Leadership Active Open Mind

Everyone has limitations. I certainly do. How do you compensate for them?

When I get up, one of the things I do is put my lenses in or put my glasses on first, because of the limitation of my vision. I’ve had this since I was about 14. Without glasses or lenses, I see people, things, situations and dimensions blurred. Extremely limited, and therefore extremely limiting. It closes me off from the world around me. And that immediately has an effect on me: I close myself off from the world a little more. If I can’t do anything with it, if I can’t see it, it’s as if I don’t need to see the world. I stay in a kind of bubble, a somewhat apathetic, isolated situation. As a teenager I didn’t want to wear my glasses, and we didn’t have money for lenses, so I only wore them when I had to. Then I noticed how you can close yourself off from the world or open yourself up to it. Shutting off, being open, shutting off, being open. With a simple tool. Well, simple, a unique innovation that 60% of society can no longer do without. So you can apparently take charge of your own limitations.

The limitation of limited vision is just the beginning. I have many more. That is why, for example, I make sure that I read every day. To cope with my limitations.

Not seeing or not wanting to see

We often close ourselves off from things we don’t see, don’t want to see or don’t want to know. We leave our limitations, if we are aware of them at all, as they are. You look the other way, and presto, your own limitations immediately exist a lot less. Such a bubble is sometimes useful: in that bubble, you can just do what you want and what you can, without seeing it, and define or ignore the outside world. Your assumptions and beliefs remain intact. You’re always right. And so you stay close to what you already know, which fits in perfectly with the trend of ‘staying true to yourself’. Moreover, nowadays you can expect to be allowed to be yourself in your organization, from the point of view of psychological safety and diversity & inclusion. So with all your limitations, you must be given room to be yourself, including your limitations. You can expect others to respect and accept you for that.

But my question is: what do you do with those limitations? Who or what do you look for to complement yourself? And vice versa? Who fits your limitations? Who is creative if you are not? Who is more analytical if you are not? And who can you help with what someone else’s limitation is? Which colleague do you sometimes help, “I see that you’re struggling with that presentation, why don’t we look at it together?

Madam Curie described it beautifully, working on yourself and being there for others: “You cannot hope to build a better world without improving the individuals. To that end, each of us must work for his own improvement, and at the same time share a general responsibility for all humanity, our particular duty being to aid those to whom we think we can be most useful.”

Needing each other to deal with your own limitations

Doing something about your limitations, getting out of your bubble? Boring or interesting? Do you take off your glasses or do you put them on to see better? Like for the love of your life. Or finding out why employees leave you, while you send them a survey every month to measure engagement. Or finding out the real reason why a customer won’t renew a contract, even though your sales team says it’s just because we don’t innovate enough. Or understanding the resistance to a particular change project and how you can turn it around. To see or not to see? Eyes open or eyes closed? We desperately need others. As a mirror for our own actions, thinking, feeling, observing or the absence of it. To learn from and to ask for and offer help. To get feedback and advice, to ask questions that we did not dare to ask of ourselves. Where is our limitation to deal more cleverly with our limitations?

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Two behaviours limit us from learning

Cognitive dissonance, also called Myside bias

The first means that we shun or distort information if it can confuse us or make us feel uncomfortable about how we see things or think about something. In other words, new knowledge is not welcome if it questions our current knowledge. Getting out of your bubble, seeing something better than you do now, takes some effort. Check out the American psychologist Leon Festinger on this topic who wrote the book A Theory of Cognitive Dissonance in 1957.

Confirmation bias, seeking confirmation

The second behaviour, confirmation bias, says that we prefer to look for information that confirms our point of view, our current knowledge and assumptions. We pay more attention to matters (and information) that are more familiar. Like attracts like. We prefer someone on the team who understands us, fits in with us, and is not going to slow us down with new views. We also prefer not to make the meeting too big, especially not with that critical colleague, because “we want to get on with it today”. We’d rather experience the comfort of hearing what you want to hear from a familiar, small group. We need confirmation. We see what we want to see, what we can handle. This is how we bring our personal, emotional limitation to work, even though research shows that being actively open to reflection and other opinions and to diversity benefits the team, results and critical and creative thinking. Not the superficial kind of diversity, like gender, skin colour, religion, etc., but the deeper kind, like knowledge, experience and other perspectives. A growth mindset: looking for what you don’t know yet, for new information. Looking for contradiction instead of avoiding it.

In dialogue? Learn from others: look further!

Physicist David Bohm, and I too, indicate that the technique of dialogue can compensate for your own limitations of knowledge, experiences, insights. You actively look for different, new perspectives to improve, sharpen or even reject your own point of view. I prefer to call a standpoint an ‘expression of temporary and limited insight’. A standpoint is a point on which you stand, an immovable position, reinforcing behaviours such as the ones mentioned above. In science, the opposite of this is called Active Open-Minded Thinking: looking for reasons not to be right. CircleLytics Dialogue has been developed to ensure that the diversity of everyone’s thinking is immediately available to you. According to our vision, new knowledge, insights and ideas must be gained, learned from and used in a fast, safe and accessible way. In dialogue, you actively renew your temporary insight. CircleLytics can be used for this purpose. For group sizes of up to 100,000, for every conceivable subject, for hours or days, and sometimes weeks. Open-ended questions are essential, and the second step. Because the first step is to be open to renewing your own opinions, assumptions, beliefs and standpoints.

By the way, Bohm suggests a minimum group of 20 people (for physical meetings; he lived before the internet emerged), because with a smaller number you would know each other too well, you wouldn’t be surprised, and therefore stay within your comfort zone. You do make your decisions within a few hours of such a meeting, and you think that is because you keep the group small and the lines of communication and interaction limited. Clear and … limited. But … limiting. Bohm says: “these decisions by such a small group are risky and simply not the best ones”. You also do not build support outside the small group and that can cost you dear. After all, these are times when employee engagement and inclusion are paramount. The picture here shows the richness of connections when you involve multiple people: you gain a multifold of interaction and enrich dialogue, hence insights. Organizations such as Philips, Unilever, the National Police, the Ministry of Public Health and Welfare, RIVM, Landal GreenParks do this with 100 to 10,000 people at a time. But also with smaller groups, from 10 to 100, for brainstorm sessions, preparation of offsites, top 100 meetings, Works Council meetings. CircleLytics uses its algorithms to recognize differing opinions and confront the participants with these differing, anonymous opinions. This leads them to new and better thoughts. And those thoughts are bundled and delivered as a result in real time. The more people, the richer and more diverse the insights, and the more interactions. You could be ready in a few days (prior to your meeting) using the technology of CircleLytics Dialogue. Or sometimes a few weeks and – if it’s urgent – in hours.

Continuous change requires constant engagement and constant dialogue. However, if you follow a heuristic, bias-sensitive way of working, just because you want to stay in your comfort zone, you face cognitive dissonance and run unnecessary risks. Our view is that this can affect the weak trust, low engagement and toxic culture that organizations measure. If you make your decisions without knowledge, experience and insights decentralized in the organization, successful implementation is far from guaranteed. What do you think it does to people when they have to do things they don’t agree with and have good reasons for doing so that you weren’t interested in?

Modern leadership: dialogue and the brainpower of many

Modern leadership at clients such as Philips and Spaarne Gasthuis organize their options, risks and ideas digitally with CircleLytics. It is based on the diversity of the way of thinking and experience of many people, even tens of thousands. We recommend at least 10 participants. The dialogues often precede a meeting in which the diversity and pooling of results are included in the decision-making process. The collective intelligence is therefore brought to bear by leaders, managers, project managers and other decision-makers. Growth-minded decision makers make stronger decisions by compensating their own cognitive and creative limitations with the brainpower of others. Since every human being has these limitations, there is no shame in admitting it. Addressing and compensating for them is the step we need to take now. And in my opinion, not doing so is questionable and risky; moreover, unnecessary. The developments of these forms of leadership and organization are going fast. The World Economic Forum white paper on “Decentralised Autonomous Organizations” is an interesting read in this regard. Organizations cannot be managed exclusively top-down without risks. Cognitive dissonance, confirmation bias and keeping your decision-making power in a small group are recalcitrant phenomena. What can you do about it?

Francesca Gino of Harvard studied some time ago that asking for advice and feedback from others is seen as a sign of strength and intelligence. The opposite was also brought to light; I think nobody wants to be seen as a weak leader or manager. It’s all about knowing your limitations, looking for new insights and learning to ask open-ended questions! Open-ended questions are instrumental in dealing with your own limitations. You show openness and vulnerability towards your employees, which not only gives you insights, but also builds trust. BCG also emphasises the positive impact of organizing dissent, debate and other perspectives. Moreover, BCG indicates that employees stay longer and are more involved if this is part of the culture. They recommend that “leaders should incorporate the concept of productive debate into corporate value statements” and “leaders should formally incorporate the values of productive disagreement into the organizational fabric and ways of working”. Plato already knew that asking questions is the essence of learning, and more recently,  Harvard Business Review mentions the following about deliberately asking open-ended questions: “you’re communicating that you haven’t come with an immovable agenda, you are demonstrating that you care about and are open to the other person’s perspective, creating trust”. McKinsey writes about deploying people from outside your team or crowdsourcing with large groups: “Accept that it’s OK to draw on diverse experiences and expertise other than your own”.

Usually, leaders and managers are seen as ‘having limited cognitive resources and operating within the limits of bounded rationality, merely satisficing by making just good enough decisions’. And ‘working in complicated, often emotionally charged, organisational systems, decision makers have to respond to the needs of multiple stakeholders, who can politically influence the decision-making process’. This is the intriguing step that managers, HR, works councils, boards of directors and project leaders are taking by deploying CircleLytics. They are mobilizing the collective brainpower and creativity of (very large) groups of stakeholders. For many leaders and managers, this is still challenging. Professor Lynda Gratton of London Business School: “When we fear failure, we retreat to the known” and “leaders can address legitimate fears about the complexity of getting the employee proposition right and create a practice of embracing change that is fair and inclusive“. Not every change required in an organization allows for a participative – and therefore bottom-up – approach, where employees are seen as essential to that change and where there is a strong moral contract between management and employees. Sometimes a change requires a . The former is a rather tough and directive top-down approach, where employees are seen as instrumental to shareholder value creation. Our focus is on Theory O leadership and change management.

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

What this innovative generation of leaders is achieving:

  • they prevent individuals or emotions from negatively influencing or dominating their decisions
  • they ensure that they have a support base by engaging (all) stakeholders
  • they compensate for their own biases and bounded rationality, i.e. their own limited thinking power
  • they use the creative, problem-solving abilities of the group.

In other words, as managers and leaders they recognize their own limitations and compensate for them by activating the experiences, knowledge and creativity of others. Be inspired by HR, as they are close to the people side of the organization. Don’t let HR hinder you, because your organization should not be limited by HR relying too much on old technology to approach employees. We often see that the biases mentioned above play a strong role in HR as well. Familiarity and emotional involvement with solutions such as employee research based on surveys and in general the ‘old’ technology of surveys and closed questions, block the unlocking of knowledge, experience, insight and involvement from the shop floor. However, new technology such as CircleLytics Dialogue, based on more rounds, open-ended questions and collective intelligence, is seeing a huge rise. The pressure is growing on HR to choose solutions that increase engagement rather than just measure it, and that directly help managers make smarter, faster decisions. Together.

Technology such as my lenses and glasses enable me to cope with my limitations. We have long accepted that someone’s sight is not good. And for a long time now, we have also accepted that, as human beings, we have cognitive and creative limitations. “You can’t ignore this impact,” says the management of Landal GreenParks.

Technology such as CircleLytics Dialogue enables leaders to deal with their own limitations and those of the organization. It shows strength when you dare to tackle them, as well as something else that is sorely needed in this situation: you show that you take your employees very seriously and that keeps them involved and committed to the organization and each other. The more they experience that you take them seriously, the longer they will stay.

In times that challenge you to retain talents and make more complex decisions, you’d better show that you’re pulling out all the stops.

Interested in what CircleLytics Dialogue has to offer for the engagement and retention of your people, your change processes and the performance of your organization? Plan your session here to get acquainted or schedule a demo.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Dialogue Education

This Customer Case focuses on the ongoing change process within a (very) large educational organization, and how dialogue with 1,000s of stakeholders shaped strategy. They are getting ready to adopt a curriculum based on professional tasks. The knowledge and skill development being taught will be constantly tailored to the professional tasks. This curriculum must represent a significant, policy-based issue and change process. This process is a substantial task, and the organization enlisted the help of several colleagues willing to commit to this and formed a project team. They first started to investigate whether there was a need for change and why they should change the training program. That preliminary process took quite some time. Once they decided this was the way to go, the next step was to reformulate the professional tasks. That is when CircleLytics Dialogue got involved.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

How to reach everyone? Through dialogue!

The professional tasks are the basis: what are the main ingredients of the teaching profession, and what tasks are involved? So, the team set out to gather answers from teachers within our educational organization, students and primary school teachers working in the field. This last group was essential to the organization because they do the actual work and the organization has much contact with them.

Organizational management: “In the past, we had used surveys, but the response was often low or not all target groups participated in similar numbers. The CircleLytics dialogue involves a broad group of people, so there’s no risk of always asking the same group of people for their opinions or the same people responding. The online dialogue’s attractiveness and high response rate provide a representative picture of the current state of affairs. The dialogue is innovative, reaches more people and provides a broad understanding of their answers and everyone’s appreciation for those answers.”

Good preparation helps achieve the desired response

They started by determining the right questions. That took some time, but the question design was essential to receive the answers that were needed. “We did not want to use the term ‘professional tasks’ because teachers in primary education do not use it, but we had to make clear that we were talking about professional tasks. The risk was that people within our organization would start to list their current professional tasks, which we wanted to avoid. Constructing the right question and determining who would send the e-mail message was a complicated assignment. CircleLytics provided the right guidance throughout the process. There was room for quick consultations, and we were well advised about what we should and shouldn’t do.”

“In the end, our dialogue consisted of two open questions and a profile question (closed, multiple choice). The first question was about the content of professional tasks; the second question left the respondent free to tell us more about their frustrations or desired changes. Both were open questions with a unique second round (dialogue), where participants appreciated each other’s answers. And finally, we wanted to know which target group the respondent belonged to.”

Positively surprised by the dialogue

The most striking result was the high response and the equal distribution among all target groups, which we are very pleased with. The questions were sent out to approximately 4,000 people, and 700 responded. That is a higher response than any survey we sent out before, and the qualitative value is extremely high. We got very positive reactions, and people felt heard and seen. In addition, the reliability is high: the response is twice the response required for reliable, representative research. The CircleLytics team also told us that the response rate increases even further once people get to know the dialogue process and experience that it really isn’t a survey and their opinions are really wanted.”

“For us, the outcomes of the dialogue feel like a victory. With these results, we now have a good picture of what is happening in all our target groups. This input has enabled us to give well-founded advice. We also actively promoted participation in advance. We visited people and told them that if they wanted to influence the future of this training program, they should seize this opportunity to participate in this dialogue.”

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

Online dialogue and sentiment analysis: innovative approach

The organization continues: “The dialogue is entirely anonymous and it is inspiring because you see the responses of others. This also gives people different insights during the process; on closer inspection, they might prefer answers that differ from their own. This reflection is essential. The dialogue encourages you to think; I have not seen this implemented in this manner in our industry before. Preparation takes time because it takes time to think about what you want to know and to formulate the right open question. Next time we apply the process, we will be familiar with the platform!

Before we started, we informed colleagues in our educational institution that we intended to look for their input. I wasn’t familiar with the dialogue mechanism, and I am not very tech-savvy, but the platform is very easy-to-use. The collaboration was enjoyable. CircleLytics was easily accessible and quickly came up with solutions. After a thorough demonstration and patient explanation, I was quickly able to search the answers without difficulty. For instance, I can hide answers and build a top (and a bottom) 5 based on the top-rated options or words used. It’s very valuable to see in what context people use these words.”

“Our advice is fully supported by the responses from the collective. We cannot and do not want to ignore this. We are now waiting for certain committees to make their decisions, and then the work can resume based on newly formulated professional tasks. But now we know, from experience, that the right questions provide valuable answers that are supported by a representative target group. We highly recommend the CircleLytics Dialogue to other education colleagues and institutions.”

If you want to know more about what CircleLytics Dialogue can do for the commitment and retention of your people, your change procedures and your organization’s performance, please schedule your introduction meeting or demo now.

 

Plato Academie

CircleLytics Dialogue is widely used in education. CircleLytics is based on the science of collective intelligence and dialogue dynamics. They are not rushed by a workshop or digital session of one or more hours but can reflect on their answers, over several days, through two asynchronous online rounds. No video sessions, no survey, but actual dialogues.
Dialogues teach us to see each other’s perspectives, it creates nuances and leads to new common insights. That requires attention and time to reflect. The dialogue method enables quick group-supported decision-making, in a matters of days to a few weeks.

This blog is about the different ways that dialogue is applied in the field of education. The dialogue method has been applied at institutions such as Leiden University, University of Amsterdam, Breda University of Applied Sciences, ROC Mondriaan, InHolland University of Applied Sciences, Avans University of Applied Sciences, Kentalis (Special Education) and many primary and secondary schools. Working with groups ranging from dozens to thousands of participants.

Read more about one educational organization’s road to better performances “The dialogue feels like a true victory.”

Key reasons why the Education System applies CircleLytics Dialogue

Democratize decision-making

The reason for using CircleLytics Dialogue is usually that organizations want to shape their participatory policy, improving their democratic work processes. Sometimes this is prompted by a direct reason: students or employees who exert pressure and express their opinions, but do so in a disorganized manner, or at unforeseen moments. That type of feedback is usually not very useful. You do not want small biased groups, which may not be representative, to dictate the agenda with their behavior, whether or not through (social) media, a joint signed call for action or a letter, etc.

Innovation: moving forward

Another reason is that organizations want to innovate, look for new forms of work. This is driven by three factors in particular. Firstly, remote working and the development of online education is forcing us to look for new forms of work. This is done to stimulate collaboration, learning and listening, brainstorming, decision-making, implementation, and accountability. Secondly, existing forms of working, such as a group meeting or sending out surveys, have already been digitalized. Technology such as the online dialogue puts people and their interactions about issues at the center of the discussion, and makes it possible to scale this up to tens of thousands of participants. This is what we call co-creation. The power of collaboration plus the power ofDialoog Dialogue digital possibilities unlocks the special, collective intelligence of groups of people. If you want to consult more (scientific) backgrounds on this subject, you can do so here, or by reading the book ‘On Dialogue’, by physicist and philosopher David Bohm.

 

Policymakers, teachers, employees and students are tired of filling out surveys. This fatigue is not because they receive so many surveys, or the length of the surveys. Our records, and research by institutions like Gallup, shows that they are particularly annoyed by the closed questions. The lack of interest in the participants’ actual personal opinions and experiences has an opposite effect: it has seriously damaged the reputation of surveys as a means of reaching people. People love getting attention and being taken seriously. Through social media, they have become accustomed to the democratic process of voicing your opinion, and they don’t expect any obstacles when doing so. This means that, for participative and representative decision-making, and to create broad support for your decisions, you should not wait and see how and where small groups of people express themselves. You should be the one actually organizing this information gathering. Technology allows you to do this with large groups, even with many thousands of participants. Clients in education and other sectors are looking for new ways to conduct high-quality, more reliable but also scalable, research.

Read here also our blog over ‘Which working  method? Meeting or Dialogue?’

Leadership & the intelligence of the collective

The third factor is related to leadership, and to modern views on the engagement of employees, teachers and students. The idea is to modernize leadership styles to better address issues in which employees play a more determining role than previously thought. Subjects such as listening to the organization, deep democracy, serving leadership, but also agile leadership are playing an increasingly important role. This requires new resources; you cannot solve new challenges with old resources.

We often work for organizations that understand the concepts of deep democracy and expect us to apply it. The minority opinion is actively not oppressed by the majority. This is important to maintain a balance and keep the dialogue going. This means that people can learn from each other, and can jointly and in stages achieve something better. Check out how Sandra Bouckaert, DD expert par excellence, applies dialogue and digital implementation of deep democracy. We work for institutions with a wide range of leadership styles and cultures. As a result, the topics may be asked differently by customers. It can range from “we are planning on ABC, what obstacle could hinder its implementation and how do we remove that obstacle?” (especially top-down, bottom-up for implementation) to “we ask you to brainstorm with us about XYZ and jointly determine the most supported choices” (bottom-up policy and decision-making).

For inspiration, we share these case studies with you. These are actual examples from education practice; they demonstrate how to unlock the power of collective intelligence, the wisdom of the group, and enjoy the combined benefits:

  • people like to take part: they enjoy being allowed to give their opinion and learn from each other
  • you can gather more and reliable insights in just a couple of days, two weeks at the most
  • you prevent your organization from going into ‘resistance mode’ because you have shown openness
  • no analytical background is needed to understand and use the results immediately.

