Workplace democracy ‘key for employee engagement’

Workplace democracy ‘key for employee engagement’

February 10, 2016

Putting people at the forefront of your internal comms will help employee engagement flourish, says a leading academic.

David Cowan insists ‘workplace democracy’ – holding open dialogue with employees to gain meaningful feedback – should be the norm for every forward-thinking business.

To achieve this though, a rethink of internal communication approach is often required, he admits.

Mr Cowan, the author of Internal Communication: How to Build Employee Engagement and Performance, believes many senior leaders prefer to discuss issues with employees on a “need-to-know” basis.

Yet this is counter-productive, Mr Cowan insists.

He told theglobeandmail.com: “The reality is most employees do understand, and are more trustworthy than leaders recognise.

“The point of engaging employees is not to spin the news or keep them happy by hiding troubles from them.

“If you want to make employees happy, pay them a lot more to work a lot less and you may achieve that.

“A better approach is to have meaningful dialogue that shares the organisation’s burdens rather than objectifying staff as part of the problem.

“Employees know their companies have difficulties to face, and will often understand what’s good for the company, even if it is bad news for them personally.

“But they’ll only ‘get it’ if you explain it to them in a meaningful way.”

Mr Cowan is eager to stress that change is needed – in the form of workplace democracy.

He added: “In the 21st century, democracy can help make companies more successful – it makes for a workplace in which employees are respected, included and consulted.

“One where their views are heard, responded to, and even form part of the solution.

“This is the true power of the modern organisation, where there is greater openness.

“It is only through open dialogue, rather than hierarchical communication, that leaders can unleash the power within their organizations.

“Achieving this requires finding out what’s meaningful to employees in different parts of the company.

“This can only be done by understanding your internal audience, and by leaders seeing things from other points of view, because people in the company do see things differently and have different needs.”