The Cloak of Silence: Why Your Employees Won’t Communicate

The Cloak of Silence-Why Your Employees Won't Communicate

There are all of these articles about communication and engagement. I have contributed my thoughts in some of them. They are all useful in some regard if you want to get to the bottom of your engagement and communication issues. Except, we would have to include the one nuisance variable that most leaders and companies won’t cop to and that is: The cloak of silence.

We are working and living in the age of knowledge. We have more data points than we can use and have more information at our finger tips than previous generations. If given a chance, most leaders will cite wanting to understand their employees better. They want to understand things like motivations, propensity to leave, career aspirations etc.

What makes this problematic is leaders and companies want to know these things, but are often times not willing to ingest and digest the answers. Often times, when the answer they receive is unfavorable for them or the company – they react. The reaction is negative and usually sets such a tone that any further or future communication like it will be non-existent, censored and/or stifled.

Around the time of the 9/11 attacks here in NY the MTA came out with this whole campaign that said: ” If you see something, say something.” Many businesses latched onto this saying and started using it as a way to appear as though employees should feel free to share the things they are noticing and should feel safe to do so without fearing retaliation. There are some good eggs that truly stand by having an open, honest and communicative culture.

Others still, prefer a cloak of silence. They prefer for employees to be seen and not heard. These are companies that like when people speak up to praise the organization and its leaders. Companies that prefer a cloak of silence literally squash and black list anyone who dreams of raising a concern or anything deemed unfavorable for the company.

Let us examine through this example:

I worked for a company in a previous life that loved to hold town halls. If you know anything about town halls you know that they are meant to be open forums where people can come to have their ideas and concerns heard by those in power. The goal is that healthy debate and conversation is brought to the table by the constituents and those in power so that amicable solutions can be implemented.

When we had town halls, they spent weeks communicating the importance of our participation. It was even shared that no question was “dumb” or “irrelevant”. Yet, the first town hall I attended at this company was quieter than a church during Sermon. The CHRO spent an hour speaking about projects, opportunities, our organizational scorecard and then asked for questions. One of my co-workers raised her hand and if looks could kill she would have been dead. She continued to ask her question about adding additional members to our team, because of the excessive workload. Her question was answered abruptly and dismissed.

After the town hall, some of my more tenured co-workers spoke among themselves about how this employee who spoke up never learns her lesson. As in, she should have remained quiet instead, because clearly her question was not welcomed.

Every subsequent meeting and town hall was marred by a cloak of silence. We all knew that it wasn’t worth our time to ask questions or raise issues in these meetings despite what leadership was saying. They didn’t really want to know. It was all about faking their way to engagement and open communication – except they were doing a really poor job at it.

If you have noticed the same in your company here are some tips for building trust and getting your employees to communicate with you again:

1) Don’t ask questions, if you don’t want the answers. What people experience in their jobs day-to-day is very real. Don’t ask them to lie to you so your feelings aren’t hurt. Your employees have a right to not work in fear and you deserve to hear the truth so you can improve.

2) If delivery of certain messages are your concern, set a few ground rules for your town halls and meetings. Let’s be honest, sometimes intention doesn’t meet delivery at the finish line when it comes to communication. Having a few ground rules for meetings and town halls will help to set the tone. Be sure that your employees know you will abide by them as well.

3) When they speak, you listen and then take action. What is the point of having all of these data points, if you are going to simply hoard them – only to do nothing with it. When your employees speak up it’s an act of bravery on their part. The way they know that you have heard them is by acknowledging what was said and taking action.

Communicating doesn’t have to be difficult. Once you get over your own fears and needs to control what and how your employees say something – it will be a smoother ride for both parties.

Big Data Is Not So Big: Dun & Bradstreet Empowers Data-Driven Small Business

Campaign/FTC disclosure: This is a sponsored product review. I will receive compensation for this post. I only work with companies I feel have great products, services and offerings. In accordance with my blog disclosure statement, I will only work with and showcase products, events and/or companies I believe my readers will benefit from. Dun & Bradstreet has hired me as an influencer to help them raise awareness about their new Business Solutions Insights Microsoft Office 365 partnership with Ingram Micro Cloud. I am not formally employed by Dun & Bradstreet. All thoughts and viewpoints are created and written by me. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255: Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising.