 

1 Policy-making

You can involve hundreds or even thousands of participants in formulating policies. You can appeal to the people who are the real eyes and ears of the internal organization and the external market. By doing a broad inventory, you prevent yourself from relying on the usual suspects and allowing bias and established assumptions in your new policy, without re-examining them first. You can perceive developments in the environment – such as opportunities, threats, new options, internationalizations – faster and better when you see them through the eyes of many, rather than just your own. Except, of course, if you want to let your view of things dominate for some reason. For example, you can ask about these new developments, how they see things in 5-10 years’ time, what the institution must retain and why, which spearheads they see for this and that, etc. In this phase, you probably tell participants that your explorations are just that, and that you are not yet making decisions. That could be the next phase, in which you use the dialogues to ask for support, thus organizing support for your intended policy. Sometimes participants are asked about a ‘potentially insurmountable objection’ and, if supported by others in the second round of the dialogue, this will lead to some very welcome adjustments.

 

A closely related topic:

2 Policy evaluation and adjustment

The purchase of a new bicycle shed on campus is a quite static affair. There is not much opportunity to adjust any decisions on this subject. You can retrieve online input and ideas from a group and have those influence your decision. You build it and that’s that. However, most decisions affect the context in which the decision was taken. And the context itself is likely to change. What’s more, your decisions will encourage new behavior. Either it leads to positive behavior to implement what has been decided on, or it causes negative behavior you didn’t take into account. If you involved people during the dialogues in the development stage of policy-making, you knew beforehand where you’d encounter resistance and where there would be support, and you would have taken both sides into account. This prevents opposition afterwards. But if you didn’t, you might also have to deal with potentially serious new and negative behavior.

In short: non-static issues are dynamic, to some degree, so you stay alert. How? By asking those involved about what is having a visible effect, what requires some attention or tightening, and what can be improved. This makes it easy to adjust, quickly and with support. In addition, you and the stakeholders can detect early and regularly where new risks arise and whether they have observed changes that may have an impact. This way, you will not be surprised by any development, and you will remain in control of the situation.

3 Educational programs and quality

Clients test whether educational programs are sustainable. They want to know how education connect to the business world, how quality is assessed, what can be improved, does it attract students, would researchers and teachers want to participate? Our clients in education ask their internal and external stakeholders for feedforward. They combine this with the numbers about the students’ influx and outflow, student satisfaction, teacher retention, success and drop-out rates. They gather feedback and feedforward from alumni and the business community. Both groups greatly appreciate being more engaged, feeling more involved, and sharing what they see and know. The institution can emphasize and even develop new modules and program components based on co-creation with its stakeholders. Several clients are using the platform.

4 Graduation, research, PhD

Students must do research. To this end, they use methods for testing hypotheses, etc. Accurate data is critical. They mostly use interviews, and above all they use surveys. However, people suffer from ‘survey fatigue’; the number of responses is decreasing and surveys tend to create bias. Those with the most outspoken opinions may be those who, through closed questions, experience that you do not take them seriously. In that case, you lose the most important insights, and your response comes from the remaining group. This undermines the reliability of your research. For each research or project you set up through the platform of CircleLytics, you will determine per question which scale is applicable, whether you explicitly ask for an open answer, and whether you start that unique second round. You can also use the platform to ask ‘regular’ closed questions, such as profile questions that are often required for research. CircleLytics Dialogue offers the functionalities that the most advanced survey tools also present, but on top of that, it offers something unique that the others don’t: the processing of open answers in a second dialogue round, where others assess and rate those answers on their substantive value.

The platform is also used to co-create research goals, determine focal points and set priorities with as many participants as desired. This often includes external stakeholders or foreign collaboration partners. That, too, is something you can achieve digitally, but not physically.

5 Modern leadership and human capital policy

From the perspective of leadership and modern human capital policy, you want your organization and projects to be handled differently than before. You’ll want to do away with the old ‘survey’ method, or add deeper layers to it. Employees want to be involved; they want to be taken seriously, and leadership wants to respect and take into account everyone’s diversity of thoughts. You want to invest in employee engagement and experience. Our clients have noticed that regular dialogues strengthen these important objectives and increase people’s willingness to stay with the organization. By asking questions about how they experience equal opportunities for themselves and others, how the culture can be improved, the elements they are proud of, what are surprising reasons to stay or leave, etc. The dialogue respects and embraces the diversity of thought; it is 100% inclusive. It asks everyone’s opinion anonymously. This creates a culture that motivates work and collaboration, a culture where you lead and learn the common language of the organization, the shared values, etc.

 

In line with this …

6 Research among & engaging of students

Don’t forget: surveys are no longer popular. However, asking essential open questions and some scoring questions is. This relatively straightforward step provides qualitative insights that survey platforms such as Qualtrics and SurveyMonkey cannot offer. That is one of the reasons many of our clients are using our services, in addition to or replacing these platforms. They are applying CircleLytics’ better options, not in the least because we managed to make ‘participating in research’ fun again. And if it’s fun and valuable (because of the unique and critical 2nd round), you can approach and engage students more frequently. You can ask them to provide feedback/feedforward on lectures, teachers, websites, catalogues, education, practical work, events, campus setup, etc. Focus on mainly open-ended questions, only a few at a time and learn from their qualitative insights.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

7 Don’t forget the alumni!

The alumni are underrated. They are very sympathetic to your institution, have built a strong working life, and represent a diversity of organizations. It is a great opportunity, exploring their continued learning needs and learning more about the market trends and developments. This enables you to improve your relationship with them, collect valuable content and use the information about the changes they notice in their working life. You can also discover what they consider valuable events and why, so you can improve attendance.

8 Recognition and appreciation

This is a tricky topic for institutions. Various institutions are investigating and developing policies on this topic with their staff. The second round of the online dialogue ensures that participants listen to each other’s opinions, learn from them, rate their appreciation and provide useful explanations. Any nuance in difficult debates is based on a diversity of perspectives. Don’t forget: a new policy can have significant new, unknown effects on behavior. In turn, this behavior can affect quality, culture and retention. Research can also lead to lingering discontent due to forces that are only emerging after you introduce new policies. We therefore recommend regular checks for recognition and appreciation and how these aspects are perceived. Which elements are considered consequences, and which are opportunities to adjust?

9 Let’s not forget about the primary process: education

Using CircleLytics, you can set challenges for groups of students or pupils. The challenges you set them, and the solutions they come up with, are discussed during multiple rounds. They get to apply what they have learned in practice right away. As a teacher, you get more grip on sustainability. You can ensure your students and pupils can really grasp the theory of the concepts. You also see how they approach, solve, and think about your challenge. That makes them better prepared for a future that is more digital and requires virtual collaboration with new technologies. So, it’s best to start early!

10 Employee participation

You cán and must harness the power of the people. Not only using education, leadership and HR, but also through employee participation (EP). The rules for employee engagement in education can differ from country to country. In general, such as in The Netherlands, an employee council has the right to engage all relevant employees to advice leadership regarding a variety of topics and draft-decisions. For EP to be effective, you need a periodic or ad hoc instrument to reach (a very large group of) your employees. CircleLytics has proven to be excellent for this: all the polls, surveys, and newsletters cannot compete with the rejuvenation of employee participation. CircleLytics’ impact is easy to achieve, and management teams and employees are clearly noticing it.

If you have been inspired by the way that other educational institutions make impact with dialogue & collective intelligence, now is the time to plan your introduction meeting with us.

Deep Democracy Let's Connect Dialoog

Sandra Bouckaert of Bouckaert Deep Democracy Mediation & Coaching is an executive coach; she helps organizational teams & leadership teams in the profit and non-profit sector with collaboration issues often related to conflict, decision-making and communication. Sandra uses the Deep Democracy method and also teaches this method in training courses. She is an expert in dialogue and democratic and conflict skills with any group size, offline and online.

Sandra: “In 2018, I developed the Let’s Connect online dialogue. I used the dialogue mainly for teams within my client base, but then, during the height of the pandemic in 2020, I further developed the dialogue and services to make it available to more people within more (and also larger) organizations. In this scaled-up form, Deep Democracy becomes accessible to more employees than just the management team. Companies with 250 to 20,000 employees can purchase annual Let’s Connect subscriptions to apply the online dialogue method multiple times for specific issues that play within their organization. That works very well. We design the dialogues with them, in co-creation, work out topics and questions, and link the results back, with any follow-up actions that we will supervise.”

Deep Democracy: the minority’s voice is heard

Sandra continues: “When I start working with a client, I conduct an intake interview and then give my recommendations to tackle the issue. My advice is always custom-made. For example, a large entrepreneurial organization with more than 2000 members, and an employee base of more than 200,000 people, requested me to improve the quality of the decision-making process, and specifically to improve the negotiations for the collective bargaining agreements. They had previously used live panels and surveys, but found that to be insufficient. That’s why the online dialogue is so important.”

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Fast lead time and short lines of communication

“The entire process, from intake to reporting of the second dialogue, went very smoothly. Within three weeks, we had conducted two dialogues (with two rounds each).

CircleLytics provides the underlying platform for the Let’s Connect proposition. The platform is fast to deploy and delivers real-time results. These are delivered right after the second round and include the sentiments and support of the participants. As a team, we were able to deliver a lot of commitment and flexibility. It soon became clear that we were going to use two separate dialogues, one after the other. The content of the issue is very complex, and I had little experience with this topic. It is great to see that the consultant and chief negotiator quickly understood how the Let’s Connect dialogue worked.

In this respect, the dialogue reflects the people’s desires: they prefer to give their opinions in their own time, without being distracted. After that, they are extremely curious about what others have had to say. The two rounds provide time for reflection without social pressure; they allow your insight to develop by getting to know other perspectives. Minority opinions will have an equal opportunity to be seen and make the difference. It is a scalable form of Deep Democracy. Of course, it is important to find out which question you should be asking and how, to arrive at the right answers that you can use. That is something we are good at; in co-creation with the client, we provide quick solutions.”

Deep Democracy

Sandra continues: “This enables us to quickly start the dialogues. Each round in both dialogues consisted of three questions – the essence of the issues – that asked about job positions. The questions also included some scale questions. The combination of a closed and open answer in one question yields great results. For example: “To what extent do you agree with this statement […….] and above all: can you explain why?” Being able to learn from each other’s motivations in the second round and to distill the leading themes supports and accelerates the decision-making. The process works best when you first slow down and ensure that each (minority) point of view is given an opportunity. After that, the process really speeds up.”

A good preparation

“I recorded a short video message, to warm up the stakeholders and explain clearly what we were going to do. In this video, I told the participating organizations what the Let’s Connect dialogue means and how it differs from a regular survey (because they used those, alongside the dialogue, in the past). I also explained how participants proceed through the dialogue step by step. The scoring in the second round is self-evident but because it is new, it is best to explain the process. The innovative thing here is that in the second round of the dialogue, people can respond to the answers given in the first round. We also touched on that moment of reflection. We have compiled information texts, an article has been published internally, and the introduction mail for the dialogue was also carefully worded: it should be recruiting, to-the-point, with a tone-of-voice that suits the target group and conveys the message that their opinions are valuable.”

Read here also what Philips says re faster manager action, problem solving and dialogue vs survey.

Valuable and impactful results

The next step was to send the first dialogue out to 1300 people. The response was 29%. The client was enthusiastic about this response and about the substantive yield. The response was statistically very valid and representative. There were some new insights, and the client would not have wanted to miss out on these results for their negotiations about the collective bargaining agreements.

“In our reports, we show the most valued (top 5) and least valued (bottom 5) opinions. We used the analysis to examine the platform’s full potential, such as other themes or abnormal or special insights.

There was uniformity about specific points within the different profiles. If there is discord among the participants, the online dialogue will clearly show this. In most cases, the gap between the different opinions will become smaller in the second round. We also see that participants let go of their opinions and become convinced by the new views of others. The reports of these dialogues also show how the different subgroups (business sizes) have reacted, responded to each other’s opinions and inspired each other. The most and least valued opinions are immediately visible in an online dialogue.

The chief negotiator put all the results from the dialogues in a letter to all the members. With this data he was able to substantiate his advice. This new form of co-creation had helped him garnish plenty of support before issuing his advice.

The participants found that the online tool was fast and pleasant to use. They liked being able to express their opinions and said that seeing the comments of others encouraged them to reflect on themselves, which improved their involvement.”

The value of the online dialogue

Sandra: “Let’s Connect’s online dialogues can be used not only in business organizations but also in healthcare, knowledge organizations, government, education, the financial sector and in training. The experience with Let’s Connect within these organizations is that employers want committed employees who feel at home and can use their talents.

The Let’s Connect online dialogue increases employee engagement because people are not gathering frequently in physical meetings at the moment, especially in larger numbers. People are not just working from home; they had already been working remotely, from different departments and different locations, sometimes even different countries. This means that their contact with other-minded people was already limited. Working online, not limited by time or location, allows people to reflect on the opinions of others and reach decisions together.

As soon as you allow and appreciate minority thinking, by using the dialogue, you increase not only the cognitive and creative capacity of the entire organization or the support of decisions and the reflection on those decisions; the quality of the decision-making process also improves. Minority voices want to be heard, and if there is no reaction to their response, they will retreat or even demonstrate sabotaging behavior. Online, without time constraints or social pressure, people with minority opinions can be convinced to change. They will do so frequently because they learn from other perspectives, sometimes from the majority. It is remarkable to notice that the majority also does so and can even rally behind minority views. Through dialogue, they learn from each other. It deepens their understanding of the content and accelerates and strengthens the decision-making.”

If you want to learn more about Deep Democracy and what the Let’s Connect approach and dialogue can mean for your people and organization, please contact Sandra Bouckaert and her team.

 

agility feedforward

We all know Landal GreenParks, with its holiday parks and recreational homes. There are now over 100 holiday parks in 9 European countries. Many of these more than 15,000 homes are owned by third parties. Some 8,000 homes are owned by private individuals. For Landal GreenParks, good communication with all its target groups is essential. That is why they took a good look at their communication with the homeowners and how to develop the owner’s web portal in an agile way.

Landal says: “We already had a magazine, a newsletter and a website to reach the owners, but we wanted to improve the entire communication. So, the magazine received a design make-over. We also increased the frequency of the digital newsletter and started building a new website. We really wanted to involve the homeowners in this agile development, hence to stay in dialogue.”

What do they think of us?

“We consider our homeowners to be involved partners for whom we take care of the rental, administration and management of a holiday park. We really want to know what this positive critical target group thinks of our communication. We want to involve them in this feedback process. There are many (individual) contact moments with the owners, but we are really looking for a way to reach them all, and to let them have a say in this process. We had already organized owner surveys, market surveys and panels, but we were also looking for a way to reach out to all our owners for more agile development of the owner’s web portal. We need to find out what’s going on inside the homeowner group. Based on their input and suggestions we improved our service. We have since updated the website, enabling owners to arrange as much as possible themselves within the same online environment. We used the results of the CircleLytics dialogues to realize the owner’s key needs.”

Read here also what health care institute Spaarne Gasthuis says re collaboration, team dialogues and manager actions.

Deliberate open-ended questions provide sought-after answers

“The collaboration with CircleLytics is enjoyable, and they advised us on how to formulate the questions as pointedly as possible. Being able to link quantitative data to qualitative data is extremely valuable. For instance, if we start by asking ‘How do you rate our services on a scale of 1-10?’ and then ask about the respondents’ motivation or best suggestions immediately following that question, we can truly understand what the figures mean. An important element is asking yourself, beforehand, what you can do with the answers. Can we link concrete actions to it? This is important for our relationship with the owners and their motivation for subsequent dialogues. It greatly optimizes our services, the owner platform, and our communication with the owners.”

The start of the dialogues

“One of the questions from the first dialogue session was: ‘We want to improve our service and communication. What actions do you think we should take?’ We then went to work with these answers. We developed concrete actions from the most widely supported answers, which we then carried out as much as possible, after some internal consultation.

Next, we held the second dialogue session, where we specifically asked: ‘What information do you think should be on the first page of the website once you have logged in? We got many responses and used those to develop the new website homepage. After the website went live, we started a new dialogue a while later. We wanted to use this session to gather suggestions for improving the website’s user-friendliness and tips for further, agile development. For further development of the website, we considered many of the recommendations. For example, one of the owners’ most significant needs was a better insight into the occupation rates and turnover of the recreation homes. Based on this need, we developed a financial dashboard, and the owners are enthusiastic about it.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Proven support

The dialogues provide support, and the second round plays an essential role: it is where participants rate each other’s answers. Their involvement is very valuable and gives us a weighting that lets us understand their most and least important factors. The data we collect during the two question rounds enables us to extract Top 5 and Bottom 5 lists. The most supported feedback (feedforward, actually) becomes apparent and shows us what most owners agree on. The owners will also discuss the answers others gave in the first round. It is true co-creation.

Informed decisions and actions

Landal continues: “Their commitment shows through in the data: they like to participate very actively, and you can see that in the second round, where they read and appreciate or even supplement many of the opinions of others. It is not a gut feeling or an opinion based on what some of the owners or a (small) focus group say. Instead, you get feedback based on numbers and clear recommendations about how to proceed. It gives you a solid document about what your target group thinks. This feedback has also been presented internally. It will show there is support, and we will continue discussing this internally and externally. Each time, we determine which actions we can take. We like to continue these dialogues and the co-creation. The owners tell us that they really appreciate this level of involvement. It enables us to make informed decisions and apply our people, budget and development capacity where the highest value is.”

If you want to learn more about using the online CircleLytics Dialogue and talk about your challenges and ambitions, please get in touch with us.

 

Philips Dialogue Leadership

In 2021, René Schoenmakers was Director of Supply Chain at Philips Health for South America. He was dealing with a lack of engagement and involvement within his team. He wanted to gather feedback from the entire team on specific topics and better, engaged decision-making, and called in CircleLytics to start a dialogue.

Insufficient input from generic survey for decisions

René says: “At Philips, we conduct bi-annual employee engagement surveys. These are standard questions we ask Philips employees worldwide. This survey is intended to gauge the ‘temperature’, asking ourselves, ‘are we still on the right track? It does not yield any qualitative answers that drive my decision making today, because these are closed-ended questions that never vary. The textual answers remain unweighted: I don’t know what importance or sentiment others attribute to them, so I can’t derive reliable, decision-making value from it. We wouldn’t be able to make good comparisons with previous surveys if the questions were varying, so these global engagement surveys with generic questions make sense. But this also means that you cannot put forward specific topics to ask questions about for superior, faster decision-making. You will have to come up with another solution. The survey platform and surveys do not answer the ‘why’ and ‘how can we improve’ questions, to summarize it. 

In a word, the survey is good for its purpose but not for decision making purposes. At Philips, we have high standards and strong ambitions, also when it comes to taking action where necessary. I wanted to gather more qualitative feedback that I could use within my team. So, I took the initiative to use the CircleLytics Dialogue. The Employee Engagement global team supported my choice because the engagement survey is not used for qualitative deepening, let alone co-creation, to tackle and solve (local) challenges together.

I used CircleLytics to ask concrete questions from two perspectives:

  1. I wanted to dive deeper into some (of the many) topics from the global engagement survey where my region achieved insufficient or very high scores. I wanted to understand the why of it all and learn what decisions are crucial.
  2. I wanted to tackle some issues in my own management agenda. I used CircleLytics for co-creation sessions with my people to make them aware, involve them in these issues, understand the root causes, and create solutions.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

“People in South America are not as outspoken as the Dutch. They are rather reticent about what is bothering them or what could be improved. That is why Schoenmakers is so enthusiastic about the asynchronous design of the CircleLytics Dialogue. I can reach any team member; they can answer questions anonymously, at their own pace, at their own location, and then rank and comment on the responses of their colleagues in a separate second round. The answers from those who are quick to participate in the first round will not carry more weight in the second round: all input must wait until round 2 starts, and all input is treated equally. Another essential CircleLytics feature is that employees can not only positively but also choose to negatively rate the responses and solutions of others: they can score them with -3, -2, or -1. So, there is room for nuance, but they can also safely choose to reject certain options because an option is risky, unsubstantiated or otherwise not the best option for Philips. Groups can reduce a specific risk by 20-30% by asking questions about it, which is a significant extra benefit of this technology. The response was much higher than I ever would have thought and they showed impressive activity.”

Read here also what Landal GreenParks says re agility, leadership and massive, online co-creation.

Team interactions, diversity of thinking

“My team consisted of 70 employees from four districts. I wanted them to collaborate better, collect ideas from them, and inventory their priorities. I selected the topics for the first dialogue session from the global engagement survey results for South America. We repeated four critical questions (the traditional closed-end question with a score scale) but then extended the question to ask for an open answer, namely “can you give us your concrete explanation”. In round 2, the participants scored each other’s answers and explained their recommendations. This meant a profound dive into the matter after the closed-end questions in the original global engagement survey. For the second dialogue session, I selected a different set of critical questions from the survey. Some of these had scored really high, and some had scored low. I also wanted to learn why the high scores were achieved and how they could be maintained.

I personally came up with the questions for the third dialogue session. For the design of these questions, I held a brainstorming session with my team, and I requested the support of CircleLytics. During the second round of this new dialogue, the employees were once again given their colleagues’ answers from the first round, to assess (scores) and explain their assessment. I had immediate access to the (qualitative) results directly from the dashboard and took these with me to the management team consultation in the afternoon.”

“During that third dialogue session, I asked them about their greatest concerns for the coming months regarding a certain topic. I wanted to know what their first order of business would be if they had my job; what they thought would make people listen to their needs better; and how we could strengthen the collaboration between teams within Philips.”

 

Implement concrete actions: faster and better informed

“The dialogues’ results were not shocking; the most supported answers were already known (or at least to me). This dialogue enabled me to gather the evidence to prove that the answers were also most supported by my team. The CircleLytics results also show the answers with the least support. That is also helpful information: when making decisions and weighing options, you want to know the risks.

