Bob is a senior executive in a small high-tech firm. When the program started, he would pick one day each month to have lunch with all the employees whose birthday occurred during that month. Since the company was small, that usually meant two or three people having lunch with the boss. That gave Bob a chance to talk with a small group of employees and answer their questions and listen to their comments. It also gave him a chance to share with them his vision for the company's direction without having that vision filtered by anyone else.
These lunches also gave the employees an opportunity to talk directly with a senior executive. They could ask questions about those aspects of the company, its plans, and its future that were of most interest to them. When they could see a member of the management team really listening to their concerns and caring about what they thought, they felt valued and more committed to supporting the company and its goals.
The program was a success and that was one of the reasons for the company's growth. Of course, that also increased the number of employees having a birthday each month and that made the Birthdays with Bob program not work as well as it had. However, several of the employees who had been promoted into management because of the company's growth adopted the program and used it for their teams.
Use It with Your TeamThis is a program that you can use to improve communication with the employees of your company. It is quick and easy to implement. Sure, you'll have to adjust it a little bit. You may have to call it "lunch with Larry" or "chatting with Carlos" or "munches with Mary".
Using birthdays that month as the selection criteria not only helps you select the employees for these sessions, it has the side benefit of recognizing the employer's birthday. However, you can select the employees for these sessions using any method that makes sense. For instance, you could take the first four employees, alphabetically by first name or by last name. You could select one employee from each department based on who has been there the longest, or the shortest. The method of selection really doesn't matter. What matters is that you give yourself an opportunity to meet with a manageable group of your employees so you can talk with them and listen to what they have to say.
There are many similar programs. In previous articles we discussed programs like The Coffee Cup As a Management Tool and Lunch with the CEO so the program doesn't matter. The important thing is that you have such a program in place.
You will find that as you open two-way communications pathways with your employees that there will be a number of benefits for you, for the company, and for the employees.
Benefits of Improved CommunicationHere are some of the benefits of improving communications between managers and their employees:
- more innovation
- lower absenteeism
- lower turnover
- greater productivity
- fewer defects
- better morale
- and a more enjoyable workplace.
Getting StartedSo what do you have to do to start a program like Birthdays with Bob for your company? It's pretty simple actually. First, you have to commit to the program. Second, you have to decide where the sessions will occur. Third, you need an open and impartial method of selecting the employees to participate. Fourth, you need to announce and explain the program. And fifth, you need to take the selected employees to lunch, or whatever event you chose, and listen to what they have to say.
Follow ThroughYou will find quickly that you will receive a lot of comments and suggestions from your employees in these sessions. Some of the comments will be good, some of them will be not so good. If you want this program that is designed to improve communications to be effective and to continue, it is important that the employees who attend the sessions, and those who don't, clearly see the results of the meetings.
You want to be sure that you do not promise anything in one of those meetings that you are not prepared to deliver. You also want to be sure that if you do promise anything in one of those sessions that you keep that promise. If an employee asks for something you can't deliver you need to tell them that and tell them why. If they ask you a question that you can't answer on the spot either because you don't know or you need to research the issue tell them that you don't know and that you will get back to them with an answer in a specific period of time. Then make sure that you do.