Over the last three years, one of my clients has established a new function to better serve its customers. This function includes about 350 employees brought together from other parts of the company. Half of this team is in remote offices. These “field” employees gave one of the company’s lowest engagement scores and had one of the highest attrition rates – twice that of accepted industry norms.

We instituted a regular mealtime meeting between senior leaders and small groups of employees. The program, called “Food for Thought,” provided employees a structured way to share feedback, issues, and concerns. Topics included understanding the impact of the new organization and cross-functional operating issues.

Corporate employees were scheduled for lunch meetings. Field employees participated when they met for other purposes; someone from the leadership team would have dinner with them.

The VP of the unit at the time said, “Hearing from front-line employees provided more insight to lead my team in 90 minutes than I received in other ways during any given month. These employee meetings clearly enabled me to be a better leader.

Other results? Over this time frame the field team increased engagement scores by 35% and reduced unfavorable attrition by more 8%, bringing it in well below industry standards.

There are a variety of methods you can use to connect with and obtain feedback from your employees. Food for Thought was a creative, low-cost method this leadership team used during a time of notable change.

Call to action:

  1. When driving a change program, identify the impact on your front-line employees. Focus on behavioral changes, such as how employees will work together differently.
  2. Determine the best approach for your team. Mealtime meetings, focus groups, department or workgroup meetings, and town halls are among those most often used.
  3. Select a cross- section of your organization’s employees to attend. Mixing groups is often an excellent way to facilitate the cross-pollination of ideas.
  4. Have an agenda. Facilitate to keep the meeting on-track and avoid it becoming a gripe session.
  5. As you hold these meetings, develop trust and speak with candor. Authenticity is critical. If employees sense any degree of patronization, you’ll lose credibility.
  6. Follow- up. If you accept action items from these meetings, you must follow through.

Whether you use a format like Food for Thought, or some other mechanism, gathering meaningful employee feedback during change is a simple and effective way to increase engagement which in turn drives greater institutionalization of the change, and adds significant value.

Dedicated to your profitable transformation,

Steve

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