However, actively asking for people’s opinions and having those people contribute to the solutions has been a very positive experience. Their feedback on the CircleLytics Dialogue clearly showed that they appreciate the time we take to engage in a dialogue with our people. I now have a new role within Philips, and the challenge for my successor lies in linking these outcomes to concrete actions. From there, he can also engage in more dialogues with the entire team to ask for more in-depth information, monitor and adjust issues, and present new challenges to the group.”

 

Balanced team vision

Truly listening to your team is invaluable. I discussed the dialogue sessions and the results with my supervisor. If you use the dialogue more frequently, raise concrete topics, or ask questions relevant to the team, you will also get more balanced solutions. You actively gather the expert knowledge of the team members, creating a substantial collective mental capacity. The dialogue will lead to a broader team vision; it enables people to think quietly, reflect on their previous answers given, and then share their feedback again. And that feedback often differs greatly from their previous opinion: they have gained more knowledge, and the tool cleverly captures that and applies it in the real-time dashboard.

When using certain techniques, such as live conversations, introverted people will often be reticent about expressing their opinions; others will dominate those conversations and not listen to others. In the dialogue sessions, we allow each employee to participate actively and appreciate the responses of others. In a continent like South America, with its more reserved opinions, the dialogue technique is an effective way to gather feedback. I highly recommend the dialogue technique; it has enabled me to make my decisions more quickly and better, with proven support and commitment from my people. It also actively asks for everyone’s opinion, which is a very positive development.”

Intrigued and curious to see how CircleLytics Dialogue works, creates value and can be launched within days? Plan your meeting instantly here.

 

 

Dialogue

Dialogue is indeed something else than a meeting, a good conversation or a pleasant gathering. Also, online is something else than sitting together in a room. Limited to a few people or a large group? Finish in an hour or time for slowing-down and reflection? What working methods do you choose? Do you combine working methods? In this blog we will tell you how we see it, bringing in our knowledge and our experience. Nobody wants a meeting culture anymore, and people are already looking for other ways of working than video conferencing as an alternative. Video is still a meeting, with the usual suspects, and that doesn’t feel good. On to a dialogue culture?

Dialogue or conversation? Is there a difference?

Yes, absolutely. A conversation is an exchange of all kinds of information. How are you doing? How is your project going? What have you learned? Shall we go through our presentation again? How shall we handle our conversation with the prospect tomorrow? You probably have these kinds of conversations and (video) meetings all day long with colleagues or a whole team. In our opinion, a good conversation or a good meeting is an effective exchange of information (preferably also an empathic one), where try to listen well and, for example, make agreements. A dialogue is something else, a very different, new way of working (even though the word dialogue is used all the time). You are in dialogue when you actively seek out how others see things, other than how you see them. You want to learn from this, and for others to do the same among themselves. Afterwards, you – or together with others – will arrive at new insights. Different insights and therefore choices than anyone could have imagined. Advancing insights and points of view; dialogue, that’s hard work! Limiting the group size is an easy trap to fall into: you might think that the more people, the more possibilities of each person interacting with others. Of course, and you’re right. That’s the beauty of diversity of thoughts and increasing the group size. Don’t back off you, dialogue requires this high intensity of interaction. And yes, you need technology for scaling up dialogue instead of falling back on old habits of “keeping the group size low to have an effective meeting”. The power of effectiveness lies in the dynamics of true dialogue and including a wide diversity of thoughts. Not a limited set-up.

So far about the dialogue.

Now something about ‘sitting in a room and seeing each other for an hour’.

Seeing is often very pleasant. It is personal. You can also talk about your holiday, work-related gossip about your boss, something fun that you experienced with a client the other day, etc. That personal touch is important for mutual relationships. You get to know each other better and can come to appreciate each other more. This is difficult online. In other words, you would like to keep that personal, that relationship side. But then those other sides, which are a bit less fun …. And they have such a strong impact on the content, on the involvement of people who are not there, on the quality and support of decision-making…

The other side …

A room is limiting

Every meeting room, including the virtual meeting room of Teams or Zoom, is limiting. You can’t just have a discussion with dozens of people, let alone a real dialogue, because then you ‘have’ to listen to each other, and above all learn from everyone, and together come to (completely) new insights and choices. The space of physical or virtual walls limits your possibilities. A group of 5-15 people is often the maximum for such a way of working. And you’re missing a lot of people; their ideas, their experience, their knowledge. This could be a choice; maybe you just don’t want everyone to be able to contribute, or you are afraid that too many people will make listening (and learning) more difficult. Or you are afraid that too large a group will lead to chaos. Valid points if you’re not familiar with new technology, but those types of working methods dó lead to limitations. The question is whether you want that and whether it can be done differently. The latter is a resounding yes. The Future of Work has long since begun, and digital transformation is already having an impact on how we work (together) and how we can better connect with each other. Whether you want it to be different, however …. is up to you. Did you know that larger groups are up to 60% more intelligent than the sum of individual intelligence? And 20% more creative if the group is more diverse?

That clock

It ticks by…. An hour passes quickly, as does a workshop. And yet you would like to be in true dialogue with the whole group. Time to listen, time to reflect, time to learn, and time to come to a supported new choice or idea: all this is quickly lost, what remains is a so-called ‘good’ conversation, a meeting. Another one. Especially the organizer is happy afterwards: we stayed within the time limit because “we don’t want a meeting culture”. The participants themselves leave frustrated but also relieved. Afterwards, they go into dialogue together, or the next day, without that clock ticking. But also without you. So you just don’t know what you’re missing. Literally. And that’s what you’re going to have to deal with along the way. Or they go into sabotage mode: all kinds of light and heavier forms of resistance manifest themselves: from responding late to e-mails, not doing exactly what is asked, whipping up sentiment etc.

Night’s sleep

Remember that everyone’s brain needs a night’s sleep and will think about the issue differently the next day(s). You cannot achieve this with a (virtual) meeting. You would prefer to phase your meeting, to keep it in steps so that everyone can come to their senses. Iterating, in other words. By slowing down you can then speed up more intelligently. Our brain has a fast and a slow thinking phase. We will come back to how the CircleLytics online solution approaches this.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Social influence

Whether you like it or not. People are sensitive to other people with positions, status, power, unpleasant manners, not listening, or who dominate a work format such as meetings. And even if you say: “now please let someone else speak” or “I would like it if we let each other finish”, the tone is set. The tone and social factors influence the result. You run the risk of thinking you have support after the meeting and making weak decisions that cause discontent now or later. Don’t forget that as a manager, you pay their mortgage and they don’t just protest, not directly, if they are not involved, or not taken seriously. When these things accumulate, they become less satisfied, they start to resist. Then they tick it off somewhere on a study by HR. Or vote with their feet when an opportunity arises. Did you know that 30-50% of employees actively seek a new job? Did you know that many ‘departure statistics’ are already well over the top? We learn another perspective on social influence from the following quote, which is about the emergence of consensus in a meeting and the decrease of diversity in the dialogue, with a vulnerable result as a consequence:

“Group discussions, thinking that if you bring a group of people together, those people will tell you their point of view in an honest way. But there’s substantial research showing that that isn’t what happens when a group comes together to discuss anything. Anyone who’s been in a meeting has seen this. Once consensus starts to form, it generates its own momentum. It’s like a snowball that turns into an avalanche of consensus. And at that point, people no longer offer up their true perspective. (Annie Duke in Strategy+Business).”

It can be done differently….

First, a calculation

How many changes and choices are there in your organization that you want to put your heads together for? Do you want to understand together, list the options, make decisions and get on with it? 10 times something big per month?

Let’s say you have 3,000 employees. To gain reliable insights and make decisions, you prefer to hear all their diverse opinions. Statistically speaking, you’re only doing a valid and representative job if you have involved at least 300 employees. With group sizes of 15 people, that’s at least 20 meetings. With 10 major changes/choices a month…. that is more than 200 meetings a month ….

From the perspective of employee engagement and diversity & inclusion, you would really want to involve everyone in issues that affect them. All 3,000 of them! After all, the more diverse and complete the group, the smarter the result and the more involved and inclusive it becomes. It is also enormously motivating to be able to dive into an issue. Did you know that? Is it the same for you?

This means about 3,000 employees, in groups of 15, 200 groups …. 10x a month…. a total of 2,000 meetings. So to get everyone involved in the really big things of the organization…. you would be holding meetings day and night. And how do you record, observe, combine, reflect? And how do you then learn from this? Our answer is: you don’t.

Read here also our blog “More diversity means more dialogue. Our new 2nd round”

Can we agree that it doesn’t work? Agree that nobody will do this..

That is why organizations fall back on the familiar: a few groups, some workshops, unclear composition, limited time, no reflection, and often the same people talking … But manageable and recognizable … employees are not happy and inspired by that. They prefer to co-create and to get their teeth into something. Being useful, being wanted, being recognized, being seen. That’s good, because if they want to and you want multiple perspectives and insights to make better decisions…. 1 +1 = 3, you’d think?

Now for the dialogue as a working method

Dialogue requires you to look for other perspectives and rethink the issue. Together. Preferably with as large a group as possible. Inclusive. Diverse. CircleLytics Dialogue can be used as a working method for groups of 10 to 100,000 people. For the participants it is mutually anonymous, so they can speak freely in the absence of hierarchy, and in the absence of social influence. These are preconditions. The book “Over Dialoog” (about dialogue ed.) by physicist and philosopher David Bohm is worth reading. By the way, did you know that in this book, he describes that the minimum number of people needed for a dialogue is 20? This increases the chance that you are with people who fall outside your immediate team/project group and have different opinions from you, which is necessary: only other opinions are different. Sounds logical.

The dialogue is held in two rounds and lasts a few days, so they are free to think, reflect, sleep on it. That means that today you can approach your 3,000 employees from the example with (open-ended) questions that truly matter, challenge them and involve them transparently in difficult topics. They get to work online, anonymously. The first 100s of answers and ideas roll in and the days after that it continues. A few days later, via a unique 2nd round, they reflect on each other’s anonymous answers: they rate them and enrich them with their own words. This arrives in real time bundled within days, and ready to use in order of ‘most favourite and why’ in your dashboard. Ready to walk the talk!

What are the benefits such a dialogue?

Firstly, speed. A (video) meeting, workshop or digital pressure-cooking session delivers fake speed. By slowing down via 2 rounds, as we do, and giving participants a few days’ time, people think better. Those few days of delay deliver unprecedented benefits later in your decision-making, in the knowledge that you have built a strong support base. Because that’s what you do: build support. You gain support by questioning all the people who are relevant to the issue, or vice versa: who is affected by the issue? People feel involved, they actively participate, and say what they really think. This will truly speed up the implementation of decisions, changes and plans.

Secondly, reliability. The technology helps to process all the data quickly and without error, cluster them. This is to register a change of thinking, how they reacted to each other’s opinions. Everything is in real-time. No manual work. No human errors. No subjective processing of data. You can build on the results of the online dialogue and follow up with decisions. Instantly.

Thirdly, diversity. By collecting so many perspectives from people and letting them learn from each other’s perspectives, you will maximize diversity. This demonstrably benefits your result and reduces risk by up to 30%. It is the different ways of thinking that make decisions so good. Thanks to the structured CircleLytics Dialogue in 2 rounds, there is no longer any risk of your or someone else’s prejudices creeping in and causing you to make mistakes.

diversity of thinking

Towards a culture of dialogue

By setting up these kinds of interventions with the relevant, largest possible group for different subjects, you – as an organization –  will become intelligent, self-learning and quick. You will become more successful as a network organization. Employees are not an organizational chart but a living network. Compare it to your brain to which you are constantly asking questions: from “can I cross here” to “how to react to a new situation”. Together, employees are one big brain. Don’t switch off a part, because you don’t know what you are missing. Your brain, your network of employees know whether they can contribute. They work in your organization on a voluntary basis and can find other work today: give them some credit: they know and see so much!

CircleLytics Dialogue can be used for 100s of situations and topics, such as:

– Co-creation: organizing brainstorm sessions and co-create with any group size and get the most creative results together within days to a maximum of 2 weeks.

– Conducting meetings: ask the relevant, largest group questions and then immediately ask for recommendations and the how/why.

– Continuously adjusting the execution of work/decisions: asking for feedback and feedforward on changes, projects, product launches, etc.

– Management or CEO (lunch) meetings or the Works Council: first make sure you know the concerns of the relevant group of employees, opportunities, obstacles and the questions you want to ask them.

– Taking decisions: present dilemmas, bottlenecks and choices and quickly come to well-founded decisions together

If you want to know more about designing solid, open-ended questions, download our White Paper here, containing 18 principles for designing your own questions. It will help you in dialogues, interviews, workshops and maybe even at home…

Do you combine the online dialogue with offline?

Yes, certainly. Many organizations combine online co-creation with offline meetings for decision-making, project design, budget allocation, and many other things. The enrichment is huge. After the offline meeting, the large group can be re-engaged to organize participatory decision-making and later to monitor and adjust change processes, i.e. continuous improvement. We call such a dialogue culture an expression of distributed leadership and benefitting from hybrid intelligence. Co-creation and dialogue makes everyone – individually and collectively – co-leader of a problem, of the solution, of decision making and of successful implementation. Ready for the Future of Work!

Intrigued and curious to see how CircleLytics Dialogue works, creates value and can be launched within days? Plan your meeting instantly here.

 

gemeente burgerparticipatie

According to Harry te Riele of TransitieFocus, if there is one party that will gain ground in complex decision-making in the coming years, it is the citizen. For the Energy Vision for the municipality of Tilburg, he and a team of professionals relied on wisdom of the crowd, or collective intelligence, also known as co-creation. The knowledge and vision of one and a half thousand residents provided food for thought for a select reflective group. In this blog, He explains why the Tilburg municipality decided not to use the citizens’ informal council (focus group of up to 1,000 people, based on a drawing) as originally requested. Some advantages and disadvantages of the hybrid construction, of online and offline dialogue, are discussed. Finally, he advises the public administration to experiment with this new participation-construction.

Involving citizens – betting all chips on focus groups and townhalls?

In the Netherlands, climate debates and environmental discussions have increased the call for the involvement of ordinary citizens in complex decision-making processes. The term citizen consultation is often used in this context. In some cities, this has unlocked the creativity and ownership that decision-makers have been looking for. Certainly, when board members assured the participants that their input weighed heavily in the decision-making, groups started to work seriously. So, should we be betting all chips on the informal citizens’ council or other versions of focus groups and town halls?

No, that’s not a wise thing to do. As we have seen in other transitions, a long period of variation and selection is now beginning for ‘decision-making’, which will probably eventually lead to a transition of public administration. He himself thinks that the next step is the use of the crowd, of a group size without limit, where everyone can share their thoughts, participate, and listen to and learn from each other.

The system is stable as long as it is supported – what about representative democracy?

Let’s go back to the basis. Every social system has disadvantages. If you build a house, someone else cannot walk their dog there. If everyone puts a lock on their bicycle, people lose their keys every day. If a country uses natural gas, it will experience burns, explosions and earthquakes. If you give cars free reign in the city, it will immediately become inaccessible for playing children and the elderly who are suffering from dementia.

Regardless of its scale, a system remains dynamically stable as long as people feel its advantages outweigh its disadvantages. It is reaffirmed every day – repeatedly deployed, repaired and brought up to date with limited modifications. Once, every now-familiar system was an innovation. It fought its way in and became a factor of significance when it scaled up. Society adjusted to it and gradually people became so familiar with it that they no longer realized the disadvantages, nor the doubts and sometimes fierce discussions when it was introduced. They only surface again when the system is changed – sometimes generations later.

For example, as the electric car scales up, many are noticing that it requires 70% less maintenance, can be powered by solar energy, accelerates faster than petrol, is quiet, clean and can be updated remotely. It communicates with other cars and infrastructure, bringing relaxed travel and far fewer deaths within reach. The time-honoured dealer network proves unnecessary. The new construction for remote mobility is no longer a collection of rods, pistons, diesel and V-belts. It is a computer with wheels that, for the first time in a century and a half, does not smell and that you can park in your hallway if necessary. And yes, even the electric variant has its drawbacks, but the advantages outweigh them – at least in the perception of a rapidly growing group of people.

Reading all of this, how is our democracy doing? Which of its drawbacks did we forget long ago? Te Riele has a go at it.

Dialogue with citizens

Read here our blog over “Customer Case: Education: The Results of the Dialogue Truly Feel Like a Victory.”

Emancipation of citizens was also foreseeable in decision-making transitions

It is well known that citizens and residents played a role in the Dutch urban renewal in the 1970s and 1980s and in exposing environmental scandals. However, involving citizens in transitions – major social system changes – was virgin territory when the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (in Dutch: Ministry of VROM) published a research / position paper: Een Wereld en een Wil/NMP4 in 2001. After that publication, the ministry asked Te Riele to link substantive transitions to decision-making itself. The answer was a vision in which they criticize how triple helix networks bring together scientists, entrepreneurs, politicians and civil servants for decision-making on transitions, but not those who are actually at the heart of the matter: ordinary people and their ability to stand up for a nice life. To make the foreseeable systemic changes towards sustainability run smoothly, they proposed 21 years ago to give ordinary people (‘citizens/consumers’) a full place in decision-making on transitions. For them, the question is not if but how.

The ministry of VROM, however, was eliminated. The strategists behind the NEPP4 dispersed to other ministries and the EU and their plea for commitment to system innovations came to a halt. Along other lines, however, visions, experiments and publications on linking ordinary people to governance grew worldwide. Smart Cities were combined with IT. Countries such as Singapore, Spain, Canada, Taiwan and Norway formed the leading group. In the Netherlands, however, IT did not play a special role in the recent deployment of citizens – think of local energy debates and area visions.

Back to the municipality of Tilburg.

Tilburg’s Energy Vision: “We are thinking of a citizens’ council”.

When, in the spring of 2021, the Tilburg city council asks the Municipal Executive for more involvement of homeowners in their Energy Vision, organizing a citizens’ council is in the cards. The municipality is thinking of about twenty selected residents who will give their opinion on the Energy Vision and stay on until it is adopted in December.

With the (recent) “Malieveld protest”, the tractors on the highways, the occupied national institute RIVM and the threats on the internet still fresh in their minds, Te Riele and his colleague Esther van der Valk propose a different construction. They support a select reflection group with wisdom of the crowd, i.e. collective intelligence. Below are their arguments and how it worked out in practice.

  1. When things get grim, it is ethically irresponsible to have ordinary citizens deal with it. In the vision phase of the heat transition, our first argument against a citizens’ council alone is that there is hardly any social friction. This can change as soon as homeowners are obliged to invest. In the awkward situation that then arises, it is ethically irresponsible to have a small group of citizens deal with it, not to mention the political risk for the Municipal executive. They suggested that the municipality set up a – what was soon called – TilburgerTafel (Tilburg Table ed.) of twenty people to back them up with online dialogues based on open-ended questions and many citizens.

Per dialogue, many Tilburg citizens (they write: “preferably thousands”) anonymously answered questions about the Energy Vision. Their anonymized answers are passed on by CircleLytics Dialogue in small portions to other homeowners, with the request to rank them and provide comments.

No sooner said than done. After six weeks, the team was able to feed the TilburgerTafel with anonymized, ranked and supported responses from the first 700 Udenhouters, Berkel-Enschotters, Biezemortelers and Tilburg citizens, with top and bottom lists of most embraced and most rejected responses, as well as arguments for and against. This gives the TilburgerTafel a flying start and a fundamentally different one. In four months’ time, the group will meet six times to reflect on intermediate results, follow-up questions and fragments for the citizens’ advice. During the seventh, they will address specific dilemmas together with councillors. Members of the Tafel handed over their citizens’ advice on the spot in 56 large-format slides (see photo). A journalist from the Brabants Dagblad observes the strong group cohesion with amazement.

Meanwhile, fed by thousands of ranked answers and comments, the TilburgerTafel is much stronger in its advice. A high level of satisfaction among the participants in the online dialogue (8.5 on a scale of 10) further strengthens this position. When council members frequently quote statements and recommendations from the citizens’ advice in their debates, explicitly compliment the TilburgerTafel and unanimously adopt the Heat Vision, the participants will feel that they have participated in something worthwhile!

  1. Twenty people do not cover 70,000 households. Besides the ethical consideration, there is a second reason to use digital tools and collective and artificial intelligence. A citizens’ council cannot cover the diversity of 70,000 households, let alone in combination with the investment space per family, the basic attitude of the homeowner towards the entire heat transition and other peculiarities. With collective intelligence and CircleLytics Dialogue, this becomes easier. Diversity, majorities, minorities, clusters, deviating opinions, aversion to change in general; when using deliberately, open-ended questions you can get them to surface relatively easily. By larding the citizens’ advice with hundreds of literal answers, every subgroup feels seen, even if it is a minority and the council chooses a different route than it advocates. Decision-makers on their side get authentic material on their tablet or computer, with quality regarding process and content including a lot of spelling and stylistic errors. From now on, the policy can differentiate more precisely: by neighbourhood, income situation, house type, year of construction, psychological attitude, claimed autonomy and other key issues.

