POSTED BY: | September 1, 2021

One of the hidden gems of research that we often utilize and consistently offers the most surprises and ah-ha moments to our clients is the employee forum. Employee opinion surveys have long since been internalized by corporations and have become watered down and/or biased. Employers still want to be able to keep in touch with their employees continuously in the war for talent and that premise makes sense. Employers SHOULD want to have their finger on the pulse, but it takes more than surveys to get to the grit.

Providing employees a truly safe and anonymous forum as a way to speak directly to leadership is where reality and perception come together. You read that right; a real-time observation of what employees are saying and thinking. A front row seat to it all. But this doesn’t have to be a primetime feeding frenzy about what leadership can do differently and what perks should be offered. This forum can be about how employees view your brand and the product and/or service you offer. The forum can also ask a sales team to talk openly about why prospects are not buying the products or what the strategy team thinks are the biggest barriers standing in the way of growth.

Sounds pretty simple, right? Like you might already know the answers to all of these questions? Let’s revert back to my first sentence; The One Where (Friends reference!) clients find the most surprises. When an employee is given a safe space to talk openly, it breaks down the protective walls and new ideas, problem areas, red flags, and new opportunities emerge. Do you think that employees talk the same way to you about the company or job as they do at the dinner table with their family? If your answer is any semblance of ‘no’ then it may be time to consider a forum to listen and observe.

In this space, employees are recruited at random and invited to join an online chat. Those observing the online discussion are not privy to who was invited from a much larger list of employees provided. Participating employees are then provided with a username that is a randomly assigned color so that their name and personally identifiable information is never exposed. While the discussion is moderated by two trained SMARI moderators, observers can watch the discussion unfold (or read through the transcripts later) and chat directly with the moderators and each other.

My favorite part of these discussions? When the clients start listing off immediate next steps on the debrief call after the group discussion.