When I talk to CEOs, CHROs and other senior executives about the silent majority at their company and the critical need to engage them, I usually receive one of two answers. The scary one goes as follows — “What silent majority?” The other, more encouraging one is -“Yes! I am always trying to figure out what they are thinking and if they understand my priorities and if I understand their concerns!” With Gallup polls showing that more than 77% of employees are dis-engaged at work, and with talent being a company’s biggest asset, ensuring that leaders engage with the entire team as opposed to just the ones that raise their hands, is becoming critical.
Who is the Silent Majority?
Silent majorities tend not to exist in start-ups or smaller sized companies. However, as these companies start growing beyond the initial founding team and the core group, newer employees coming in, tend not to feel as free to express themselves openly. As the company starts growing past the 50 employee stage, they gradually start socializing within smaller groups based on factors such as department, office location, friendships and cultural affinity. This is usually the point where one sees the slow rise of a silent majority. While these employees might freely interact in smaller groups, they tend to become silent in bigger and open forums.
Why Engage the Silent Majority?
Now, while it’s still possible to stay engaged with a growing employee base through company wide distribution lists and All Hands Meetings etc., these tend to be dominated by the “old-timers” and senior employees. But why engage with the rest at all?
Two key reasons — First, it’s important for leaders to have a sense of where most of their employees stand on the big issues. But more importantly, with the rise of the millennials, employees increasingly want to be heard. And if you don’t hear or engage with them, you run the risk that they will leave you at the first available opportunity.
How to Engage the Silent Majority
Now that we have seen the importance of engaging the silent majority, here are a few ideas on how you can engage your silent majority.
- Take advantage of available tools — Companies are increasingly adopting technology solutions to engage with the the employee base and create conversations in both directions. Ensuring that the tools are mobile and allow for anytime anywhere engagement can make a big difference in the participation levels. Using solutions that help you directly engage with your employees, by for example letting you post a quick poll and knowing the result of what your company thinks in a matter of minutes, can help tremendously.
- Mix up the All Hands Meetings Q&A—While typical Q&A sessions at the end of All Hands Meetings tend to have the usual suspects asking the questions, you could encourage new employees to ask questions by offering incentives to the most insightful question by someone who hasn’t participated before.
- Office Social Mixers — These can be a great way for CEOs and senior execs to mingle around in a low pressure environment with employees. Such mixers not only give you the opportunity to get their take on your newest initiative, but also have the added benefit of actually getting to know them.
- Anonymous Suggestion Box — While this can be an inefficient means to collect feedback and engage in this day and age, it can still be valuable if you don’t have some of the newer engagement solutions in place
In conclusion, don’t be one of those CEOs and Leadership teams that tend to take the easy path and just listen to each other. Take a moment to put in place practices and tools that can give you a pulse of your entire organization.