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Silence isn’t golden during times of change

In reflecting on the past decade of leading companies through significant change, one of the more memorable conversations we had was with the Chief Information Officer (CIO) of a machinery company.

The executive described with pride that his company hosted a successful Town Hall because there weren’t any questions or concerns raised by staff.

When we suggested that silence isn’t always golden – that perhaps employees didn’t understand the key messages about the changes that were occurring or were too afraid to speak up and ask questions – he paused and admitted we could be correct.

The company took a different approach at the next Town Hall, encouraging staff to provide their input and ask questions in a safe space. The CIO agreed that it was a much more productive experience and event.

This anecdote is a great example not only of the importance of communication but also the power and influence executives can have in improving engagement with their employees.

For leaders interested in building stronger bonds with their employees during times of change and turbulence, here are three of our recommendations.

Create a path

Senior leaders that we meet with often tell us that leading change is not an easy path. So, similar to the CIO we mentioned earlier, they express a sense of relief when minimal feedback is received from their employees.

Instead of being content with silence, leaders should strive to create an open communication path because employees need to hear and be engaged and inspired by your messages and vision.

It’s also critical that communication be two-way. Providing employees with an opportunity to raise concerns, ask questions and even challenge assumptions should be encouraged at all levels of an organization as they are all healthy signs of engagement. 

As a recent Gallup study noted, engaged employees can lead to numerous benefits, including improved business outcomes, customer service and employee retention.

Develop a culture of trust

In creating a new path of communication, it’s also essential that you develop a culture of trust. By establishing a safe and comfortable environment, employees are more likely to share their perspectives, ideas and concerns instead of holding back or worse, leaving the organization.

Equally important is listening – and then acknowledging and addressing – the feedback and concerns that are received in a thoughtful way, without being defensive or dismissive.

To realize the full potential of this process, leaders should provide some guidance on the feedback they’re searching for. For example, instead of just sharing their concerns, employees should also be encouraged to offer potential solutions. This not only turns a negative into a positive but also limits venting that can often occur. 

Monitor engagement

Developing improved lines of communication and trust takes time and should never be considered a one-time event. To evaluate your present state and future progress, it’s important to survey staff regularly.

This can be accomplished in several ways, including employee pulse surveys, stakeholder interviews and direct observation.

With the recent shift to remote work due to COVID-19, evaluating employee engagement has become more challenging. However, along with regular touchpoints with supervisors and virtual team and division meetings, there is a range of resources available, including surveys and polls using Microsoft Forms that can be delivered through Microsoft Teams (for more on Microsoft Teams, read our July 2020 post).

The intel received through touchpoints and surveys can be invaluable in gaining insight into how your employees think, feel and act along with measures you can take to improve morale and productivity.

A great example is a recent Slack post that noted only 12% of knowledge workers want to return to work exclusively in the office while 72% want a combination of office and remote work. Data such as this could be very valuable in planning your organization’s approach in the near and long-term future.

Enduring success

As for the CIO we mentioned at the beginning of this post? Like many of the leaders we’ve collaborated with over the years, we continue to stay in touch.

He is continuing to lead his company through a massive period of change, and the organization has not only survived but thrived, earning recognition in both its home province (British Columbia, Canada) and nationally through a spot on the prestigious Canada’s Top 100 employers list.

Something worth shouting about wouldn’t you say?

Are you interested in enhancing your engagement with your employees? Drop us an email at to discuss your scenario.

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