In order to get a feel for the deviation of the TilburgerTafel from the average homeowner, both responded to a few questions about the weighting of values. The TilburgerTafel turned out to be slightly greener than the average online participant and incorporated this awareness into its advice. From the very first Tafel meeting, a coordinator derived fragments for the citizens’ advice from the discussions. In the four months that followed, these became more complete, broader and deeper. The process progressed along three tracks: knowledge and trust between the members of the TilburgerTafel, regarding depth, breadth and design of the citizen advice and a growing relation between the municipality and eventually more than one and a half thousand participating Tilburg citizens, spread over the neighbourhoods of the city. Upon completion, the officials also have a list of residents who say they will become active in their neighbourhood for the Neighbourhood Implementation Plan.

  1. Draw does not automatically produce a group that solves complex problems. Those interested in the TilburgerTafel registered after calls in old and new media. From the sixty candidates, they chose twenty. Why did they refuse a draw? To reduce the risk that this group of 20 members is ill-equipped for complex problem solving. Whereas transition thinking at the turn of the century focused on frontrunners, it gradually became clear to Esther van der Valk and Te Riele that the dynamics of growth are strongly influenced by those who naturally feel at home in the upper half of the S-curve (growth curve). In other words: a transition goes as fast as those who do not want to grow. Smooth transitions require cooperation between people who are divided along the growth curve. This will result in better quality decisions. A decision that is supported by more people.

A second reason for not drawing lots is that people and matter are both important in a transition. A TilburgerTafel consisting of both people-attached and matter-attached characters covers the content of the problem as a group, as well as the social processes required to find a new direction. Here too, a small group runs the risk of missing this balance. In online dialogues in which 1500 Tilburg residents participate, these balances are not a problem and, looking back, we see this confirmed in the distribution of types of answers and comments.

Finally, Te Riele indicates that it makes a difference whether a group member is a specialist on a part of the growth curve or naturally has an overview of the whole, i.e. from creation through growth, exploitation and decline to dismantling. In a transition, all these processes occur simultaneously. As far as TransitieFocus is concerned, the TilburgerTafel should therefore have a variety of characters: 1) explorers and perpetuators, 2) people- and content-oriented characters and 3) specialists on the growth curve and generalists. Literature on complex problem-solving suggests that such a cognitively diverse group will produce faster and better results. From sixty applications, we formed a citywide group of twenty. Using playful introductory questions, we checked them at the outset for cognitive diversity. Years of experience with transition assessments are an advantage at such times, says TransitieFocus.

  1. The importance of open dialogues. So, a cognitively diverse group, strengthened by thousands of answers from three online dialogues with the city. Why did they ask open-ended questions in those dialogues instead of the more common polls and surveys? The answer lies first of all in the concept of dialogue. Dialogue is about learning from other people’s points of view and then rethinking your own. Dialogue is therefore about change. The Tilburg answers indeed show how large groups sometimes shift their opinions after reading 20, 40 or even more answers from others. By asking open-ended questions and allowing others to assess their answers, the city increases cohesion among thousands of people. In this way, decision-making progresses at this early stage. Polls and surveys do not do this. The literature on participation also points out that asking questions conveys an open attitude and trust – an essential feature of transitions in which various parties have to face the future together.
  2. Polarization is lurking. Back to the summer of 2021. As the TilburgerTafel progresses, it turns out that extreme answers – positive and negative – are judged by other homeowners as being of little use. As a result, the process did not become bogged down in deadlocks caused by flanking positions. The discussion runs through a nuanced midfield. Because of the absence of one moment and one place where ‘IT’ should happen (a meeting / workshop), the explosion of contagious enthusiasm that may characterize a citizens’ council may be lacking. Tilburg is more characterized by anonymity, tranquillity and time for reflection. Notifying the police, for instance, is not necessary. Officials, the council committee and boards are gradually warmed up with intermediate results.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Extreme answers do of course come in. The coordinator includes them in the advice as an illustration, but these extreme views do not hijack the discussion. Moreover, by making the thousands of answers and comments on them available to all Tilburg residents in one Excel file, everyone can check the choices of the coordinator afterwards. For dyslexics, a Word version is online.

Successful? Drawbacks? Ready? Future?

Was the test of Model Tilburg successful? Many think so. Is the construction without disadvantages? Of course not. It was a hell of a job. Everything had to be invented, the team made mistakes. Some of them could not go on holiday and because of the Corona pandemic almost everything had to be put online. Some members never met each other live.

Is this scalable? Yes, it is. However, in Tilburg, politicians and officials gave the team exceptional freedom and trust. I’m extremely curious to see whether Model T will work with other teams, in other cities and on other transition issues.

Is Tilburg ready now? No. The team saw the trust between parties grow. With a heat transition that will take decades, it is unwise to abandon the dialogue structure now that the global vision has been established. A long-term relationship of trust between the municipality and entering and remaining in dialogue with thousands of residents and the parties around them could prove crucial as soon as the transition lands on doorsteps. The future? If this innovation scales up, sooner or later it will rub off on the usual routines. If Model T succeeds in solving forgotten and new problems that our traditional representative democracy can barely cope with, the latter will be painfully curtailed. The outcome of that struggle depends on the wisdom of those who decide. Te Riele would personally recommend Model Tilburg to them.

Contact Harry te Riele or Esther van der Valk from TransitieFocus here or contact the CircleLytics team here.

(This is an adaptation of an article that appeared in the Dutch magazine Ruimte + Wonen, nr 1, 2022, published by Aeneas).

 

Agility

Stimulating curiosity and being open to other points of view

Cutting, pasting and making decisions. In a nutshell, this is what Mark Nijssen and his company De organisatieontwerpers do for organizations in the public and semi-public sector. Especially organizations such as municipalities, health and safety institutions, health and safety service providers, participation companies, etc. When the organizational structure changes, a lot changes in other areas such as teams, decision trees and processes within organizations. During this process, he uses CircleLytics Dialogue to collect the opinions of various stakeholders and to make people aware of the need to ‘look outside’, literally outside the organization, as well as outside their team, their department. In other words, different perspectives. It also shows whether a plan devised by the management team is in line with what the employees want or need: interaction between and balancing of top-down and bottom-up. With this information, he continues the process of organizational change. The accumulated involvement of employees and especially their valuable input is a wonderful starting point and increases agility.

Focus on participation and agility

Mark: “I like a participative approach. That is why I invite people within organizations to be curious about the outside world. This includes the principle of deliberately asking open-ended questions and inviting them to share experiences with colleagues. What do you see, what do you think, what moves you? I try to get organizations to take a conscious, broad look. That takes guts, because it asks for information inside and outside the organization and calls for action. The dialogue will give you the most appreciated answers (top 5) and the least appreciated (bottom 5). I share both, because you can also get valuable information from the bottom 5. This way, you can immediately see whether a well-thought-out idea is indeed well received within the organization. You can test and sharpen top-down ideas, but I also use open-ended questions to collect bottom-up ideas or images. CircleLytics Dialogue measures the sentiment on ideas and opinions of others. Everyone learns from this, and everything is ranked in order of importance, support.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

I regularly receive requests from organizations that have implemented a change in strategy, or that have issues regarding cooperation. Of course, a management team already has a certain idea, but it is important to test whether this also fits with the needs of the organization and its employees. As management team, having tunnel vision is a pitfall, so it’s important to stimulate curiosity and gain knowledge from your own employees.

 

Dialogue is not just about gaining support for a decision. In the context of remaining curious, it makes sense to ask the employees based on their expertise: How do you see this situation? They have built up a lot of know-how. People who have been working for the organization for a long time can tell you a lot, but the fresh view of new people is also important. Talk to people who seem to be in resistance. Because often they are not – and sometimes they are – but they have valuable experiences and insights anyway. Ask them how they view the issue and listen carefully to their solutions. Through the online dialogue, you see a positive influence from groups that are willing to participate, to groups that are resisting. This is how you increase the agility of their thinking: by letting them learn from the opinions of others. It really is a waste not to use built-up knowledge and experience within an organization. And it’s better to do it now than later when it’s too late, for example during the implementation, and they turn out to be right after all, or want to be…

Read here also our blog “The next step in employee listening is called dialogue!”

Agile organization

Wendbaarheid Organisatieontwerp

Another aspect you need as an organization is agility. I recently published a book about this: ‘Organiseren op je Voorvoeten’ (organizing on your toes, ed.), in which I used the metaphor of a tennis player. You’re on your toes with an inquisitive gaze, curious about what is coming.  This is how you prepare for unexpected situations, which is what an agile organization does. I also mentioned dialogue in this book, precisely because it fits in with my vision of allowing everyone to participate. You don’t have to rely on assumptions; it’s even risky to ‘fill in the blanks’. With the dialogue, you can ask people directly. You can do so in a way that arouses curiosity and allows you to reach everyone at the same time.

By asking one or a few appropriate, open-ended questions, you will receive the right answers, with which you can continue the process. To get to that one question, I always use a design team. What do we really want to know? It’s important that we stay away from management language and that the question can only be explained in one way. In the context of agility, we often use the question ‘what do you see happening in the outside world that all your colleagues should also know? ‘. We then come to an open-ended and also concrete question in which they get a maximum of 220 characters to answer this question in the 1st round. This is how you can ‘force’ employees to answer only the most important things. In the second round, they can ‘go wild’ and score and appreciate the many answers from others.

Results as substantiated advice

The outcomes of dialogues are always input for physical meetings with the design team and management team. I use several dialogues within an organizational design process and the further along we are in the process, the more concrete we can ask about certain situations. The results do not stand alone, they are valuable within a larger and broader process that often leads to a plan for the organization. In addition, the results of the dialogue give us a well-founded advice, because we have given everyone the opportunity to provide input. This results in better-quality conversations, which in turn lead to a better-fitting end result. And more agility. That is why I have been using dialogue in my services for years and why I can recommend it wholeheartedly.”

Contact Mark Nijssen of the Organisatieontwerpers (The Netherlands).

Response

We now know that, as employees, we are keen to be involved in the challenges facing the organization. We want to share our thoughts and participate. It is in us, in people. Terms like co-creation, dialogue and collective intelligence are already quite normal for modern organizations that embrace the future of work.

Yet for many organizations, too often, they think that employees do not want to participate, do not know, and they throw one (pulse) survey after another at them without truly engaging them to help understand and solve matters. HR and management take the poor response, absence of the real ‘why’ and ‘how’ behind the numbers, and survey fatigue for granted. We know that plenty of organizations let this happen, with genuine despondency or reasons such as ‘we stick to our survey approach’. Read more about how to deepen and continue the survey afterwards with the CircleLytics Dialogue here.

A poor or outdated employee survey leads to unnecessary loss of engagement and enthusiasm of people and therefore loss of performance of your organization. If your organization is in a constant state of change, as I’m sure it is, and people leave pretty quickly when they can, you need all your employees extra badly. Without them, nothing happens. So you want a high response rate on everything you do with them. Agree?

We are often asked about our golden tips for getting such a high response rate on our employee dialogue,s up to 84%. Besides this high quantity, we are increasingly famous for the high quality of the responses and the rich insights that management can immediately put to work. We base these golden tips on 1,000 deliberate open-ended questions asked by 300+ organizations to many 100,000s of employees. So they are actual experiences rather than tips.

Wonder which ones you recognize, apply or want to try?

First some serious tips, then a list of lighter, still useful, stuff.

Ready?

Read here also our blog “We are already conducting employee surveys. Why do we need dialogue?”

From generic, closed questions to specific, open-ended questions

Nothing is general. No culture is the same. You serve a slightly different market. With different talented employees than your competitors. You set yourself apart as much as possible. You innovate and change constantly. Just as every person is unique, so is every team and organization. As a result, you have to deal with unique, specific situations that others simply do not know. You want to improve, strengthen and change your specific situation with us, the employees. Our first experience is that you have to let go of asking only general, closed questions. You may think you are safe with closed questions, because you asked them last time and others in your industry do the same. However, specific, open-ended questions will solve your specific problems and ensure that you take employees along in making change happen, embrace change.

 

Limit the number of questions and focus on relevance

If you want people to focus on answering your questions, you better make sure your questions are relevant. This is how you keep people’s attention. And that is what we want. We don’t want to respond to dozens of topics that don’t mean that much to us. It makes us tired, confused and irritated. Don’t just focus on one or two relevant topics at the most; focus on the essence. What is Einstein quote futurethe one question that makes the difference and triggers discussions and thoughts, and that people want to answer? Focus more on questions about the present and the future, instead of the past. Read our White Paper that includes 18 guiding principles to design your own rock-solid, open-ended questions that lots of people really want to answer.

 

Plan the follow-up in advance and … stick to it.

Deliberate open-ended questions deliver deliberate open answers. A goldmine for managers. When you ask for solutions and receive them, arranged and explained, you can take action. Immediately. Finally. And we, as employees, support these solutions because we helped come up with them ourselves. Open-ended questions make it so much easier to follow up on your employee survey. Ask questions that match your management agenda, or first examine with managers which topics, changes and challenges are the most important. Turn these into rock-solid open-ended questions and send them out. The answers roll in within the first few hours. And after a few days, you can ask the group to rate and prioritize their answers and comment to that. Just like that, in your dashboard and reports, without having to do anything. So in the invitation, already tell them that you will start working on the answers. And moreover, tell them when they will hear or see something of it. Rewarding too because the actions you can take now will be visible soon. Walk their talk. This way, you build up trust and credibility. And that trust will help you in your next dialogue, when you want to understand, solve and improve things together with people again.

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Use the power of dialogue: that second round, people are so curious!

Make sure that the open-ended questions you ask are followed by the built-in 2nd round of CircleLytics Dialogue. People can then indicate which ideas and answers of others they like or dislike. Each person takes on a different set of answers of 10-15. There are a number of reasons for this process; open answers are best processed by people. After all, they understand the context, the language of the workplace and they can read between the lines. No algorithm is capable of doing what a human being does: producing meaningful language and understanding what another person says and means. Another point of attention is that the second round of dialogue stimulates people to think again about your questions which leads to new thoughts. They usually score positively on answers that do not resemble their own! So you get truly unique, otherwise unobtainable, insights. 70% of the people even rate much more than 10-15! No wonder the CircleLytics Dialogue scores an 8 on a scale of 10; they simply find it a lot of fun to do! It often even attracts additional, unique participants who did not (yet) participate in round one!

Please state in your invitation that this is nót a survey

Surveys are simply not popular anymore. You have to do something new here. Employee surveys suffer from this even more: too often, an agency has let slip who did not respond, violating privacy and damaging reputations. Moreover, surveys do not explicitly ask for participants’ own open answers but tick off questions with smileys and scores. This does not do justice to the value of people, their experiences, their knowledge and their ideas. So announce immediately, if your organization has been working with surveys, that this is not one, and that their own opinions are now central. That will immediately wake people up and get them involved, which is exactly what you want. One of our clients Royal HaskoningDHV explains how CircleLytics Dialogue increases employee engagement.

Quality over quantity?

To validate the results of your research, you need a good response rate. Statistically considered and calculated, for a group of 2,500 people for example, this is easily a response of 300 people. In CircleLytics Dialogue, you will find the calculation module (see screenshot) and you can enter your population, required reliability (representativeness for the entire group) and error margin (how deviant the entire group would react).

Validatie

In the case of difficult or very creative questions, it is possible that your response in the 1st round is lower than average, but of high quality. That is why the 2nd round is so valuable: people are delighted that others have completed the 1st round and they can contribute in the 2nd round. Reading dozens of ideas and contributions from others, reflecting on them and scoring them, selecting important words and explanations is unprecedentedly valuable. Your unique response after those two rounds (unique participants, i.e. de-doubled) will then increase considerably, often by 10-25%. Then promote the second round strongly, with a good, appealing invitation to the second round. With the tips and experiences from this blog and our White Paper for rock-solid open-ended questions, we will help you to maximize the response rate, even for difficult subjects or subjects that require creativity. In your dashboard, we keep track of your unique response across all your dialogs. It is very useful to see that over time you have reached most of your organization once or more!

 

Next to the above tips and experiences, we have compiled the attached list of all kinds of tips. We will take these and other experiences with us to make your dialogues and employee surveys smarter and richer too!

 

Extra tips:

  • Keep your language simple but don’t simplify the subject
  • Give advance notice of the upcoming dialogue through a known channel and show and tell what is to come
  • In your invitation (email/announcement), tell people that you need them and value their opinions.
  • Immediately tell them it is anonymous and repeat that word often.
  • Tell them what’s in it for them: learning from other opinions is hugely valuable, as is a measure of influence on decision-making.
  • Be transparent and show vulnerability: tell them that you do not understand something and what that is as an introduction
  • Announce the 2nd round and choose your language; ask them to prioritize? vote? choose?

Some more tips:

  • Use 1 or 2 reminders per round and make them appealing and challenging
  • Use different (trusted) communication channels, in addition to their e-mail, to reach them
  • Recruit the largest possible, relevant group of participants so that your issue resonates even more
  • In your invitation, explain what you have been able to do with the previous dialogue output: show that they have influence
  • Use images to recruit people on intra/internet
  • In the invitation of the 2nd round, repeat the reason for asking them again
  • Make sure your salutation is appropriate for the target group and the subject, so choose your tone and words well
  • Add a video in which someone explains the importance of participation and what is being done with it.

 

Quite a bit of work right?

Yes, questioning people is quite a bit of work. Designing a handful of deliberate open-ended questions can be a challenge. But after that, everything rolls in by itself! Because of the dialogue form of CircleLytics, the difficult work is done by participants, and they love it and execute that task collectively. They are taken seriously, they value, prioritize, and enrich, and – with some help of our AI / language processing and reporting – instant results are available. But you have to think about your questions cleverly and recruit as many people as possible. Remember: people love the dialogue and your open-ended questions. With that, the hardest part is behind you and most of the question ‘how do I recruit people’ is answered and you are up for a high response.

You can always ask us for help in designing and recruiting for your dialogues!

 

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

 

CircleLytics

Royal HaskoningDHV has 5,700 employees worldwide, spread over 30 countries; about half of these employees work in or from the Netherlands. We provide services in the fields of aviation, buildings, energy, industry, infrastructure, maritime, mining, transport, urban and rural development and water.

A works council consisting of 13 members has been established for Royal HaskoningDHV Nederland. Specific committees have been established for each of the Business Lines and for the joint Corporate Groups.

Motive: good advice

We were not specifically looking for new ways to talk to our employees. During a training course on professionalizing the Works Council, Winfried Bouts of the WissemaGroup drew our attention to the CircleLytics tool (at the time still under the name CouncilWise). We are continuously working on the further professionalization of the Works Council and contacts with colleagues are an important part of this. The CircleLytics online dialogues enable us to improve our effectiveness in contacting and soliciting colleagues.

Anonymous, broadly applicable and based on equality

In addition to the online dialogues, we send out a Works Council news flash every 6 weeks in which we report on the subjects that the Works Council has been working on. We also have intranet pages with all kinds of information about the Works Council. In addition, we publish the reports of the Works Council meetings and the advice and consent letters on this page. And, we regularly organize on-site constituency meetings and attend advisory group meetings. The committees are also an important link in our contact with the constituents; they collect input from the workplace for their consultations with the Business Line management. The online dialogues are, however, anonymous, everyone from the relevant target group can participate on an equal basis, and they also listen to each other in the 2nd round. This is another level of communication and interaction with the constituency.

How do you apply CircleLytics’ online dialogue?

We try to use the online dialogues once a month to discuss a current theme or a spearhead of the Works Council. Or we choose a theme that has been suggested by employees in previous online dialogues. In other words, with each online dialogue they can draw our attention to subjects that may have a broader impact. We set up this monthly online dialogue among employees in the Netherlands. Or, where necessary or convenient, we launch a specific topic among a certain group of employees (for example, per Business Line). You can also set up online dialogues among all employees and then make all kinds of breakdowns. Because not all employees in the Netherlands speak Dutch, the online dialogues are bilingual: in Dutch and in English.

Royal Haskoningdhv

We share the top five results of the online dialogues in the Works Council Newsflash. We discuss these top five with our management and the relevant persons/units (for ex., the Corporate Group Communications & Brand or Human Resources Management).  The content and timing of the online dialogues is also coordinated in advance with Communications & Brand; we all have our own responsibilities and want to keep each other informed, also because the company conducts surveys among employees.

The results of the online dialogues are discussed during Works Council meetings and consultation meetings with the Executive Board and – if relevant – in the consultation with the Supervisory Board.

 

What do the online dialogues get you?

These online dialogues:

  • will give the Works Council much greater legitimacy in bringing issues to the attention of management and will ensure that there is greater support for the Works Council’s views. The results will help us to have an (even) better discussion with management about the choices we need to make regarding the future of Royal HaskoningDHV.
  • will ensure that the Works Council is better informed of what is going on in the organization.
  • increase employee engagement, both with the organization and the participation process. It also increases inclusiveness within the organization
  • will lead to informed, good conversations with management and HR.

High appreciation of employees

In general, the employees appreciate the tool. This is evident from the high level of participation and the high rating of the tool, which is asked at the end.

We also receive reactions as a result of the online dialogues, which show that topics are being discussed and are starting to become (even) more alive in the organization.

The organization’s potential is surfacing

The results of these online dialogues make the Works Council a fully-fledged discussion partner because we know very well what is going on in the organization. The results also underpin and strengthen our views, giving management a clear idea of what is going on. Furthermore, by using CircleLytics, the potential knowledge present in the organization is much better utilized. Based on the results of the online dialogues, management and the works council can better assess the impact of the choices that are made and, as a result, the decision-making process of the management and works council is strengthened.

