Posts
Communicating Clearly to Foster Engagement with Liz Dickson
Communicating Clearly to Foster Engagement with Liz Dickson
Building a People-First Culture with Amy Bloxom
Building a People-First Culture with Amy Bloxom
Thriving in Adversity: Leadership and Engagement with Lisa Kogan-Praska
Thriving in Adversity: Leadership and Engagement with Lisa Kogan-Praska

Leave a Comment