Dear Tech Leaders: Your employees are trying to tell you something. Are you listening?
If the recent headlines about Kickstarter creating a union and the global walkout at Google teach us anything, it’s that tech employees want a seat at the table that gives them a voice in strategic business decisions. They want assurances that data and intellectual property are thoughtfully managed, equitable treatment, and truly transparent leadership.
In the tight tech labor market, and in the wake of some very challenging times in the court of public opinion, now is the time to re-evaluate your engagement efforts with employees.
Here are three things you can do to make sure your people are engaged:
1. Promote respect and inclusion
In the hyper-competitive and fast-paced world of technology, leaders need to make an extra effort to promote respect and inclusion across the organization. As part of this, it’s important to have a full diversity and inclusion strategy and action plan in place.
Leaders need to do more than talk about respect in the workplace. They need to show that they are serious in their commitment by reinforcing principles with actions. A good strategy will help generate frank conversations about what diversity and inclusion means to a company, and hold every leader accountable for specific diversity and inclusion metrics.
Be sure to communicate the organization’s progress regularly, even if that progress is slow. If employees see that the company is working on the issues, they will be more committed to your collective success.
Building an inclusive culture is both a goal and a process, and it takes sustained focus to succeed. As you build out your strategy and plan, be sure to leverage formal and informal employee networks, so you can better understand the needs of under-represented groups that already exist, and ensure that dialogue about diversity and inclusion is happening at every level.
2. Listen more
Set a cadence of regular check-in meetings with a core team of influencers within the organization, and use their feedback to enhance your engagement strategy. Stay open to their opinions and trust them to act as a barometer of how your engagement efforts are being received.
Conduct listening tours and town halls at regular intervals to take the pulse of the organization and solicit live feedback.
Re-evaluate your engagement surveys and make sure they include meaningful questions about culture, values and ethics.
Most importantly, take immediate actions (even small ones) in response to the things you hear – small progress builds trust and trust is essential to engagement.
3. Align your words and actions
This week, Facebook revised its terms-of-service agreement to add more specificity around combating hate speech, and many other tech companies are revisiting their ethics and values statements to make sure their products and policies align with their mission and values.
Excluding employee voices from conversations around these beliefs can be a critical misstep. It can result in serious misalignment, as in cases like the Amazon and Microsoft employees’ protests of certain government contracts.
As your company examines its corporate values, consider whether your leaders are truly modeling and rewarding the behaviors that align with them. Then take the time to dig deeper to find out. Research and study are an essential part of the process, and it’s important to seek input from employees at every level. What does “walking the talk” look like – from the C-suite executives to the call center operators? Ask your people, then build your strategy around their answers.
As the technology sector continues to grow and evolve, it is facing intense scrutiny from the media, the government and the markets. And with more employees speaking out about the ethical issues that concern them, it’s more important than ever to keep your employees’ hearts and minds engaged in the work of the company.
When you include employee voices in your business strategy, you can build respect through robust, sustainable diversity and inclusion practices, start to address culture and ethics issues in a thoughtful manner, and align your products, programs and policies with your core beliefs in more meaningful ways.