Everything changed with the June 2, 2014 launch of our social intranet. And lest you think that I’m exaggerating, let me share just one quick story.
One of our corporate departments published a notification of an upcoming change in a benefit plan (trying to be a bit obtuse here, forgive me). They have done that routinely in the past, posting it to the intranet with a “click here to discuss” button that would bring employees to the social collaboration space to comment. Rarely did anyone do so.
For reasons unknown, aggregating the intranet with our collaboration space yielded far different results.
There were 123 responses to the change announcement. Initially, comments were positive but then began a downward spiral of employees who were incredulous about the change, unhappy that they weren’t asked their opinion in advance, and generally feeling ‘left out’ of the decision making.
Let’s face it, that’s usually how business works.
In our case, this all happened on the second day following the launch of our social intranet. We didn’t have a plan, we were literally buried in user help requests, and the fires were being stoked by opinionated employees (we have lots of them, and luv them).
After the first day of posting, a number of different executives joined the conversation to provide additional context about the change.
The Sr. VP of the organization issuing the change joined the conversation and actively thanked employees for their feedback.
And, she openly expressed surprise about the feedback and made a commitment to follow up.
The best part?
She did follow up, and made subsequent changes to the original policy change to address employees’ questions and issues.
While not all policy changes can be put up for an employee vote, and some will of course make some employees unhappy, here’s what we learned:
1. “Marketing” speak doesn’t work well with employees. “Because you told us” or “Based on your Feedback” will result in employee asking to see the data. Better have it handy.
2. This one discussion, and the subsequent change in policy, ‘proved’ to employees that they are being offered a tremendous opportunity to influence our company’s direction and operation. While we recognize that not all policies can or will change due to employee feedback, this instance occurred so early in our release that it set the tone for future announcement and, dare I say, discussion about policies in advance of decision making.
3. It’s not personal. This was a very difficult lesson as the Sr. VP had always issued the same type of announcement with no resulting impact. BAM – do it the way we always have done it, and now receiving employee reaction is a whole new thing.
It’s a whole new way to work!