Last week I presented at the National Housing Federation conference in Manchester. The presentation was about innovative internal communication tools but the one thing that really resonated with the people in the room (and on twitter), was my comment about walking the floor.
It’s something I truly believe makes a massive difference in an organisation. In my experience it can help to build trust, increase visibility of senior leaders and give you, as an IC lead in your organisation, an overview of what’s happening across the business.
There’s more need than ever to do these types of trust building activities considering the current climate we are in. The latest Edelman Trust Barometer reported that people have shifted their trust to relationships within their control, such as their employers. Globally, 75 percent of people trust “my employer” to do what is right, significantly more than NGOs (57 percent), business (56 percent) and media (47 percent).
Having your finger on the pulse in the organisation you work in is critical. There is absolutely no way on this planet you’d be able to get a true sense of what was happening across the business from sitting behind your desk, sending out emails. The most powerful conversations I’ve ever had have been face-to-face, particularly to colleagues who don’t have a desk based job.
One key issue that people tend to struggle with is getting their leaders out of HQ and walking the floor – I’ve certainly struggled and it can be tough especially if they have a really busy diary. So, here are some top tips/advice that I’ve picked up over the years to get the ball rolling on ‘walk the floors’
- Leaders will not give these ‘walk the floors’ any priority if they can’t see the value they will bring. Use data from surveys, focus groups and gain evidence from other organisations where it works well. If the exec team are still reluctant then try to do a short pilot with a few execs instead, and steadily build momentum. If leaders can see the impact they are having it will inspire them to continue.
- Try to keep them informal. The last thing you need is the entire operation thinking VIPs are visiting and they are on their best behaviour. That won’t give the team a true reflection and colleagues won’t feel comfortable. I’ve also known senior leaders who spent time doing the work their colleagues are doing (think undercover boss) to get a true perspective of what they go through. These types of interactions can be really beneficial and can have such a positive impact in the business.
- As an IC lead it should be your business to know what the key issues are in each area. You would only really know this if you walk the floor yourself, so make sure you do this regularly. It’ll also allow you to touch base and do regular pulse checks. I used to do frequent write ups and give feedback on my visits. No names but just an overview. It helped the MD understand what to focus on next time he was on his walks. It can help build your Trusted Advisor status as well.
- Be organised. The last thing you need after finally getting them on the floor is to discover that people are on training all day or there are not enough people on shift. Work with team leaders to find out when the best times and days are. Keep it to schedule and allow plenty of time in their diaries for overlap and travel. You don’t want any reasons for anyone to back out. This is when their exec assistants will become your best friend.
- Measure. I know I have already mentioned this but it’s so important to understand the value these walks are having. Taking a few hours out of the CEOs diary is expensive and they will not thank you if they can’t see what improvements are being made or the ROI. Make sure actions are noted as they are walking about, so you can remind the team once they are back at the desk and ensure the issues are actioned. There is absolutely no point walking the floor if the interaction isn’t two-way. It’s a good way to remind leaders before they head out again on what was discussed so they can update colleagues themselves face-to-face, it will help to build trust further.
If your leadership team are still not interested then you make sure that you or your team do regular walks. Treat it as a meeting that can’t be cancelled and make sure you feedback via your monthly update or face-to-face meetings with your leaders. But don’t give up, most leaders in my experience are more than willing to do these ‘walk the floors’ but you just have to make sure you can make it as easy as possible for them.
Let me know what else has worked in your organisation and if you have a fantastic walk the floor culture…you can find me on twitter at Advita_p or follow me on Linkedin.
If you want to discuss more things like this with other communication professionals then why not join one of the Comms Hive dinners. We have a few spaces left in Birmingham (May 21) and Leeds (June 5). Drop me an email to firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.