Image courtesy of www.dnb.com.

Big data has long been a debilitating term in the business world.

When it comes to business, we all would prefer to make better, more informed decisions. In order to achieve this, we have to collectively become comfortable with the notion of being data-driven. Making data-driven decisions has little to do with how “big” your data is, but rather how you make the data that you collect every day through transactions, interactions and prospecting work for you.

For many companies – be they Fortune 500 or small businesses – this data and information is often unstructured. This information both lives and dies in different systems, processes, and in some cases, people within organizations.

The key to being able to use this information to the advantage of the business is to aggregate all of your business insights simply in one place for anyone in the organization to use.

I had a unique opportunity to chat with my friends at Dun & Bradstreet® to discuss their recent participation at the Ingram Micro Cloud Summit held last week in Phoenix, Arizona. I also had the opportunity to get an exclusive demo of their new Business Solutions Tool for Office 365 available via the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace®.

Image courtesy of IngramMicro.com.

 Big data is not so big – when you break it down.

One of the recurring questions about big data is: What makes it so complex? In speaking  with Karlos Palmer, VP of Global Alliances and Partnership Strategies and Nakul Kapoor,  Senior Director of Partner Enablement at Dun & Bradstreet, they break down the  complexity of data into what they call the four Vs of big data:

  • Volume – The scale of data. This is how much data you have stored and living across your business.
  • Variety – The many different forms of data. From demographic information to customer profiles, the range of data you collect is both useful and innumerable.
  • Velocity– The analysis of streaming data. With the connectivity of things growing every day, there is a constant flow of data streaming at all times. Dun & Bradstreet® reported at last week’s Ingram Micro Cloud Summit that there are as many as 18.9 billion network connections (2.5 connections per every person on earth).
  • Veracity– The uncertainty of data. Unreliable data is costly to your business. It has been reported that poor data costs the U.S. Economy around $3.1 trillion per year. Somewhere along the data continuum, there has to be a cleansing of your data to be able to use it effectively.

The businesses that have yet to implement an operational call-to-action for data struggle in one of more of these areas.

As a small business owner, I understand the value of making decisions rooted in good data. What prevents me from exploring my options is my concern for how much it will cost me to implement a solution and the ease of use.

After seeing the demo of Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Add-in for Office 365, I am excited about the possibilities this product holds for small to mid-size businesses to make more insightful, data-inspired decisions.

Less is truly more.

Think about how you have traditionally created reports in Microsoft Excel® and imagine even the smallest sets of data reconciled with Dun & Bradstreet’s insights – only to give you more valuable information than what you started with.

Here’s how the Dun &Bradstreet Business Solutions Tool works:

  • Dun & Bradstreet has accumulated a collection of data around sales, marketing, supply chain and credit risk that spans its 175-year old history.
  • They have created an add-in in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace that can be used with your Microsoft Office 365.
  • Through your normal reporting in Excel, you can take something as simple as a spreadsheet with name, email, and address – and have Dun & Bradstreet run your information against its over 30,000 sources.
  • What you get depends on which of the nine modules you use across sales, marketing, supply chain and their advanced data tools are insights like:

– Understand Your Customers™ module – this module allows you to bring in a minimal amount of data points and in return gives you insights on your customer’s history, market behavior, etc.

– Get Prospects List™ module- this module allows you to search your customer list and get a targeted view of customers you should be meeting with when you go on the road for meetings and conferences, etc.

  • Your data is now reliable because it is driven by Dun & Bradstreet’s D-U-N-S Number® that connects demographic information with just about everything a single business does over the lifetime of their business (credit standing, sales and marketing, industry, years in business, business hierarchies, etc.).
  • All of the segmentation and data cleansing is done for you. Every record comes back with a rating for Dun & Bradstreet’s success in matching your record with their sources.

How much will it cost you?

