I’m not going to lie, my favorite moments at work come when I’ve gotten someone to say something they wouldn’t normally have said; something they were thinking but knew they should keep to them self.
A co-worker recently complimented my ability to get people to ‘spill their guts without realizing what they’re doing’. He asked if I could teach him to do the same thing. I don’t think about it often but it’s true that people tend to open up around me and before they know it they’re dropping their guard. I have a sneaking suspicion that many of you are the same way. I think it’s an HR thing.
Truly, I’m giddy when I realize this is happening. It’s not because I like the gossip, or like being nosey. It’s because I know that the only way to make our company better is to make decisions based on as many of the facts as possible. When employees are brutally honest, I can piece together an accurate picture of our company; where we’re succeeding and where we’re sinking. I can coach troubled employees on possible next steps, and I can accurately act as an employee advocate in meetings with Senior Leadership.
Unfortunately, I don’t have enough time to get every employee to spill the beans. Yet without that information I also can’t accurately advocate for the very employees I live for. That’s why I need to start creating a mini-army of Bean Gatherers. These Bean Gatherers can work to keep a pulse on the company by getting employees to open up about their experiences. Then, I get these people to open up to me and Bam, I’m in the know. It’s like a pyramid scheme…but with people. It might be the ungodly hour that I’m writing this, but I think I’m pretty clever right now, so hear me out.
So how do we create this Army of Bean Gatherers?
1. Find the employees in our company who are ‘in the know’. Those who already have the trust of those around them.
2. Build a relationship with these advocates. Talk to them about employee advocacy, get their thoughts on how the company can change, prove to them that you’re in this to help build a better place to work, etc.
3. Teach them the skills they need for asking the right questions and getting people to open up.
4. Teach them how to be good listeners based on these thoughts from Trish McFarlane’s blog.
5. Touch base with these Bean Gathering Employee Advocates frequently and empower them to become the voice for those around them.
6. Continue to build trust and break down barriers based on the feedback you’re getting.
Have any of you ever created a program like this before? How did it work out and what challenges did you face?
Marisa is a Culture Coach for small and quickly growing organizations trying to establish the infrastructure required to create a company full of passionate, motivated, and engaged employees. She has held culture and engagement roles for two nationally recognized great places to work, founded the research and networking group Culture Fanatics, and is an industry recognized blogger. She lives in Richmond, Virginia with her husband and twin boys and is looking forward to the day she can bike across the country to raise money for MS research. @marisakeegan.