And besides: it’s just fun to do!!!

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SpaarneGasthuis health care dialogue

Spaarne Gasthuis uses regular dialogues to create a culture in which collaboration, co-creation, engagement and better decision-making go hand in hand. With the CircleLytics Dialogue online platform, managers take decisions that are broadly supported by their colleagues, and which come about in a smarter way. Colleagues feel – and above all: truly become – involved and use the brainpower of the group. Moreover, they feel heard and valued because their opinions matter and the solution that is thought up is actually used. Concrete questions, concrete solutions, concrete actions.

How did Germanic tribes do that long ago? Well, the leaders of the group would stand together and discuss plans for the future. People sat down and listened to the leaders. There would be a swelling hissing, rejecting sound, which meant that the listeners did not like the plans. The leaders heard it and knew that there was no support for their plan and that they had to change it. If the people liked the plans, they would make an approving sound, so that the leaders knew where they were at. Leaders or managers within a company or organisation need support for their policies and decisions. Whether they are nurses, doctors and managers or, like in this example, long before the turn of the century, the principle nothing about us without us, is the same. Good leadership understands that employees are the ears and eyes of the organization, and their behaviour and actions determine the organization’s performance.

Creating support through online co-creation

CircleLytics: “The principle of creating support within the group seems to have been lost several decades ago. Instead, companies and organizations are using a different, technical way of decision-making in which time clocks, individual assessment, KPIs and performance packages are central. A more individualistic, hierarchical view of people: “we determine top-down about you, measure individual performance, assess and settle individually and lead on the basis of productivity”. And with that, the connection between people within an organization has disappeared and the mutual learning capacity is lost. That is a pity, because you know more as a group than individually, even as many individuals together.”

 

Employee survey does not work

Spaarne Gasthuis: “Another important fact is that employees want to feel heard. So, filling in an employee survey with multiple choice answers, where you cannot express your opinion and never hear from again, does not work and people are fed up with it. CircleLytics is based on the insights into how we learn and want to be heard. This helps to develop the online dialogue that gives all employees the opportunity to contribute their opinion, knowledge and experience in a structured way. The platform ensures that employees can respond to each other’s opinions and learn from each other, reflect and even come to new insights and make them visible. So they hear from each other immediately and together they influence the mindset. Collaboration. Co-creation.”

Read here also what Philips says re faster manager action and how dialogue goes beyond surveys.

Asking for opinions, co-creation and resolving

Spaarne Gasthuis: “As manager of a department in Spaarne Gasthuis, why not ask the nurses in your team how they think they can spend less time looking for medical equipment? Why would you make that up yourself? The nurses are doing the work and they probably have good ideas. Working together not only gives you the brainpower and creativity of the group; it also ensures engagement, that people feel heard because their opinion matters. They see that something is actually done when you implement the solutions”.

Ask deliberate open-ended question

What does that look like in practice? Because how do you consult and include all 120 colleagues in your department? Or the more than 4,000 employees of the hospital? Managers have no time for dozens (or hundreds…) of personal discussions about a particular problem, but they do want to pay real attention to employees and their ideas so that they learn from each other, seek cooperation and work out what is best. CircleLytics: “Our platform simulates such a conversation online. You start by coming up with a good, stimulating question that challenges the target group to give their input. This could be a current problem, but also questions about why people value the organization, so that more attention can be paid to this. It is important that the manager actually does something with the input that is given and because of the short lead times of the online dialogue ánd clear-cut outcomes of the co-creation this can be done very quickly. In days even.”

Spaarne Gasthuis: “If you identify a problem but do not want to solve it, you should not ask that question. This stimulating open-ended question is given to the employees in a first round. In the second round, the employees can see each other’s answers, learn from them and enrich them by scores and explanations. This is done anonymously so that hierarchy is not an obstacle. The outcome of this second round is an overview of the contributions that are most supported by the employees. You get the sentiment from the people themselves about what others are saying.” CircleLytics: “A nice side effect is that everyone gets the chance to read other solutions or perspectives as well, making the use of dialogue an intervention in itself.”

Curious? Plan your demo or just an exchange of thoughts with the CircleLytics team here.

Marvel superheroes

CircleLytics: “Actually, online dialogue is a lot like Marvel’s superheroes. You use an attribute, in this case technology, to get more out of yourself. To learn more, to be inspired and to see more perspectives. Managers achieve more by harnessing the brainpower of their people. Scientific research shows that thinking about a problem together produces up to 60% more brainpower than thinking about it individually”. Spaarne Gasthuis: “Within a week, the platform has already produced 800 suggestions for solving a problem, with the most supported at the top and why. This is how managers find out what their people know and what they do not understand on their own”.

 

CircleLytics used for Patient safety

Spaarne Gasthuis: “In a certain department of Spaarne Gasthuis, the alarm of a monitor was missed several times within a short period of time. Fortunately, patient safety was not compromised. A measure was immediately taken to reduce this risk. A second screen was placed above the current one in order to display the data in a larger format. A number of other technical solutions turned out not to be feasible in the short term and therefore the colleagues of the department were asked to share their thoughts. What are suggestions that were not thought of before? The question asked in round 1: What is the very first action we need to take to ensure that we don’t miss an alarm on the monitor in a month’s time? And in round 2, the question was: If you agree with the suggestion then give it a positive rating, and if you disagree or do not recognize the suggestion, give it a negative rating. Please explain your answer. The outcome was that the most frequently mentioned solution from round 1 was voted down in round 2. Another solution emerged. This was put forward by a minority, but it could count on broad support among colleagues in the end. For the team leaders the first intervention to solve the problem is now clear, which is a different solution than they initially had in mind“. “By using the online dialogue, they now know which solution has the greatest chance of success”, says Saskia Haasnoot, Strategic Business Partner at Spaarne Gasthuis who uses CircleLytics in cooperation with Spaarne Labs. Together they were curious about the tool and wanted to experiment with it to learn from it. Haasnoot notices the enthusiasm of colleagues for this online dialogue: the platform offers opportunities for employees to give their input and managers have quick insight into what the colleagues support most and why. That is exactly what the Future of Work means: better cooperation, more engagement and better decisions! That’s co-creation.

More information about co-creation and dialogue

If you want to know more about using the CircleLytics online tool, please contact us or contact Spaarne Labs.

 

Works & Employee Council

Our previous blog was about the reasons to consult or not to consult colleagues (on the shop floor or support staff). This was written from the perspective of employee participation. After reading this blog, you might wonder: shouldn’t management and HR ask employees these questions? That’s also what we think. The Works Council’s role is more process-related; the business management determines the content. The Works Council is responsible for understanding and taking the employees’ perspectives seriously.

This post is related to the (Dutch) WOR article 17 (1)  for organizations and other forms of participation in sectors such as healthcare and education. What do our clients, such as Unilever, Royal HaskoningDHV, the Municipality of Breda, the Dutch Probation Service, etc., consider good reasons to do (or not do) something? One is that some of these people are members of the Works Council, and they “should know everything on behalf of their colleagues, they must have a feel for the organization, and have many contacts in all parts of the organization”. In response, our clients often say: “You don’t know what you don’t know, and you have to show all the employees that you care about all of their opinions, not just the opinions of some of them”. This blog focuses on which questions you should ask. Every situation requires a tailor-made solution: for subject matter, consent, initiative, or advice. Customization means that your employee consultation sometimes consists of one question, and sometimes of several questions, with sometimes closed, often open questions.

The WOR has laid the foundations for your employee consultation with your colleagues:

“… the organization enables the Works Council and its committees to consult the persons employed in the company and allows them to collaborate.”

In my experience, in the Works Council of the Ministry of Finance, employee consultation was separate from the relationship with the director. The lines were apparent. But that’s not always the case: in some organizations, the Works Council can be felt pressured not to consult the employees, with senior management stating “you only need the Works Council”. In my opinion, and the WOR backs me up on this, that is not correct. Fortunately, we often see collaborations between management, HR and the Works Council. The questions and timing of the employee consultation and the specific target group will be discussed. Discussing things with the director is one thing, but the Works Council is an independent body that makes its own decisions.

Article 17(1) states that all employees must be allowed to participate and express their views. And that the director must cooperate. In other words, support them and even encourage them! Modern leadership requires that directors and HR listen to employees better. Not only to keep them involved but also because a large group knows more than a small group, and they can compensate for their own limitations. This large group must be as large as possible: it must represent all the employees, not a small group. There must always be a direct link to the employees on the shop floor and in the field. Read here how Philips Director René Schoenmakers does that. CircleLytics makes it easy for everyone to (quickly) join in. As an employee, you don’t have to download an app (fortunately), and you don’t even have to be at the office or at home on a computer. It doesn’t matter where people work: whether they work in the factory, are busy at the distribution center, on the road, providing bedside care, in the classroom, etc. Everyone can join the online dialogue via a link or QR code.

Because you have to play a proactive role, not (just) a reactionary one, it is essential to know the WOR and your rights and responsibilities well. Therefore, a thorough WOR training is your basis. This includes important case law (such as the Enterprise Division of the Court of Appeal). Organizations such as Metamorfase, Maatschap voor Medezeggenschap, OR Succes, SBI Formaat and WissemaGroep provide this important foundation. They also apply other forms of consultancy, conversation, Deep Democracy, conflict management, etc., such as Sandra Bouckaert’s dialogue concept Let’s Connect.

You will learn, among other things, what your active role is based on, and where employee consultation can be relevant:

  • advisory subjects: article 25 (1)
  • implementation of decisions: article 25 (5)
  • Works Council initiatives: article 23 (3)
  • subjects requiring consent: article 27
  • improvement of working conditions: article 28 (1/2)
  • diversity & inclusion, discrimination and position of minorities: article 28 (3) and the updated Corporate Governance Code
  • environmental concerns: article 28 (4)
  • appointment/dismissal of directors: article 30.

 

The Works Councils applying the CircleLytics online dialogue have conducted employee consultations for all these items. These councils make decisions for groups of 100 to 70,000 employees. The director and HR greatly appreciate the Works Council performing its role professionally and intelligently. The online dialogue improves the speed and quality of the advice, initiative or consent advice, and later on, it prevents problems when implementing decisions. Employee Consultation now prevents issues later. Leadership and HR know their limitations

Employee consultation goes beyond and works better than sending out a survey, organizing a poll, setting up a Teams session, or making phone calls. The CircleLytics online dialogue lets you submit:

  • open questions
  • statements
  • closed questions
  • a combination of closed questions with open answers

You can send this out to any group size, whether a department, business unit, region, groups of managers or all employees at once.

The answers to the open questions are submitted to the participants in the unique and motivating second round. They can assess them by rating them from -3 (no support) to +3 (full support). This means you no longer have to spend hours or days trying to process the answers in an Excel sheet. It saves time and, above all, prevents human errors. You need to learn how thousands of employees think about the answers others have given; their opinions are indispensable. The themes from the first round only become relevant in the second round. Or not. The latter can come as quite a surprise, but that is how people operate: after reconsideration, people might change their minds, especially when they learn how other people see things. That’s all very normal, which is why this second round is crucial.

In summary, the second round has five critical consequences:

– respondents learn that other opinions are better and do not get stuck on being right

– everyone gets the same opportunities: the loud ones, the fast ones and the slower ones

– 20-40% change their opinion: this gives you more accurate information than you would have gotten without a second round

– all scores are included for the ranking of all opinions: the acceptance or rejection of themes and opinions by the group are directly visible in your dashboard and are ready to use

– you don’t have to waste time struggling with an excel sheet (which also affects the quality).

When you consult the employees, several important things happen. Of course, this applies to the Director and HR, but if they don’t, that responsibility lies with you. Not only based on the WOR, but also because you want to keep your employees involved. Consultation increases employee involvement and retention. It ensures that:

– your visibility increases because you ask for the opinion of the entire department or even all colleagues

– your decisions improve because you gather intelligence from everyone

– your work is more fun: you learn a lot, and employees appreciate you tremendously

– your relationship with the director improves because you know exactly what people find essential.

About this last point: even when you are (sometimes) put under pressure, you have the law on your side and your role to fulfil. You need to handle that pressure and the related emotions well. A good relationship with the director is not a prerequisite for being a visible, influential, healthy Works Council. However, good consultation is. Good, prompt consultation ensures that the advice, initiative or consent is well-founded and transparent. Content is king, and the director will thank you for your efforts, which will positively influence your relationship. Read what Royal HaskoningDHV and Unilever have to say about this.

Next, we will share some questions you might want to ask during consultations. This list is based on the thousands of questions that Works Councils have asked thousands of employees in the Netherlands in recent years using the CircleLytics Dialogue. Our White Paper teaches you how to ask solid and open-ended questions, formulate challenging statements, introduce dilemmas and create combinations of open and closed questions. The document shows you the 18 best practices to formulate your questions.

Consultations at your fingertips: initiative

You can conduct employee consultations at different times. If you want to start an initiative, as described in article 23 (3), you can do so whenever you want. However, we recommend you do this before you present the director with a written proposal, including an explanation.

Initiatives can be based on:

– rumors or more concrete signals you receive (such as absenteeism, conflict, complaints, etc.)

– follow-up of research such as employee research that is (often) postponed

– review of consultations from previous quarters or years

– monitoring how the decisions are implemented and whether an adjustment is necessary.

Initiatives can cover many topics. The questions below are examples. A dialogue usually consists of 1-5 questions, in principle always with a unique second round during which the participants rate each other’s answers and can adjust their own position. Employees want to participate in this process: over 70% of employees read/rate over 15 contributions from others! You may want to add a closed scale to an open question; you can combine the two question methods. This is often a smart move: the numbers will be supported, and your justification will be proven with numbers.

These examples (or other questions from our question library) can be adapted to your situation. In the second round, you can also ask employees what they recognize/support or not in what others say or what would be their advice for improvement, besides merely rating things. This additional second-round follow-up question is not always mentioned in the examples below.

Is there a concern/risk you want to bring to our attention now? What is that, and why?

What about working from home is something you or colleagues are worried about, and why?

How enjoyable and productive (1=not, 10=excellent) can you perform your job at the moment, and can you explain this in your own words?

How does our organization progress with [……….]  (1=bad, 10=excellent), and can you share with us what could or should be better according to you?

The Works Council has the following items on its agenda for the next 12 months. Please choose one item that you think should be given the highest priority and explain why.

Which item do you think is missing from the Council’s list, and why should we work on this?

We will work hard on the following topics in the coming months. Choose the three most important topics for you. Next, you can explain for each of these topics why it is so important to you.

What is the most valuable of the following (negotiation) points regarding the new Collective Labor Agreement and why?

What is the least valuable of the following (negotiation) points regarding the new Collective Labor Agreement and why?

 If you have to choose between [……] and [……], which one would you prefer and why? (In the second round, employees can see and rate the reasons of others and change/finalize their preferences)

What would you like to see change regarding [………….] and why?

How likely are you to still be working here in 3-5 years, and can you tell what motivates you most to stay?

How likely are you to stop working here within the next 1-2 years, and why you would (consider to) leave? (In the second round: what do you recognize/acknowledge from what others say and what is your recommendation to change this?)

Why do you think the absenteeism has risen/is so high in this department? (In the second round: what do you recognize, and what do you think is a viable solution in the short term?)

What is the cause of [….]?

What is the most significant improvement for [….], and what would impact it?

Recently, we scored low on [….]. Can you rate again what you think of [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and what would be your advice to improve this score over the next 3-6 months?

Recently, we scored high on [….]. Can you rate again what you think of [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and why you think this is so high? (In the second round, you ask for their support for arguments from others and what their advice is to make this more sustainable).

How do you rate your organization’s training offer (1=no match, 10=perfect match), and can you explain this as clearly as possible? (In the second round, you can ask them to rate the explanations of others and give advice)

What element of department [….] should be better trained (or developed) and why?

Does our organization meet your expectations after your first 3-6 months here (1=not at all, 10=excellent)? Can you explain your score?

How do you rate us as a Works Council for [….], and can you tell us why? (You can ask the low-scoring employees for advice and high-scoring employees to provide examples)

How safe do you feel in situation [….], and can you explain that based on a recent example? (In the second round, you can ask for advice on the scores people give others)

How well does our organization handle [….] safety, and how can it be improved?

How do you currently handle the working pressure (1=badly, 10=well), and what is your advice for others?

 

Read more here…

 

 

Works & Employee Council

(This is part 2; read part 1 here)

Employee consultation for consent

When looking for consent (article 27(1)), you are dealing with proposed decisions to adopt, amend or repeal several regulations. These arrangements are listed in said article. You may have to rely on taking the initiative, article 23 (3). For example, when you detect or receive signals (or even without signals, and you want to know it first hand) that something regarding the subject is not going well or if you want to know how things are going.

Items d, e, f, g and l have become particularly important since working from home became the norm since the pandemic. Training, assessment and working methods are being influenced by working from home, and people are still finding their way. The question of how many days you want to work from home is pretty straightforward, but the subject itself is much more complex and uncertain. You need to consult employees regularly to keep a finger on the pulse. The letter m is essential, now more than ever, with topics such as mental safety, #metoo and (sexual) misconduct being high on the agenda (or at least they should be). It may mean that you consult the employees and then exert pressure on the director, but it may also be, and that is what Article 27 is about, that the director will submit something for your consent. Employee consultation is, in our opinion, one of your most essential tools for fulfilling your role seriously, simply and with a solid foundation. We see more Works Councils putting consultation (dialogue) on the agenda and implementing it regularly, such as Royal HaskoningDHV.

 

Examples of questions:

Please read the accompanying draft arrangement via this link …. Do you support this arrangement? Please explain your position in favor or against it. (In the second round, they can change/finalize their position and express their support for the explanations of others or not)

Together, we want to define the criteria by which we will consider the consent. What criterion do you think is most important to set and why? (In the second round, they can support criteria that others mentioned by ranking them, and you can ask them to explain their scores)

The Works Council wants to use the attached set of criteria to consider consent. Which one is most important to you and why?

What criterion on the previous list [….] for consent do you think is missing and should be on the list?

What do you think is a (possibly surprising) risk of the proposed new arrangement for [….], and why do you believe that? (In the second round, you can ask if they have tips about the risks others have mentioned and they support and about what the organization can do to mitigate those risks)

What do you think is a (possibly surprising) positive effect of the proposed new arrangement for [….], and why do you think that? (In the second round, you can ask if they have tips about the effects others have mentioned and they support and about what the organization can do to achieve those effects)

What do you think is a smart way to monitor how the new arrangement will work for different groups within our organization?

What exactly do you expect from the Works Council regarding this proposed decision?

What is your reference point (e.g., from a previous/other organization) to assess this arrangement?

What is the impact of this arrangement on your motivation to stay with this organization for a long time and why? (You can have them choose from multiple choice answers such as ‘no effect’, ‘negative’, … and in the second round, they can learn from other people’s explanations and then determine their final position on the matter)

Do you expect this arrangement to have negative consequences for you? If so, can you indicate which one(s) in particular, and what is the basis of your expectation?

Do you expect this arrangement to have positive consequences for you? If so, can you indicate which one(s) in particular, and what is the basis of your expectation?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect your colleagues, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect employee retention, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect your colleagues’ involvement, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect our competitive position in the labor market, and can you explain this?

How do you expect this arrangement to affect a more sustainable relationship with customers, and can you explain this?

 

Consultation & dialogue for advice (request for advice)

Thirdly, you can consult during an advisory project or for consent. You may have to deal with a process under time constraints and/or where ‘confidentiality’ is a limiting factor. This confidentiality often applies to listed organizations, but even then, an employee consultation is possible and necessary.

For most decisions, delays of weeks or months are undesirable. Subsection 2 says: “The opinion must be requested at a time such that it can have a significant impact on the decision to be taken”. But if the situation is under pressure, it is vital that you handle that pressure without compromising the quality of your employee consultation and your advice. So, you must decide quickly on what to consult about and communicate with the director, informing them that you will start and complete it in the short term. Using CircleLytics, you can conduct consultations within two days to two weeks; the results can be processed within one to a few hours, creating a document, PDF or PowerPoint presentation, regardless of the number of participants.

There are four logical moments for advice or consent consultations:

1 at the beginning of a term

2 during a term, when you are working on the draft advice, have sent more information (if you have identified that as a need) and are looking for partial support or insights

3 at the end of a term if you want to submit your draft advice to employees to get final approval or a final point from the colleagues

4 after the decision, to monitor implementation and (unexpected) effects.

 

All the questions that we have shown above are – with some adjustments – usually also useful for advisory projects.

Additional questions are:

What is your first response to hearing the proposed decision?

What is a foremost concern when hearing the proposed decision, and why?

After hearing the proposed decision, what opportunities do you see for your career with this organization?

Now that you have received more information from us (or management), what do you think about possible care: what is your greatest concern and why?

Now that you have received more information from us (or management), how do you think about the positive impact/opportunities: what do you think is the greatest (positive) opportunity and why?

What opportunity do you see for the organization as a result of the proposed decision? (In the second round, you can ask how employees rate the opportunities others have mentioned and what their advice is to make that a success)

What should the [department/organization/….] do less to prevent ‘stacking work’, and to make implementing the proposed decision successful?

Is there anything you want to tell the Works Council, whatever, when studying the proposed decision and advising the director?