This is my favorite part. The Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions add-in is available to us with a minimum investment of $25.00 per month (note: The price may increase if you have to purchase the Microsoft Office 365 suite as well).  However, if you are already a Microsoft Office 365 customer, you can simply download this free add-in and enable it by depositing increments of $25.00 into your Dun & Bradstreet Business Solutions account.

Every time you run a module, the product will draw from your existing balance. Most queries charge $0.75 per record or per list of 25 records.

How can you get it?

Dun & Bradstreet’s Business Solutions Insights for Office 365 can be purchased in the Ingram Micro Cloud Marketplace by clicking here. You can also purchase it through any Ingram Micro Cloud reseller.

Enterprise quality solutions are now available for SMBs. This is an exciting step in all of us becoming data-driven inspired business owners.

To read the press release regarding Dun & Bradstreet’s partnership with Microsoft Office 365 and Ingram Micro Cloud click here.

 

 

About That Thing Big Data…Let’s Reframe Our Advice

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

Photo Courtesy of Flickr

For at least the past three years, there has been no shortage of articles written about the urgency of businesses and HR adopting a data mindset. Business analysts and experts on this subject have tried everything from threatening the existence of data-ignorant companies to making innumerable cases for why it should be a part of your company fabric. Admittedly, data is important. We cannot just go about our days wishfully doing business without the context behind what is really driving and affecting our operations. When you ask for that new system  that costs $500,000 you can’t just tell your boss you need the money- you need to provide a business case for how this new system will exponentially improve an operational segment and/or solve a business problem. The only way I have seen these requests approved is with data.

Now notice I simply refer to “data” and I don’t try to make it out to be this monstrosity that lies far and beyond the average person’s comprehension. My friends this is where analysts and big thinkers are losing the masses.

When we talk about data, data is data to the average practitioner. Moreover, most companies have barely scratched the surface of utilizing simple data to make business decisions- that it is hard for them to comprehend anything bigger. According to Bersin by Deloitte’s Talent Analytics Maturity Model– over 50% of companies are still working at the Reactive- Operational Reporting Level.

Why is the message “buy into the idea of big data” rather than a focus on helping the everyday practitioner or CEO utilize the data they have to make the decisions they need to make? I suppose I’m taking money out of someone’s pocket by saying this, but I don’t get why this concept can’t be explained simply.

Bigger isn’t always better… but the perception of it is scarier.

One of my connections on Twitter mentioned last week that she was both “ fascinated/concerned with big data”for 2015. To which I replied: “big data is a focus on data points that helps us operate in business more efficiently.” My response got me thinking further: shouldn’t all data achieve that result? All data isn’t good, relevant, or useful. Big data will not solve all of our problems, if we don’t first reframe our thinking about the purpose and use of data in business.

To that end, here are some simple thoughts that can assist you with using data in your organization:

  • Start simple. What do you want to know about your business that data can shed light on? Start here and start to build out the narrative with data.
  • Find purpose. What is the reason this data is important to your business? How will it help you modify or change what you do currently? If you don’t have a specific, actionable purpose for this data- why bother? The data should at a minimum serve as an operational baseline, but it can also be used to identify issues and opportunities.
  • Train your people to extract, synthesize, analyze and sensibly utilize data for the optimization of your business. I remember being asked ad nauseum for “Time-To-Fill” reports for my positions at a former employer. Leadership was convinced that aged requisitions over 60 days meant a recruiter was not efficient. They would use these reports to chastise recruiters that weren’t filling jobs within 30 days. While efficiency could have been a contributing factor to this metric, the truth was there were many other variables causing requisitions to age over 60 days (i.e. high requisition volume, hiring manager delays etc.). I provide this short anecdote to show you how a single piece of data was misused based on lack of clarity around its purpose and the inability of leadership to sensibly use the data.

One of the most important things HR can do this year is to become more data savvy.However, take the pressure off yourself of having to be a certified expert in big data. Instead, focus on piecing together the narratives that are most important to your business that way you can tackle the “bigger” and more complex scenarios later.

 

 

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