Tracey Elfstrom, Director of Organizational Development at Skagit Regional Health, talks about culture, trust, and giving employees a voice -- and how Thoughtexchange changed the face of their conversation.
What are some perspectives we need to understand as we work together to improve our culture at Skagit Regional Health?
What value did you get from your exchange?
"From a business standpoint, this exchange allowed us to engage the entire organization in a dynamic conversation primarily driven by the employees. We needed something that was drastically different than the standard one-sided employee survey format that we had used unsuccessfully for years. This allowed us to start rebuilding trust with the employees by giving them a voice – whether it was through their own thoughts or simply by being able to weigh in on thoughts submitted by their co-workers. This was a significant departure from the formal, top-down communication approach of the past. It provided several benefits including the ability to address true concerns that resonated with the largest number of employees (not just the concerns of the loudest or most influential voices); greater confidence in development of the strategic plan; more and faster buy-in by staff on changes being made; the ability to openly address misconceptions that were being communicated behind the scenes in the past."
What advice would you give to other leaders running this kind of exchange?
1. CEO and Executive Team buy in is a must for it to be successful.
2. Once your CEO and Execs are on board, make sure they participate in selling the concept to the entire leadership team. Everyone should champion it!
3. Develop a comprehensive communication plan to educate staff ahead of launching the exchange.
4. Make sure all leaders (and board members) know that some of the feedback will be hard to hear – and that is okay. It is actually good!
5. Develop your plan for responding/following up on feedback before the launch date so that you don’t risk losing staff’s confidence with lagging (or no) responses.
6. Don’t panic when the difficult feedback rolls in – keep reminding others (and yourself) how powerful transparency is!
7. Accomplish and communicate the easy/quick wins right away. Communicate plans for longer-term projects. AND, don’t just ignore things you can’t do – tell the employees you can’t do it, and give them the why!