What information do you need to understand better what it is about?

What effect do you see in the short term of the proposed decision that you want us to be aware of?

What effect do you see in the long term of the proposed decision that you want us to be aware of?

What effect do you see in the short term of the proposed decision on [….] that you want us to be aware of, and why would you think that effect exists?

How do you think this proposed decision contributes to our strategy for [……]?

How do you think this proposed decision contributes to [……]?

What do you think is an alternative to the proposed decision and what do you base on it?

What is necessary to prevent this proposed decision in this way?

What do you think is the most crucial reason – of the reasons the board has mentioned – why the organization wants to make this decision?

After we sent you the additional information requested by you this week: have the consequences for you been clearly described? Which ones were not clearly described?

Are the reasons provided by management for this decision convincing for you? Which were not convincing?

What do you think is a possible reason for this decision, which is not mentioned in the documents?

What do you need to have clarified to give you an idea of the proposed decision?

What is your opinion on the level of ambition of the proposed decision? Should it be higher, lower, or different otherwise?

Together, we want to define the criteria by which we will consider the consent. What criterion do you think is most important to set and why? (In the second round, they can support criteria that others mentioned by ranking them, and you can ask them to explain their scores)

The Works Council wants to use the attached criteria to consider consent. Which one is most important to you and why?

What criterion on the previous list [….] for consent do you think is missing and should be on the list?

Please read the enclosed draft advice carefully and indicate whether you support it or not. Please explain your point of view. (After the second round, employees can change their yes or no)

What is missing from the attached draft advice on the issue of [….], and how would you reformulate it?

What is the strongest argument for [….] in the attached draft advice, and why do you think that?

We would like to know whether you agree with the attached advice that will be sent to the director shortly. Please provide your point of view and motivation. (After the second round, and scoring/weighing of other motivations, they can finalize their point of view).

 

Employee Consultation in connection with section 5:

How can we measure the implementation as well as possible (and adjust it if necessary)?

What do you expect from the Works Council in monitoring the implementation?

What would you consider the best timeframe for the Works Council to check how the implementation is progressing and possibly adjust (this can be placed on management’s agenda)?

How do you think the implementation of decision [….] is progressing in practice: can you name a positive change? Can you describe this in concrete terms?

How do you think the implementation of decision [….] is going in practice: what are you critical about or even negative and why? (In the second round, you can ask if employees would like to give their tips on the opinions of others whom they support)

What do you think has changed (significantly) in [….], which means that the decision of [……] has to be reassessed?

 

Risk Inventory & Evaluation (RI&E)

Among other things, article 28 (1) and (2) focuses on improving working conditions. The Health and Safety Act also determines what can be expected from the employer; as a Works Council, you monitor this. You may need to take the initiative or, in consultation with the manager/HR, have the RI&E implemented. CircleLytics Dialogue can be used to conduct a complete RI&E investigation. In the event of changes in internal or external circumstances (such as the changes in working from home), the RI&E may need to be reperformed (in part). It can be supervised through your occupational health and safety expert or external advisor or through our partners.

 

Position of minorities and D&I policy

According to the Dutch WOR, article 28 (and the updated Corporate Governance Code), employee participation should play a role in diversity & inclusion. You can use a set of D&I questions to get this started, and in the event of incidents or when you receive specific signals, you can take the initiative based on article 23. When the advice is included in the Corporate Governance Code, the organization’s leadership must explain how it applies.

Examples:

Can you safely express your concerns to your supervisor (-3=not at all, +3=completely), and can you explain your score?

Do you feel that others have the same (career) opportunities as you (no/yes), and can you explain that?

To what extent does management play an exemplary role (-3=not, +3=very much) in D&I, and can you explain?

Do you feel that your ideas, criticisms and opinions are taken seriously? Please explain.

How do you appreciate the visible efforts of management to implement the D&I policy effectively? (1=low, 10=high). Do you have a recent example of your score?

Do you think the organization has a clear priority regarding a diverse workforce? Please explain.

Do you think that the organization’s recruitment and selection policy is aimed at recruiting and selecting a diverse workforce? Please explain.

 Do you feel that this organization provides a safe working environment? Please explain.

 Do you get sufficient support from your supervisor compared to others in the same situation? Please explain.

 

We have numerous questions (40+) ready for you to conduct your (occasional or repeated) consultations and to engage in dialogue with groups or all employees. At this point, it might be interesting to conduct consultations with managers only.

 

Environment (climate)

We have had several dialogues that focus on the environment. Since the climate can even determine whether employees like to work at the organization or want to leave, it is essential to take this information to heart as a Works Council. We expect this to become even more important. Read what one of our partners, Charlotte Extercatte of 100MonthstoChange, says about the role of organizations and the environment/climate.

Examples:

To what extent is management a role model (-3=not, +3=very much) in terms of climate and sustainability, and can you explain this?

 Do you feel your contribution to sustainability and the climate are taken seriously? Please explain.

 How can we make our driving behavior and (lease) car ownership more climate-conscious, or even carbon neutral?

 How do you rate management’s visible commitment to creating and implementing our climate policy convincingly? (1=low, 10=high). Can you name a recent example?

 Do you think that the organization clearly prioritizes the climate issue? Please explain.

How important is the climate for you as a factor to continue working here for many years?

Do you feel that this organization takes the climate issue seriously? Please explain.

Can the organization’s climate policy be more ambitious? Please explain.

 

Directors

We also have some examples of the role of the director:

If you read the attached profile for the role of the director [….]. What are the most essential elements of a new candidate, and why?

If you read the attached profile for the role of the director [….]. What do you think is the least important element of a new candidate, and why?

What should be included in the profile of a new director for the position of [….] and why?

Self-evaluation

One last point: a strong Works Council regularly evaluates itself. We see that happening a lot. They want to be visible and effective and be trusted by employees. And they want to know which of their actions were most important and most visible. This shows a number of things:

  • you are open to new insights and feedback; that is instructive and shows leadership
  • you use modern resources such as CircleLytics, which makes the Works Council more interesting for new candidates
  • you make employees aware of what you have achieved and it clearly shows your ‘success stories’.

CircleLytics is used to ask employees how they perceive the Works Council over a certain period of time. That period shouldn’t be too long, no longer than one year; that dialogue should be repeated annually.

Examples of questions:

How would you rate our performance over the last period: [….] (1=weak, 10=strong) and can you explain that? 

This question can then be applied to various aspects that you want to ask about. You can ask this during the second round.

You can add:

What is your recommendation for better, more visible performances?

How can we improve our communication?

This is a good list for you and for employee participation. Hopefully, it inspires you to think about consultations as:

  • easier than you thought
  • faster than you thought
  • better than you thought.

CircleLytics Dialogue contains more questions in your Works Council account. They are conveniently organized; you can use the platform for all question/answer variants, but the unique element is the second round, in which the results of the first round are weighed, and the support and effects become visible.

Our final tip: you can also use CircleLytics for smart consultations and to brainstorm, discuss and make decisions with your colleagues. You can use it for groups of ten people to many thousands of colleagues (in large organizations and committees). For example, you can apply CircleLytics one week before the physical meeting takes place.

We are happy to help you with your employee participation. And don’t forget to contact the partners we mentioned at the start of this blog post.

Plan your meeting, demo, training or question design session here.

 

 

We are regularly asked this question. We ask HR leadership why they are curious about the CircleLytics employee dialogue. What is missing when HR limits itself to the method of an employee survey? We are quite surprised by their reactions. These are discussed in this blog. It comes down to what we wrote in a recent post: your survey is only the start, at most 10% of the EX/EE challenge. After that, you want to engage in dialogue to find out together what is hidden behind the figures, how things can be improved. In co-creation with the employees, as Ben Whitter, founder of the World Employee Experience Institute, indicates in his much-praised book “Human Experience at Work“. The question he poses is answered by our clients with the power of dialogue: “How can you co-create at a deeper level with people? “. Did you know that through our dialogue, the collective intelligence you gain, and your qualitative insight, increases by 20-60%? And do you know that people are the main reason why every change project in your organization succeeds … or fails? A survey alone will not make an impact. Engagement is a daily action (perhaps the most wonderful!) but certainly not a periodic list of closed questions. People are worth so much more.

 

Some of the things we hear…

“Employees are tired of surveys and want their opinions to be heard”
“Follow-up is so difficult if you haven’t asked real open questions”
“What’s the use if the questions are general and not specific”
“Unfortunately, benchmarking is more important in the organization than asking questions that are relevant now”
“After the survey, we struggle for months with the ‘why’ and ‘how’ and all those meetings give us a headache”.

Yet also:

“We got used to surveys and the reports render numbers we depend on”
“The respons is under pressure but with a bit of help, it’s sufficient, so we’re ok”
“We use pulse surveys so it’s very short and easy, and we try to – at least – track trends this way”
“The reporting and dashboard of our survey platform are easy to produce power points”
“Survey fatigue is really an issue, but benchmarking makes it hard to stop”.

These kinds of remarks… Recognize them? So, are surveys here to stay? Do integrations and reporting functionalities of incumbent survey platforms block your innovation in employee listening? Do you agree that listening requires deliberate open-ended questions about specific matters, other or in addition to generic, closed-end questions? How to follow up on surveys? Do we need to engage people in dialogues to understand what’s really going on and co-create improvements?

 

Case. Government organization.

This organization uses a traditional employee survey because of a government-wide procurement procedure. Management indicates that employees do not feel like taking ‘another survey’. For this reason, management does not want to pose general questions, but specific questions for specific subjects that are topical at the moment. They select 4 questions from the survey and add to each question: “what is your main reason for this score”. They design 3 additional open questions. They use these 7 with the CircleLytics Dialog, because of the unique 2nd round. In this round, employees give a kind of sentimental score and enrich the (many) answers of others. This provides a wealth of additional insights and management immediately learns what is most important, what is not, and especially why. Employees greatly appreciated the dialogue and felt involved and taken seriously.

The difference between the survey question using CircleLytics Dialogue is:

-> survey: How has the working relationship with colleagues in the last year affected your happiness at work? (1=negative, 10=positive; with text field if necessary)

-> dialogue: First round: How does the working relationship with colleagues currently influence your happiness at work (1=negative, 10=positive) and what is your main reason for this? And the second round, the dialogue round: How do you value the reasons of others and what is your explanation? What does that mean for your final score on the question about happiness at work?

Can you imagine the difference? Looking back a year is rather long while feedback is only useful and reliable when it takes place close to the moment (our reading tip: the book Job Feedback by Manuel London). The focused explanation in response to the open-ended question section is unprecedentedly rich. And did you know that in the dialogue variant with open answers and a 2nd round, more than 70% of the employees go through more than 20 answers from others and appreciate them? They understand the context, semantics, use of language, tone and read between the lines. Their scores are more meaningful than algorithms. Their sentiments are more reliable than an algorithm that adds up negative or positive words. Language is human work.

Back to our story.

Why only 10%?

HR and leadership are realizing that listening to employees has little to do with asking closed, general (scoring) questions. Often from the ‘established order’ such as CultureAmp, QuestBack, Qualtrics, Effectory, Integron, SurveySparrow and 100s of other providers. In 2019, Josh Bersin already mentioned the trend that employee engagement has moved up from doing surveys to action-driven feedback that actually comes up with recommendations for managers on ‘what to do next’. Gallup has been researching and demonstrating for years that employees are more motivated and productive when their opinions visibly matter. After all, that’s also how you listen to your partner, family and friends: closed-end questions do not ignite people’s thinking nor dialogue. However, deliberate open-ended questions, focused mostly on feeding forward, understanding and improving matters, are not included in standard employee surveys, with the exception of a few open text fields. HR and leadership are therefore wrestling with a number of challenges:

  • employees are no longer fans of surveys; it affects reliability
  • a report based on open text fields is not reliable (read our blog “Survey or dialogue“)
  • it takes weeks or months before results and actions are clear and make an impact
  • confidence decreases and the risk that your (pulse) survey will score lower increases.

The tricky thing is that surveys expose issues with weak scores and/or declining trends, but not the why behind them, nor ‘how to improve’. The good news is that HR and employees and leadership share the dissatisfaction with surveys. Together they are looking for depth to make employee listening a reality. To realize co-creation and to take significant steps regarding involvement, enthusiasm and trust. The survey reveals figures, but no direction for decisions, no actions. The 90% only starts now.

 

So why do we still do surveys?

HR mentions a number of reasons that may be valid from the point of view of ‘not wanting to change too much’. They also want to talk to us about the complex work after the survey. The reasons they mention for doing surveys are:

  • they want to benchmark (compare) figures with the industry; we therefore use generic questions and closed scales
  • figures from surveys are used in all kinds of management reports and everyone is used to them
  • assessment and remuneration (of e.g. management/MTs) are also based on figures from surveys
  • the HR team is used to this, and does not want any change themselves
  • employees suffer from survey fatigue and we don’t dare to introduce something new
  • we are waiting for instructions from management/CEO.

We also often hear: we have a contract for our employee survey for several years so we will just have to wait it out first. To the latter argument, we usually respond with the question of what you do when you bought tight shoes, but they are not worn out yet. Do you keep wearing them with pain, blisters and discomfort? We’ve noticed this in terms of benchmarking brands. If you score 7.4 on a certain subject and the industry scores 7.2, what do you do? What do you know? You’re comparing apples with oranges. Are you going for that 10, for continuous improvement, for excellence for employees and their experience? You have asked employees for feedback, but you let this point rest because management is already satisfied with ‘we score better than others’?

Survey fatigue is quite an issue. Why do something for years that is not satisfying, and employees reject as a method? Fatigue, not completing the survey, not having confidence in the follow-up are all things that HR should not want. If the methodology doesn’t motivate employees, how can the results? New technology to question groups takes some getting used to and requires vision, ambition and backbone. Modern leadership requires organizations and HR to see and embrace the power of open questions. MIT has even set up a complete course on ‘open questioning’ by Hal Gregersen, as “Breakthrough Approach to Creative Problem Solving, Innovation, and Change”.

Does your organization, your team, and do you have the innovative drive to listen to employee dissatisfaction, and to co-create improvement by means of asking deliberate open-ended questions?  To harness the power embrace collective intelligence (also see video by Stanford PhD Lorenzo Barberis) and learn from as many perspectives as possible?

We realize that the above reasons for HR to stick to surveys, can seriously undermine the urgency to step up their listening capabilities and co-creation skills. At the same time, there are many organizations that do not conduct any employee survey right now, or are very dissatisfied, or have an expiring contract and switch completely and exclusively to the employee dialogue. This way, in one go, they capture quantitative data, and qualitative insights. Others are put on the track of employee dialogue, crowd sourcing and collective intelligence based on vision and leadership and a managers’ requirement to offer tools that move people and performance forward.

Case. A medium-sized, industrial service organization.

The new management wants to do ‘something’ with their employees, but not a survey. They have never used them. They just haven’t got around to it. Management wants employees to experience more that they work together for one organization. They call it purpose and culture. They want to do something with that. A consultant who works with our dialogue tooling at a customer has set up “Engaging Dialogues”; three questions on a monthly basis. A combination of the open and closed scale. Questions that directly steer and listen to what “they see”, “they experience”, “they know”. It made management very nervous. What will come out of this? How will they react? Are they going to write that open answer? They applied questions that were/are directly linked to the management’s agenda, via a series of bi-weekly dialogues during a number of months. They called the results and subsequent actions a “veritable gold mine”.

Let’s continue

So we’re talking about organizations where, for whatever reason, HR currently uses the methodology of a survey as part of EX / EE and employee listening. In another blog we will discuss the differences between dialogue and survey and why open questions require a new methodology and technology.

 

What does HR do after the (pulse) survey?

HR now mentions the following three approaches most often:

  • do nothing
  • decentralized interviews by managers, sometimes with the assistance of an HR employee
  • focus group(s), EX/EE labs, interviews, etc.

Do nothing (yes, it happens a lot)

Research by LeadershipIQ and others shows that ‘doing nothing’ and ‘decentralized interviews’ are common reasons why survey results deteriorate. Yes, deteriorate. Doing nothing is explained by things like: busyness, no skills to interpret figures, or absence of a follow-up process. The report is delivered and then it stays quiet. That is a major flaw in HR. It’s not so surprising that organizations still have to contend with low levels of commitment and/or significant employee departures.

Decentralized interviews?

Often, survey results are broken down into business units. Individual management teams then ‘have to’ work with the results. HR supports this in various ways. What HR often mentions as a challenge is:

  • managers are not suited to having those interviews
  • privacy is violated by the loss of anonymity (see more here)
  • interviews are difficult, postponed, not completed, not followed up on
  • weak, central overview by HR and management of actions and visible follow-up
  • due to lack of inclusion and of real dialogue, bias creeps into the content and does not bring out what should and can be done.

Managers are not always trained or competent to conduct interviews. Certainly not because it is often about the quality of their own work and the associated poor scores. These bad scores from the employee survey have their possible repercussions on the same managers. This creates an unsafe situation: one in which, moreover, anonymity is no longer guaranteed. This is very strange, because the survey is (by default) anonymous. So why not have interviews? As soon as privacy is violated, employees drop out and the organization loses the power of multi-perspective decision making. No matter how ‘inspiring’ the meeting was in the eyes of the manager and (paid, often external) moderator. You don’t know what you’ve missed and that is a considerable risk for EX/EE and for trust.

The lead time is also considerable. We are told that it usually takes 2 to 7 months before all interviews have been conducted. The power of feedback is that the recipient is able to do something with it visibly, in the short term. In weeks, not months. And finally, you run the risk that, as a central leadership, you do not know exactly what has taken place decentrally, what was said, what was agreed and whether this really represents what is going on and what is needed. You achieve the opposite of what you are aiming for; no higher involvement or enthusiasm.

How about focus groups?

Many employee survey providers promote setting up focus groups, or variants, on their website. In this way, “HR can deepen their understanding of the results and understand why they are there, and how to improve”. The intention is good, the solution is not good in our opinion. The reasons are as follows:

– lack of inclusiveness; if you ignore 90-99% of employees, you run the risk of making decisions that are simply not going to be supported; statistically, your information and any decision you make is just unnecessarily weak

– in terms of content, you are missing something but you don’t know what; what does the rest of the organization say? their collective intelligence and ideas remain untapped.

Do keep in mind the intention: “to deepen the numerical results, and to understand why, and how to improve“. We will work on that in the next case!

 

Case. Philips.

After completing the global, quarterly employee survey, the leadership of one of their continents wants to understand why and how to improve. They want to do this by setting up co-creation with a number of consecutive CircleLytics Dialogues. Philips then selects weak scoring items, which are very important for success. The questions from the survey are now repeated, supplemented with “… Please elaborate on your scores to clarify how to improve.” Employees participate in big numbers and share their thoughts about improvements.

Philips was able to take immediate action after the dialogue had ended. This is because the textual analysis was done directly by the employees themselves. They assign value, meaning and sentiment to the answers of others by scoring and explaining them. The artificial intelligence and other text analyses in CircleLytics complete this work seamlessly and in real time. The dialogue starts on Monday and by Friday afternoon, the results are displayed in slides and actions have been agreed upon. Philips can use the dialogue to quickly uncover direction and improvement potential. Without having to change their worldwide survey process every quarter, because that survey has to stay for the time being.

 

So the dialogue is an extension of the survey?

Yes, you can see it that way. If, for whatever reason, you cannot renew the old employee survey (the survey methodology), then at least ensure that you enter into a dialogue with employees afterwards. The advantages and necessity of the CircleLytics dialogue are the following:

  • online, anonymous, fast and very attractive because they can give open answers
  • scalable so inclusive: everyone relevant to the topic is asked
  • you increase trust and the employees’ direct involvement in the organization
  • they learn from each other’s open answers, score them, and say what is really important.

The dialogue compensates for all the disadvantages of the survey and is the perfect complement. To each their own. The survey collects figures, the dialogue collects interpretation. The survey indicates possible problems, the dialogue puts the potential for improvement concretely on the table. On a silver platter, as one customer recently told us.

Finally, should you ever consider not using a survey method in the future, let the following case inspire you.

Case: Temporary employment agency.

This organization decided to stop using the old method of general employee surveys in the Netherlands. They chose and deployed the CircleLytics Dialogue exclusively to approach all employees with 8 essential questions. They used the same questions as they had used before, but with the addition of “a clear explanation of why you currently see things this way”. The 2nd round of the dialogue yielded towards 1,000,000 additional thought processes with almost 3,000 employees, as they were able to read and assess each other’s anonymous answers. They did so in great numbers. Simply because, according to them, it was “informative”, “surprising” and “just plain fun”.

They could also explain why they scored the answers of others (anonymously) up or down. In their view, it was a rich, motivating way to “help the organization improve”, CHRO told us. Leadership received the ‘normal’ report with numbers, breakdowns, etc., but now also received the qualitative analyses with what the employees considered most and least important. They were able to quickly break down all results to subsidiary organizations so that they could take action. Actions that were put on the table collectively by employees themselves. Actions that come about in co-creation.

One big brain

Collectively, employees are the brain of your organization. Alone, they are just ‘neurons’, but through their cooperation, their openness to each other’s opinions (the ‘synapses’ of your brain), they form that one big brain.

“How can you co-create at a deeper level with people?” is the question posed by Ben Whitter to make human experience at work successful.

