Bottom up communication - power to the people

Written by
Changeboard Team

14 Dec 2011

14 Dec 2011 • by Changeboard Team

A great place to work

In our first article we talk about how you can turn your business into a people magnet. In our second article explored the lead up to an individual joining your organisation and how engagement can begin well before this date. Now your new recruit is settled into their role, this article looks at how communication and performance management provides massive opportunities to continue on your mission of becoming a great place to work.

The Big C: communication

Most employee survey results show communication as a key area for improvement because few get it 100% perfect. And even after the survey is completed, few businesses strive to solve it in the best way possible.

When we set up learnpurple 10 years ago we conducted research among 2,500 people and communication was listed as the number one motivator at work. Over the years similar research has shown the same, demonstrating just how important getting this right is.

The issue with The Big C (communication) is it takes time and effort. Yet getting it right can have a considerable influence on motivation, performance and productivity of people and is a huge contributor to The Big E (employee engagement).

We could write a whole book on communication (and may actually do so), however we like to keep things simple.

Key tips for communication

  • Encourage and expect everyone to be responsible for communicating. If they are responsible for change, then they should lead the communications.
  • Create a freedom within a framework culture which allows people to make decisions for themselves. In order for this to truly work however, you must decide the ‘non-negotiables’ and communicate these clearly, all leaders must walk the talk and make sure support is always available.
  • Remember your employees are adults and expect to be treated and communicated to as adults. Open, frank, honest and clear communications are the only way. Imagine you are communicating with someone who’s never heard of you or your organisation – that way you’ll have to provide absolute clarity.
  • Think before you communicate – who needs to know, what do you need to say, what will the impact be.

Employee opinion: the power of the people

A large part of communication is ensuring it is two-way; providing your people with a chance to express their feelings, thoughts, ideas for improvement. By doing so you will vastly improve your chances of being a great place to work and employing inspired, happy and more profitable people.

Employee surveys are a useful tool for sourcing and collating opinion. Not only do they give your people the power to ‘speak up’, they also demonstrate that you care and value their opinion. However this only works if you involve your leaders from the outset and make sure everyone’s prepared to deal with and act on the feedback like adults.

Surveys do not have to be long and boring which are hard to fill in. Simple, fun and engaging solutions asking the right questions in your language are just as, if not more, effective as complex ones. Have a look at our employee opinion survey on, you can even use it for free for up to 100 people.

Once you have your findings, act upon them. Pick no more than three big actions and a selection of quick wins which can be delivered easily and in a timely fashion. Draw up a clear communication plan for sharing the results quickly so that your workforce knows they have been listened to and that it’s worth giving the feedback. For points which cannot be changed, explain why. Remember, two-way, honest communication is the main motivator for your people.

Managing performance - keeping on track

You’ve put lots of effort into attracting, selecting, engaging and canvassing opinion from your talented workforce; but you also need to think about their performance in your business.

Suppose you’re a chef and you’ve spent a small fortune on white Alba truffles, then you just throw them on a shelf in a plastic bag and don’t think twice about them. This simply wouldn’t happen – in reality you’d lovingly encase your truffle in fresh paper and seal it in a jar in the fridge. In the same way it’s your responsibility to nurture your people assets as you would any other business asset; helping them be the best they can be.

I’m not going to give away all of our performance managing secrets here (that’s why Purple your People was written…!). A couple of key points however are, you must be very clear from the outset about what’s required and ‘how things are done around here’. That way when things aren’t quite working to plan you can refer to this conversation and help put things back on track.

Feedback is an important element of managing performance. People need to know how they are doing (praise as well as correction), so make sure they have ongoing feedback. If there is an concern, speak only to the person who can bring about necessary change. Not only does this get rid of 'gossip culture', but it solves issues much quicker.

Talent review - in the driving seat

Talent review in its simplest form is all about performance, succession planning, creating a leadership pipeline and making sure you can have the right people in the right roles at the right time.

It should be a time where performance, aspirations and potential are reviewed individually. Development needs should also be considered at this time.

The easiest way to do this is to make regular appraisals and ongoing reviews part of your DNA, putting the work in to enable rich one-to-one discussions. Sometimes, however, organisations are put off this approach because they can be time consuming and daunting. In fact, talent reviews are a perfect time to give positive feedback, offer thanks for a job well done and to plan for the future. By creating a culture of regular reviews and one-to-one meetings, performance and other issues will be managed as they go along, therefore when it comes to formal appraisal time this can become a positive event which enables people to drive their own progress.

Contributing to the bottom line

Another solution is to find a system whereby goals and other outcomes are properly recorded and easily accessible, then regularly updated and reviewed throughout the year. Online talent management systems have fast become the preferred method for appraisals and can generate a vast return on investment by allowing organisations to manage and plan succession better (thus reducing recruitment costs), spend development budget in a targeted fashion through accurate learning needs analysis and sourcing employee opinion and ideas rather than bringing in a consultant.

We’ve been developing award winning online talent management solutions for 10 years and we have witnessed returns of 10 times the investment value. One medium sized business saved as much as £500k within 18 months of putting their process online – an example of HR really adding value and contributing to the bottom line in a very visible way. A well-crafted talent management system really will provide everything needed to carry out a first-class talent review; thus planning for future business needs, making the most of the talent they have in place and enabling the necessary development, recruitment and activity required to create success.