The other day I had a conversation with an intranet manager who described how a member of the C-suite at his company created a dialogue session with employees via discussion functionality on the company’s intranet. It was almost text book. This member of the senior management team didn’t dodge any difficult questions, was open and honest, used their own voice, didn’t dress anything up in bland corporate speak, and answered some questions about their life outside work. This was a great way to create engagement with employees.
It reminded me how powerful it can be to get a CEO or members of the C-Suite to use the intranet or collaboration platform for genuine two-way dialogue. There are several wins:
- The act of being open and transparent is important in shaping the opinions of employees on senior management, and in turn that’s important for employee engagement
- It extends the reach of personal contact with leadership around global companies where face-to-face with everybody is not possible
- It sets a precedent and encourages transparency among all levels of management
- It is a high-level endorsement of using the intranet or collaboration platform
- It is a great baromoter of employee sentiment
- Your CEO or leadership team will (positively) experience using the intranet or social tool personally, and is more likely to engage with it going forward
Sadly CEOs using digital channels for genuine dialogue with employees is the exception rather than a rule. Some senior leaders have embraced it:
When Stephen Elop first joined Nokia as CEO he used the firm’s Socialtext platform to get open feedback from employees on three key questions – What things should change, What things should stay the same and What issues I might miss as I get to know the company . This was a brave opening gambit, introducing himself as a CEO who actively seeks dialogue. He also used to regularly comment on post and blogs. (Elop has just left Nokia).
Molson-Coors CEO Peter Swinburn personally drove the use of Yammer in order to help increase collaboration and enhance a one-company culture. He was a highly visible contributor.
When Zynga’s Mark Pincus stepped aside as CEO to be replaced by Don Mattrick, the internal memo leaked to the press revealed that the the company’s intranet (‘Zyntranet”) is regularly used to propose and vote questions for wider meetings with the CEO, including one with Mattrick. Allowing employees to vote on questions is a good way to gauge what is concerning the workforce.
Of course, getting your CEO or C-suite involved does need some preparation, depending on the type of dialogue planned. For example:
- Does your CEO or C-suite member need any training
- Is the dialogue going to be a post with prepared answers or a live event
- Do you need a mechanism for soliciting questions prior to the posting or event
- Do you need some form of moderation (yes, probably)
- What process do you have in place to contact employees whose questions are not answered, explaining why their question was not addressed
- Are other C-suite members or other senior leaders on hand to answer questions or follow-up afterwards
- Does your CEO have the bandwidth to follow-up on questions and actions if necessary
If you can pull it off, getting senior leadership to use the intranet or ESN as a channel for dialogue with the employees is a key win. Good luck.