Entering into dialogue with your employees is our answer to deepening your current follow-up and increasing and sustaining commitment in the short term. If you are already doing surveys and employee research but want to enter into dialogue afterwards in order to achieve fast, reliable, concrete improvements, or if you just want to stop doing surveys or don’t have any yet. Remember that employees are just like people: they want to contribute and if you take them seriously, they are willing to solve things and improve together.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

During change, there is a 3 to 4 times higher chance of employees getting disengaged or even leaving. Successful change and improvement do not happen overnight, but without them you are nowhere. You need structure – a conscious approach – in order to bring about change and improvements. Not just once, but continuously. People’s engagement is critical to this; you want to understand their keenest insights, knowledge and points for improvement, and more importantly; you want to show them that you consider them important. After all, change is permanent, a constant. Continuous improvement is the name of the game. The PDCA model is a much-used approach. PDCA gives structure to your continuous change and improvement process. In this blog we will explain how to use CircleLytics Dialogue successfully in PDCA. This ensures (short) cyclical feedforward. No change without employees. Change fails or succeeds mainly because of people. And without their data and insights, or unreliable data, you will not achieve successful change. The quality of the input of this feedforward and feedback determines your success. We will explain how CircleLytics helps you to obtain high quality data from stakeholders, such as and mainly employees, to prevent bias, mistakes and missed opportunities. It will also help to prepare the people involved for your change and secure their involvement. The tool is especially suitable for regular, (short) cyclical qualitative and quantitative feedback and feedforward.

 

How does PDCA work again?

PDCA stands for Plan – Do – Check – Act; a structural, cyclical approach in continuous improvement programmes. It ensures that you continuously and systematically pay attention to the steps needed to structurally solve problems. You can read more about the background of the PDCA model here. We describe all steps and explain how other organizations use CircleLytics for this purpose. In addition to tools, continuous change also requires a culture of continuous learning; being open to something better and repeating it. CircleLytics ensures organizations of efficient, effective feedback cycles, to achieve this culture and finally bring the necessary insights to the table. This cannot be achieved, or only to a lesser degree, using other tools and interventions, such as stand-ups, project meetings, and certainly not surveys. Our blog Survey or dialogue explains why this is so.

 

The different phases

Plan: identification of the problem and formulation of a supported plan for improvement

Do: implement actions, involving all relevant people

Check: evaluation of results, progress and analysis of deviations on the basis of data

Act: adjust activities based on the Check phase and make improvements sustainable.

 

 

Step 1: do you understand the problem and why?

In this step, you identify and analyse problems. Remember what Einstein said: “If I were given one hour to save the planet, I would spend 59 minutes defining the problem and one minute resolving it.” So spend ample time on this step, because a lack of attention now, will work against you later. Ask open questions: who, what, where, how, when and why? Look for the why behind the problem by, for example, using the technique of asking the why question 3 – 5 times. This will prevent your team from focusing on symptoms and consequences, rather than causes. There are also other techniques for root cause analysis, such as Pareto-analysis, Fishbone analysis, Fault Tree analysis, etc. CircleLytics is a suitable tool for all these techniques with questions tailored to these analysis variants. By seeking feedback from a wider group than the project team or the hired or internal consultant, you can look beyond your own scope. You can also break through the hierarchical relationships in your organization by ignoring those you involve in the anonymous feedback. Next, you can start to fine-tune a plan based on that problem identification.

 

Ask the largest, relevant group for each step of PDCA

Two know more than one. And many more than two know even more. CircleLytics ensures that you easily involve the largest possible, relevant group in the relevant phase. This ensures that you will receive the richest input with the least bias towards what really matters. This is called the wisdom of crowd, or collective intelligence. Ask this group rock-solid questions and let them respond in two anonymous rounds, with equal room and voice for everyone. Our White Paper helps you to design these rock-solid questions yourself, but make it easy on yourself: CircleLytics has plenty of questions ready for you. You will collect qualitative, indispensable feedback. Subsequently, this feedback is prioritized by the group itself in our unique 2nd round, giving it meaning. This 2nd round is critical and does not take place simultaneously with the 1st round. This ensures that participants can learn and reflect on feedback from others. This way of structuring feedback yields the most intelligence (see our post on this with Google research or watch the collective intelligence playlist on our YouTube channel).

 

Some important advantages of involving the largest possible group:

  • a cross-silo group, across departments; diversity provides the richest input
  • break through the hierarchy by inviting participants “of all layers”.
  • this also ensures high involvement, co-responsibility and early buy-in
  • this ensures that people’s ‘brains’ are already switched on for change: the growth mindset.

We recommend a small group for questions that can only be answered by people from that specific small group (management group, MT, sounding board group, etc). This could concern budget or the deployment of people. For all other subjects, involving the largest possible, relevant group will yield the best results. As mentioned above, you can bypass the hierarchy. After two rounds in CircleLytics, you can directly read and apply the combined results, which have been further enriched by natural language processing and artificial intelligence techniques. The results can be intelligently filtered and broken down according to hierarchical levels, function groups, ages, length of service, role in the change, department, etc. This allows you to see how different subgroups may view things differently. The strength of the 2nd round of CircleLytics is that it is anonymous, and participants learn from each other’s (different) opinions. This ensures that the diversity of opinions and perspectives is as great as possible, which is exactly what you want to answer your questions in the smartest way possible.

Stappen van dialoog en feedback

[Photo: Round 1: open questions that touch the core. Time to reflect, no time pressure, anonymous. Round 2: all opinions back to participants in small sets; they prioritise these using scores and textual enhancements. Round 3: Dashboard shows bundled wisdom of the group; extra analysis tools and report using AI/text analysis.]

People determine the success of change

As mentioned in the introduction, people are the essence of your change. People perform or prevent actions. A review study in the International Journal of Strategic Change Management, highlights the main reasons for the failure of change and read also more about leadership’s role and behaviour and its impact on implementation of change.  More important than those of a strategic nature, is the people factor and HR/HCM policy. The most important are:

  • lack of involvement and participation
  • resistance to change
  • lack of motivation and satisfaction
  • fear of losing their job
  • low confidence.

Examples of questions in the Plan phase

We will immediately show you how our two-round method will benefit you. We do this with an example question: “What do you think is the real core of the problem and can you explain it in more detail? “The CircleLytics tool collects the answers anonymously, and in the second round, participants will score each other’s analysis and the most supported responses will be revealed. In the second round, you immediately ask for their explanation, for example with the question “Do you think this is the problem to work on now, why? This way, you will dig very deep in a period of 3-5 working days, with 10 or even 1,000 people. So, you ask everyone who knows something about the problem or the point to be improved, or who is or will be affected by change because of the actions to be taken. You secure the above critical advantages: richest input, buy-in and openness to change.

The above example can be realized in a few working days in two rounds. You can go through the real-time results yourself or together and follow up with the next step, looking for solutions and improvements. You can also set up a second feedback loop of two rounds with CircleLytics Dialogue, if the first results still raise questions. By the way, other sample questions are available depending on your situation, such as:

“What do you think we should focus on and why?

What should we do first to cope with [losses, customer churn, system crashes, …] and why?

 

Looking for improvements

You will now select the most prioritized problems that your team supports. Again, present these to the largest, relevant group. Remember that employees are eager to respond to open questions that are relevant to their work and well-being. Not asking them is not an option.

 

A follow-up question might now be: “For each problem identified, can you think about how you would solve it; what do you think is a valuable, achievable, strong improvement? “In the second round, they can score up or down so many improvements made by others and, when asked, explain “How would you make this improvement measurable? ” or “What is most needed to realize this? or for example “What should we not do or do less of to realize this improvement successfully? “. Your result is a compilation of the most supported improvements per problem and a compact overview of the explanations for this, such as how you measure this, what is needed most and what you have to do to make it work.

 

Now you can start planning.

 

Towards a plan with a basis of support

A plan without support from the broad group of stakeholders is doomed to fail along the way. Did you know that research has shown that 90% of lean-development projects fail? Therefore, our advice is to present your plan again to the largest, relevant group of stakeholders. You can ask the effective question: “Do you support this plan? If yes,  support your answer by indicating what convinces you most and, if no, explain what you consider to be an insurmountable objection and your alternative.”

Through the 2nd unique round, participants learn from each other’s insights, give support, and you learn whether there are objections that are serious and need improvement. You can iterate this 2 or 3 times if you want. This will result in a supported plan. You can complete these iterations in 1-4 working days if you need speed. Remember that change requires attention, especially in the Plan phase.

 

Now let’s get to work and keep checking!

Your sound, efficient approach results in a supported plan and in concrete actions to be carried out. In the implementation (Do phase), it is important to measure (Check phase) how this is going. You can either immediately start implementing on a large scale, or start with small-scale, experimental steps. In both cases, you monitor the success. You will build in fast, regular feedback loops. You will ask questions like: “How involved are you (still) in ABC change and can you explain this? “. In this feedback loop with CircleLytics you will ask: “What makes us deviate from our planning at the moment? “And in the second round of this question: “Which analysis of others regarding the deviation from our planning do you support, and how do you think we can adjust this? “. You can also apply lean models to carry out this kind of analysis and make adjustments, such as the Fishbone analysis that we mentioned above.

 

You always collect the feedback from the largest, relevant group of people involved in the implementation, certainly not just from the project group. This is how you avoid tunnel vision, in addition to the aforementioned advantages. Depending on the duration, complexity and milestones/measuring points of your original plan, you carry out a feedback loop 1 to more than 10 times. For these phases too, questions are available like the ones above. Because CircleLytics collects the feedback in a broad and anonymous way, and learns from what people support and reject, you will get reliable data. Without this data, you cannot check or adjust.

 

The Act phase; start adjusting now!

You check to know what, why and how needs to be adjusted. Adjustments prevent you from overlooking new circumstances or things that are going differently in practice. You also make sure that the change becomes anchored, sustainable. The regular feedback loops, the dialogues with those involved, ensure that the behaviour of people is brought in line with the required change. You don’t want a relapse.

Where things do go well, investigate the possibilities for standardization. Ask questions like: “What is structurally going well and can we regulate outside the project? “. In the second round, you can ask participants “Which points do you support and how and where do you think you can make them sustainable in the organisation“. In this phase, and on the basis of these reliable insights, you can come to the sustainability of new working methods, tasks, required behaviour, etc.

 

CircleLytics Dialogue; instant feedback for your PDCA cycle

CircleLytics Dialogue provides reliable feedback data, buy-in and openness for change from all stakeholders. You can deploy CircleLytics via consultants, who work on your (lean / change) projects, or engage them directly by contacting us. You can also ask HR to facilitate this tool. They are familiar with the enormous power, the positive effect on the involvement of employees and they know the big difference with (unwanted) surveys. We will show you a demo in 15-30 minutes and discuss a few customer cases. You can use the tool on the same day and start and continue in every phase of the PDCA cycle. You can use the tool once, but typically you want to set up an iterative process to realize change, sustainability and alignment of behaviour.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

 

co-creation

Employee engagement, hence employees’ thriving, can’t wait for a pulse or once-in-a-while generic employee survey by HR.  Management and HR have to answer the same question every day, and work side-by-side: “how can we create a future of work & employee experience today that make people and work prosper and grow successfully?”. And yes, the way you formulate your answer to this question in your company is probably better yet pretty much the same: HR is not a silo and has to create value right in the heart of matters: the intersection of people and corporate performance. We need co-creation based on collective intelligence.

CircleLytics Dialogue is developed to perform at this precise intersection. Right where value creation is residing. Where people and teams have to perform and make sense of things. Since we’re wired to connect, to share, to collaborate, we believe CircleLytics is at its best where co-creation is needed mostly, and decisions have to be constructed by, instead of about, the people. Where it’s needed mostly for employees and managers to make their valuable work happen. Organizational success hinges on the ability of people collaborating efficiently, hence, understanding how information is collectively processed has become critical to solve complex problems. Their cognitive and creative performance, i.e. their collective intelligence and collaboration, is essential to getting these problems solved. You can only win together. In this blog, we focus on a few winning elements to your organization’s success:

  • co-creation
  • collaboration & learning
  • data processing & intelligence
  • employee experience.

 

Help managers take action based on co-creation

At CircleLytics, we believe it’s just not good enough for HR to measure employee engagement & experience and send number-driven reports to management teams. Neither to suggest to managers that adding some word clouds and algorithm-driven topics derived from a few comment boxes are considered actionable results. Surprise: they can’t be, and your managers know this. And … probably told you a few times (hopefully they don’t hold back on this, to us they do tell). We believe HR has to step up their game and extend their technology to perform in the heart of matters: delivering business performance with employees every day; with them, side-by-side with business management and their teams. Engage employees daily to drive experience, retention and corporate performance. It’s simply, in Josh Bersin’s words about “helping managers take action“. The picture below illustrates his maturity model of employee engagement. From again another engagement survey to the enablement of managers to follow up on recommendations and learn from behavioural data. CircleLytics is developed to stop the pain of survey fatigue and create an experience that people embrace and turn them into one big brain to solve any matter at hand. Need recommendations? Ask for them and you will get them. Need solutions for problem ABC? Ask for them and you will get them. Need to know the next ambitious, doable milestone for project XYZ? Ask for it and you will get it. Why are people considering leaving? Ask them and you will get the answer.

 

Other thought leaders are increasingly refocusing HR / HCM (or for the first time) on delivering value. Ben Whitter (read for example “Human Experience at Work”) understands and urges us all to “co-create at a deeper level with people” and make people be partners in driving work from the outset. He mentions that there’s no escaping co-creation and sees co-creation as not only making sense for business performance but also the human approach. “Co-creation is a commitment to make progress with people, not through them”.

Delivering value of co-creation, is more than just a tool

We also like to mention Hein Knaapen, former CHRO for blue chips such as KPN, ING and DSM. In his well-articulated and inspiring writing about delivering business value instead of HR just buying another tool, he shares the following: “Whenever I gave in to fashionable solutions that, in fact, had no meaningful link to corporate performance, my impact was elusive. Whenever I understood the acute relevance of a need to enable value creation, I was always able to muster the support of the CEO and drive solutions that actually improved the company’s performance.”

We believe HR and management will collaborate more and more to engage employees and solve daily company problems in a collaborative way in one go. We’re here to break through silos and make that co-creation happen. Ben Whitter is asking how companies can co-create at a deeper level with people, right? Our answer is to engage employees using the power of deliberate open-ended questions, having them collaborate and reflect on answers, so that bigger solutions, and action-driven results emerge. The merits and science of collective intelligence (CI) deliver results that you didn’t know of before. Mere crowdsourcing is not enough. It’s about adding collaboration to crowdsourcing and capturing the amazing effects of people interacting with other people’s ideas and thoughts. That’s the process you’re looking for. Collective intelligence brings out 20-60% more intelligence and creativity, without adding more people. More value, without more people. Let’s see how collective intelligence, crowdsourcing and CircleLytics Dialogue work, and run you by the criteria that we believe you should keep in mind when selecting your elevated, next-level crowdsourcing solution, or better yet: your collective intelligence solution.

 

What’s crowdsourcing again and why wasn’t it enough?

Crowdsourcing is based on the assumption that problems can be decomposed into parts that can be solved by widely distributed, independent workers. Companies and people can ask tough questions to large internal or external groups and chances are that this brings out the best solution. CircleLytics Dialogue’s first round is like that: you ask many people (can be 10,000s) for their best ideas, problem analysis, or improvements on any challenge you may encounter. Our language processing technology enables you to capture key results in a variety of ways. However, there is increasing evidence of the “importance of collaboration to innovation, and the underperformance of groups that don’t work with a sufficiently high level of interdependence”. (Easier than reading that is to learn from our customer data proof points by the way: they paved your way and delivered amazing value via 2,000+ dialogues). How do you add the power of learning and collaboration to traditional crowdsourcing? Let’s explain how CircleLytics Dialogue combines the best of both words: people with various levels of cognitive abilities, knowledge and skills, and their power of collaboration.

 

Dialogue: the answer to your company’s need for co-creation

Dialogue means that people deliberately look for new information and perspectives to evolve their thinking, hence their own points of view, and emerge (completely) new ideas and thoughts. Without dialogue, you’re condemned to limit yourself to a simple word count, topic modelling, and computer-driven language processing, based on a bag of textual answers to a question. And that’s just unacceptably too little for your precious people and company. The CircleLytics Dialogue solution offers employees (or any type of participants) a unique 2nd round, in which participants give meaning to each other’s anonymized answers and ideas, and enrich these by keeping scores, tagging key words and adding valuable comments to their scores. Customer data, hence human logic as well, proves that participants simply love it; you take them seriously, satisfy their curiosity, and give them a voice. That’s a party for people’s hearts and minds. We’re wired for co-creation.

Don’t underestimate the 1st round: this is already very appealing and trust-building. Deliberate open-ended questions are simply what they’re waiting for. The 2nd round engages participants even more deeply in a totally new fashion. Can you image that our 5+ year customer data proves that more than 70% of participants read through / review more than 15 answers from others? And over 40% of participants even more than 30. In other words, it’s apparently a wonderful employee experience. In addition, three important things happen:

  • participants show a preference for answers that DO NOT resemble their own answers; they are indeed opening up to other participants’ perspectives, which is an amazing learning experience
  • participants are open to this 2nd round’s collective effort: they’re part of something more grand and meaningful than ‘trying to make my answer win’: they’re ok to let go of their original answer, which means that you DO NOT have any fear of 1,000s of participants expecting that you follow up on their own answer; it’s the collective outcome that wins
  • people’s brains learn to adapt and open up to different perspectives, novelty and change.

Dialogue dynamics are critical to gaining collective intelligence and getting to co-creation. By having participants learn, listen and reflect, new thoughts emerge, without any fear of letting go of their own previous thoughts. Second, more thoughtful thoughts are more valuable. This type of intelligence is the highest form of cognitive and creative intelligence you can get from a human group intervention. That’s pretty crucial in an ever-changing world and market. Co-creation will be more and more in the heart of matters, people and teams. We expect that tomorrow’s HR leadership will bring technology such as CircleLytics Dialogue to managers and their teams, and board rooms to engage all employees and move performance forward in one go. Engagement is a joint effort, not anyone’s exclusive domain. Especially not HR’s we believe. It’s just smarter and better to solve company matters together.

Employee Dialogue

 

Now let’s see what’s important in selecting the best solution. Even if it means you’d select other technology than CircleLytics Dialogue, at least let’s share with you what we think is important and why.

Scalability and pricing: don’t get stuck

Choose technology that’s robust and consistent for any group size. Why? You probably have various teams, of various sizes, and from time to time you want to tap into the wisdom of the collective of maybe 10,000s of employees. CircleLytics Dialogue is scalable for any group size and algorithms, dashboard, etc work consistently no matter what. Watch out for vendors that focus on one-off projects. Usually, you spend quite a bit of money on consultancy, it’s not up and running in a day or so, and receive a stiff invoice. Collective intelligence, or elevated crowdsourcing, is here to stay and part of a manager’s daily workflow, engaged employees, and performance culture. You need to scale up, down, left, right, as flexibly as is required. Make sure your vendor’s pricing and product offering are flexible as well. CircleLytics Dialogue offers a 100% transparent pricing scheme and allows you to get what you need or stop when you want. To never get stuck.

Choose collective over swarm intelligence. Humans over bees.

Choose collective intelligence-based technology when working with people. Listen to the great video in the CircleLytics playlist of prof Robert Sapolsky about the difference between swarm and collective intelligence. The latter is often known by the name wisdom of crowd. Basically the participants (agents) in swarm intelligence-based solutions refer to animals such as bees and ants and its main driver is survival, i.e. food. However, swarms make suboptimal decisions and can even cease to exist because of their swarming behaviour. They get stuck when swarming after a not so smart peer, in the absence of patience, i.e. time to reflect and iterate other ideas as well. However, when you apply collective intelligence and meet the requirements like we applied in CircleLytics Dialogue, you secure a superior outcome since the process allows for a massive number of iterations and interactions between agents and other agents’ ideas. More simply put; you get a more intelligent result in the same amount of time.

Intuitiveness: don’t make users think too much before going live

You probably want to scale up your solution throughout the whole company. Solving complex problems, change and engaging employees to the max is all here to stay and all around us. Now, or in time, many managers and teams need to be facilitated to tap into the collective wisdom of their team, department or business unit and have the best-in-class technology to do so. That requires a platform that’s easy to understand and apply, while maintaining the necessary control at a central level. With only some online training, tutorials and from time to time a blog with tips.

Mere-exposure bias: words or topics that are mentioned a lot are NOT simply the best

Avoid the trap of mere-exposure bias (mere-frequency bias): most survey and crowd sourcing tools sponsor unfortunately this ugly bias. Their technology gives priority by-design to contributions and words that are mentioned simply more often …. we all know that’s not smart. To put it mildly. Avoid topic modelling, word counts/clouds that forgot about this bias. Whether it concerns supervised or un-supervised topic modelling. It’s not about appearances of words; it’s about the sentiment and importance that are allocating by others. That’s why the CircleLytics Dialogue distributes all input in a subsequent 2nd round and enables everyone to keep scores (-3 to +3), tag words and add comments. The aggregation of these scores and enrichments feed our AI, topic modelling, NLP, etc. We offer unsupervised and supervised topic modelling by the way. The richness of data is unique and you don’t want to miss out on that before jumping to algorithms. First the human mind, then the algorithms. So, stop hurting your decision making by relying on single round surveys with too-easy-to-be-true topic modelling, NLP and sentiment analysis. Your decision making needs the richness of others attributing importance.

Asynchronous process: don’t give preference to people that speak up faster than others

Make sure your technology avoids responses that came in first, are served first. It’s quite basic, but there are tools in the market that care less about this and bias faster respondents. Ouch… We all know that thinking takes time, creativity takes time. Faster is definitely not better. Remember introverts? A good night’s sleep first? Our brains need to slow down to perform at its best. Nobel Prize winner Kahneman wrote about this in his famous book/video “Thinking, Fast and Slow” on the dynamics of the human brain and our thinking. We only slow people down just enough to get the best of their thinking. To release their power to reflect on themselves and each other. You are compensated generously by getting recommendations and actionable results! Look at this picture for a moment. In blue, you see that most positive scores are given to opinions/ideas that came in last during the 1st round (input-round). The fast response is simply not the best response.

Allow radical honesty: don’t hold them back to vote ideas down, not only up

Enable people to vote things down. Yes. And enable them to explain why. Don’t forget that people do have think about things that don’t work, that can be risky, or even harmful to corporate performance or your company’s reputation. You want to know those things. And you want to know why, and not look the other way. Be aware of the contraire and what might cause people’s resistance to some ideas. This is important to people: show you’re really open to all of their thoughts. This way, you gain insights that help you to implement and get support for your decision making later on.

Eye candy is sweet, game-changing insights are smarter

Candy comes at a price; you may be sweetened by technology that looks very fast and easy for respondents. Swipe a bit, be easy on the questions you ask them. But do you know that the brain needs to be challenged?  Needs nutrition before candy? In science this is known as people’s need for rational overrides to disrupt mindlessness. Simply put: not only your deliberate open-ended questions must challenge people’s thought process, the technology applied as well. It’s a balancing act to maximize experience and maximize their brain processes (opening up, thinking, creating, reflecting). To share just a bit of data, the picture below shows the average uptake in the 2nd round, in which 70% of the respondents review more than 15 opinions from others! In the CircleLytics Dialogue, participants score between -3 and +3, tag words, and even enrich their scores with comments. That’s a lot of work, you’d say. We and participants say; it’s just an amazing engaging experience for them and a proven welcome investment of their time.

 

So, that brings us ….

Choosing your elevated crowdsourcing requires a bit of preparation. To us, our customers, and to science, collective intelligence out-smartens swarm intelligence and legacy crowdsourcing solutions. We’ve shared the proof points we’ve gathered from 300+ companies for a better understanding of what makes people, your business challenges and CircleLytics Dialogue a unique match.

Contact us today to understand your needs, we’ll set you up for a demo!

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Which pot of gold is at the end of your rainbow, at the end of your Dialogue with your people? Using focused, open questions you give them a sense of direction. Direction will help you reach your destination, your gold. What is this destination? What do you want to achieve with your Dialogue? What is our advice to create  solid questions? Where do you start? Stephen Covey already said it in his best-selling book “The 7 habits of highly effective people”: start with the end in sight. Whether it’s your day, a new project at work, or your new Dialogue!

So what do you want to achieve and why? We have listed how you can best design your Dialogue with the end in sight first. That gives a lot of peace of mind. And as soon as you click on the activate button of your Dialogue, your questions, you can lean back. Or do something else.

What do you need to consider before you start?

– Deadlines and stakeholders

– Understand your target group

– Analyse results

– Monitor your Dialogue

– Visualise & monitor success

– Design your Dialogue: create your questions

Ok, now let’s get to work on these points!

 

Deadlines

Firstly, your deadlines. Your Dialogue does not go on forever, nor is it a closed-ended survey. You go way beyond that with open-ended questions and multiple rounds. You can read about the difference between Dialogue and Survey here. There is a start (Round 1) and then Round 2. Two rounds, because some questions have a 2nd Round. In that 2nd Round there are several small, attractive steps to realize and structure the dialogue. It is nice to have a deadline for each round, because you want to work with the results. Others are probably waiting for the results. Moreover, your participants need focus; you need to make a questionnaire that is short, powerful, attractive and with strong content, preferably 3 – 5 questions. Not another online discussion group, and do them a favour: no survey with generic questions. So when do you end the lead time of those rounds? When do you need or want to work with the results? Who is curious to know about the insights of your Dialogue? Take 2-3 days into account for each round. In other words, count on 6 days from the end of your Dialogue. Now you know your start date. We recommend not to start on a Monday (a busy day for everyone), and not on a Friday (people often have their minds on the weekend!). And we don’t recommend starting the second round on a Monday, because you’ll probably set the reminder for Monday morning or Sunday, which are not ideal times. So, now you have the start of your planning.

 

Understand your target group

Next, your target group. If your target audience consists of employees or highly engaged customers, 2-3 working days per round will do. However, if your target group is very busy, we recommend booking a weekend in the lead time of round 1. If your participants are further away from you, like members of your association or citizens in your city, it might be wise to have a lead time x3 per round, so 6-9 working days per round. As a result, you spend a bit more time on recruiting people and sending out extra reminders. Of course, these reminders only go to people who have not yet actively participated. If your target group is very far away from you (little loyalty, irregular contact, or limited online), you need a serious campaign to stimulate their involvement. You then need social media and other recruitment tactics, which we are happy to tell you about in person. Or you can ask for advice from your communications expert in your own organisation.

 

Analyse results

Thirdly, bear in mind that you will need some time to go through the results afterwards and present them in a PowerPoint presentation for example. You will need about a minimum of 15-60 minutes per question. As a rule of thumb, ask 3, maximum 5 questions per Dialogue. If you used characteristics (such as age category, department, length of service, etc.) to filter the results, allow for an additional 30 minutes of analysis time per question. You can spend many hours on the data, and with the analysis tools we’ve created, that’s very tempting. We’re creating more and more tools that will very much limit your analysis time, but still satisfy your curiosity.

Our tip: mark your time well. Think about who you will need to go through the results and to prepare a presentation, so plan ahead! This lead time is in addition to the duration of the two rounds together. For example, count on 2 x 1.5 – 2 hours of analysis time for 4 questions. And an hour to put the charts in a document/PowerPoint presentation, and more time if you want to make them yourself. Don’t forget; through your dashboard you can download a standardised excel report, adapt it to your needs, and then save it as a PDF. That will speed you up enormously, and also your decision-making.

Following up your Dialogue

Fourthly, you may be the one designing and implementing the Dialogue, but not the owner of the actions that follow. Depending on the subjects you base your questions on, you must make sure that you have the most important stakeholders on board to work with the results. So make sure you plan and organise this well! It is good news for them that you are using CircleLytics Dialogues, as they provide clear quantitative and qualitative insights, with clear actions on how to proceed. Suppose your question was “What is your best idea for …. and why?” and in round 2 “Appreciate the ideas of others and explain how we can implement them in the smartest way.” Everything is combined real time so you immediately know what you can do smarter to bring the best ideas to fruition. Follow-up is important. Follow-up makes the tool easy and concrete together with your participants, but you must organise that beforehand.

 

Visualise & monitor success

Fifthly, the success of your actions. If you follow up on the results of your Dialogue, and roll out actions, you want to monitor, communicate and visualize your success to those involved. You can then even thank them again! Many clients use the Dialogue to make this monitoring very concrete. They use questions such as: “Because of your ideas, we started working with ….. . How well do you think this is working out at the moment? Please give a score of 1-10 and tell us what you think is going well. And immediately add the question: “What would be an additional, valuable step towards making ….. even more successful, and why? You will then create a new questionnaire. Perhaps you will repeat some of the questions over time. Challenge yourself to go through the whole process again: start at the end: what are you looking for?

 

Now the Dialogue itself: designing questions

And sixth: the creation of your questions. A strong Dialogue requires solid questions. They must be relevant, specific, inspiring and challenging. We have summarised all the important principles for making a very solid questionnaire in a White Paper. This is based on 1,000s of questions, Dialogues at more than 300 organisations. You can download it here. Consider carefully whether some questions do require a closed scale because you also want to show figures. In that case, combine closed scales with open answers and with the 2nd round. This way you will get the best result. The second round ensures that all open answers are valued and enriched by the participants themselves. This increases the relevance and the speed with which your results are ready in real time afterwards. Take 2 or 3 sessions to come to rock-solid questions. Use our library of 600+ validated or research-based questions, or design them yourself. If more people need to approve the questions, build in some time for that (2-3 days for example). Prevent these other people from viewing your Dialogue as a ‘kind of survey’, suddenly wanting to force a lot of questions into it, weakly formulated questions, and a lot of multiple choice or other closed questions. A Dialogue is not a survey. You want to ask for opinions, and people want to give them!

 

So…

Make a planning according to these tips and rules of thumb. You now know the most important activities. Your context may be different, so keep an eye on our blogs and don’t hesitate to ask us for feedback or advice. You can also check our partner page to see which consultants know a lot about your topic and can help you find your pot of gold! Time to create your own questions. And more importantly; really involve your participants in topics that matter and listen to their opinions! That is the renewed Employee Listening.

 

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

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Diversity: different perspectives

In a group of friends, I like to hear how everyone is doing. And if we are in a dialogue about a subject, I like to hear what others think about it. Then I learn more. After an hour or so, some very interesting things often come out of it! And sometimes it goes all directions. Or it ends in a fierce discussion, in which we defend our own point of view and forget to listen, let alone learn. I learn the least when someone else thinks the same way I do. It’s nice to see it as confirmation, but quite boring because there is bound to be something new to discover. I find diversity of perspectives more interesting; how do others think differently and why?

 

Night’s sleep is necessary to learn

I learn the most from different perspectives (video Lorenzo Barbaris, PhD at Stanford). Especially if I can sleep on it. Then what other people say or what I read is more likely to sink in and the next day I can get a fresh perspective or see things more clearly. The brain is good at that, such a night’s sleep. At night, the brain clears out a lot and makes room to learn and come up with new ideas the next day. A bit of rest, contemplation, reflection. Listening and learning simply takes time. The brain even requires it.

 

How to use the dialogue

In the CircleLytics dialogue, we copy that smart and necessary process of people, of learning and of our brain. First of all, the questions you ask a group in the first round provide focus, to prevent them from wandering off. By doing so, you make the subject crystal clear. Download our WhitePaper to become a serious expert in formulating solid, open questions. Secondly, in the second round, people can see and learn from other people’s perspectives. And thirdly, they can take their time. What I previously said about myself, we apply extensively in the dialogue: time for reflection. It is indeed true that a night’s sleep helps. Putting people into a workshop for an hour or two simply does not bring out the best in them or the group. Even worse; if you increase people’s stress, it lowers their empathy. This makes them less open to other perspectives. So less open to diversity. That’s not a good thing, but it’s good news for your CircleLytics dialogue. In other words; a few necessary days of rest and reflection, in both rounds.

 

What happens in the second round?

It’s quite simple. For each active participant in the 2nd round, our unique algorithms create a set of 10-15. Quite different from a survey that does not allow this. So, a set of 10 to 15 anonymised contributions from others from the 1st round. Until the beginning of this year, it was 20, and now it’s a bit less. Each participant gets a different set, so every active participant. Because if we prepare sets for non-active participants and someone does not participate in the 2nd round, the set is lost and that is not the intention. How we make the sets is something we keep to ourselves mostly. What we do share with you is that it is extremely complex. Since the new version in February, we pre-cluster after the end of the 1st round. We use different algorithms and artificial intelligence to make sure each set is as diverse, as colourful as possible. This depends on your specific dialogue. It can take serious minutes before the invitations for the 2nd round are sent out and you, as the creator of the dialogue, receive a notification of this via your e-mail. Because of this increased diversity, people learn more from each other and are more surprised.

 

Colourful  & mitigating bias

Look at the picture. The left set is the old algorithm, where randomisation and other techniques already led to considerable diversity but without clustering. On the right, we show what it looks like after clustering in the new version of the CircleLytics dialogue. Kleurrijk Diversiteit Dialoog Nieuwe versieClustering – playfully expressed with colours for you here – ensures that contributions from round 1 are grouped together based on similarity. Participants only see a few contributions from the same cluster (see picture: a few times the same colour). We have developed a technique of cleverly ‘jumping’ between clusters, showing the participant a varied set of contributions. This way we mitigate the very unwelcome mere-exposure bias (mere-frequency bias). This bias means that respondents (or algorithms such as topic modelling in normal survey tools) favour things they see more.

Extra benefit:Deep Democracy

In addition, the new algorithms ensure that contributions that do not appear often in round 1 are shown slightly more often. In this way, we prevent those scarce, unique contributions (minority opinions) from being relatively under-represented among participants in the second round. Deep democracy, in which minority opinions receive extra attention, is therefore much better safeguarded in the dialogue than ever before. More colour, more diversity!

Did the scoring by participants also change?

Yes. We will show 10-15 contributions instead of 20 from now on. After that you will be thanked and you may stop. Or continue. Score Dialoog 2e ronde DiversiteitThen, for every 5 contributions, we will show that new message as you can see in the picture on the right: we will thank you and tell you again that you may stop or continue. The participant is free to do so. Sometimes participants read over it. But not anymore; the message is now like a sort of button. Did you know that more than 70% of the participants rated more than 30 contributions? More than 50% of the participants even rate more than 40-50. This means a huge involvement of participants and apparently a nice, attractive experience for them. Your solid questions, relevance of subject matter and preparation of the dialogue obviously help tremendously, don’t forget that.

 

What else is new?

We also made the buttons to go to the next or previous question more visible: orange, and as a clear button. We first used a simple black arrow. Sometimes participants did not understand that. Participants are very happy with the new layout: we can see that in the ratings for the dialogue. We have achieved a score of 8 out of 10

What is the result of it all?

Diversity has been increased. This means that we are doing more to stimulate and appeal to people’s brainpower, which benefits your results:

  • participants rate and score more contributions because they see more new contributions
  • they are even more satisfied and involved in your dialogue and subject matter
  • they spend more time in your dialogue, which is good for their awareness
  • deep democracy: the minority opinion now receives equal attention.

Unlike a survey or a workshop of an hour or two, reflection time and the 2nd round ensure that you get more insight and better results on your questions. By increasing diversity, CircleLytics shows again that we listen to your feedback and continue to analyse the data on the behaviour of participants in the dialogue. This is one of the reasons why we keep making the dialogue smarter and launch a new version every 6-8 weeks. This is how we keep the CircleLytics dialogue the best online dialogue in the world. For you, your challenges and especially for your people.

Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

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Deliberate open-ended questions for high response rates and depth

How was your day? What are we doing next weekend? What do you think of this idea? How can we best solve this problem? Open ended questions. People are tired of closed questions that surveys present us with: the well-known survey fatigue (interesting report dating back to 2013 by the CIPD). This is understandable. After all, we want to be able to give our opinion, to contribute to the issue at hand. And we don’t want to be forced to choose from a limited number of answers. Open-ended questions also let people know that you take them seriously, that you trust them. Gallup has been researching this for many years: employees love, Einstein quote futureno require, need to be take seriously for their opinions. You also get a higher response rate and a much better response; they take answering your question seriously. As a result, your research becomes more reliable. Don’t forget to ask more questions about the future and present, than about the past; the past doesn’t resonate strongly enough with people.

Closed question with open answer

Even if you ask a closed question (score, multiple choice, statement), it is almost always better to offer the open text field as well. You must then explicitly ask for an explanation of the score or of the answer to the multiple-choice question. By asking for an explanation, the score is given in a more considered way, which makes your results more reliable. Moreover, you learn about the reasons that lie behind scores and you can finally, reliably interpret your numerical results. This also enables you to analyse whether low scores have been given by mistake, while the open answer indicates the opposite; or vice versa. Your research results will improve, which in turn will lead to better follow-up and targeted, fast action! Managers need to be helped by your insights, not overwhelmed by data and additional home work. Just adding an open-text field to a closed-end question is not an option. If you don’t give the open answer meaning by a clear, guiding open-ended question, why do you expect respondents to give it meaning?

So, instead of asking: “How do you assess ABC?” and allowing a score or throwing in a text field,
ask this: “How do you assess ABC at this moment, and can you clearly substantiate that?”

Don’t limit them, or yourself

The current technology of survey providers is very limited in processing open answers. Therefore, they often discourage this, and you are left with the big question ‘what is behind the scores’. Or they limit themselves to counting words, topic modelling and trying to discover combinations of words. Consequently, the ease of processing the data for such providers is more important than the quality and depth of your research. Even worse, more important than the needs of your participants; there is hardly or no specific room for open answers. Open answers are driven by the open-ended question, not by a functional text box to put in ‘anything you want’. They can’t say what they do want to say. The section below is from the website of one of the market leaders for employee surveys, showing that after the survey, you have to find out for yourself what’s behind it.

the why behind numbers

 

Instant useful information

CircleLytics technology, on the other hand, has been developed to process open answers and convert them into information. Information that you can use immediately. Useful top 5s for instance. You can see right away what was said by which target group and why. This means you will get the most out of the open answers, making sure participants are heard.

Prof Neely (University of Cambridge): “People often reveal their true thoughts and feelings in the open-ended comment boxes. In general, the content of these comments offers a much more reliable predictor of a people’s behaviour.”

How do you deal with open answers?

What is the difference between open answers processing by a survey tool and by CircleLytics? We will explain this using a simple example. After a reorganisation of HR, in which they started working de-centrally as business partners, management and HR wanted to investigate the results. The question was simple: “How do you assess the effects for you of decentralising HR and can you explain this?” Approximately 3,000 employees gave a 1-10 score including their explanations. The average score was high. The answers were then grouped based on traditional word count and topic modelling. These are simple ways of processing texts which made it possible to group 14 themes and to count which words were mentioned most often. The latter resulted in a nice word cloud. That’s it?

For surveys, yes. For CircleLytics and participants, this is where it all starts. Our tool allows for a unique second round per question. In this second round, the unsorted answers are sent back to the participants in sets of varying compositions to maximize diversity of perspectives. Employees (or other participants such as customers, members, etc) can rate these and give them a score of -3 to +3, choose key words and explain their score. Do you know how much they enjoy doing that, how happy that makes them, to learn from each other’s answers and enrich these?

Sentiment & Semantic Analysis

They give a sentiment, a weighting, to the answers of others. You immediately have your real-time sentiment & semantic analysis and natural processing of language. No algorithm can beat the human mind in processing something so complex as natural language. To humans, language comes natural, yet to algorithms it’s one of the most complex things to capture in a meaningful, actionable and reliable way.

By selecting key words, the human minds (the participants) give those words even an extra weighting and extra semantic, contextual value to the data. That is an enormous enrichment; even before our AI/ML/NLP technology starts to perform analyses, hundreds or even thousands of participants are already doing the natural language processing. In practice, this proves extremely attractive: more than 70% of the participants rate more than 15 answers from others. Participants love this way of answering questions, learning from others and structuring the output, and give this two-round method a report mark of 4.1 on a 5-point scale. Very different from the fatigue that plagues surveys….

Now let’s see

Back to our example: 3,000 participants assessing an average of 30 answers, is almost 100,000 thought processes in just a few days! That 2nd round is called collective intelligence. This gave the client a whole new insight. Instead of 14 themes, it turned out that after the 2nd round, only 3 themes were favoured and supported. On second thought, the participants focused on those 3 themes, not on 14 at all. Moreover, a fourth, new theme emerged, which only a few people thought of in round 1, but was positively scored by a large group of participants in round 2!

The theme was about someone’s observation that HR business partners themselves were having a hard time…. A few had empathy for this in the 1st round. A regular one-round survey, a word count and topic modelling simply did not reveal the theme. Only through the 2nd round of CircleLytics could participants see the opinions of others, learn from them and gain a deeper understanding. On closer inspection, they thought differently. An unprecedented enrichment of the research. And a wonderful example of deep democracy in which a minority opinion is clearly revealed.

Think again

That is why the CircleLytics technology is not called a survey; it’s called a dialogue, based on deliberate open-ended question and human (and after that AI/NLP) processing of the open answers. Because dialogue requires that people are prepared to think differently about your question. They learn from the answers of others. People think better in the second instance. They usually think fast first, and then slow down (also read Kahneman’s research), which gives your research more depth. You also come up with subjects that no technology had come up with. Topics that are sometimes only mentioned by a few, and that cannot emerge without the collective intelligence of all brains together.

So when would it be useful to have a survey?

Forget the word survey for a moment. Based on our experience, we advise to determine the design per question in CircleLytics. This means adding a closed scale, presenting a multiple choice, or offering a text field. You can adjust the question when you add a text field. You can now explicitly ask participants to fill in the text field and what you expect them to do. Finally, you can determine whether the question will be included in the 2nd round and set the deadline for this. This is how you can combine the old survey with the new possibilities of the open text field and the 2nd round. If a question leaves no room for thinking for yourself but is just a score or ticking of a predetermined answer, you leave out the 2nd round, and possibly even the text field. This can all be done in a single tool. Tips for formulating strong questions, can be found in our WhitePaper with design principles.

Analyses and results

In conclusion: the response rate and quality are higher and, more importantly in our opinion, you will achieve accurate results and a reliable interpretation of the figures. You can also further analyse the results in CircleLytics by using the unique Weighted Word Count that takes sentiment (score/selection of words) into account. This leads to completely different insights than the old word count.

Everything has an expiry date. The regular surveys you are used to, something that causes fatigue among participants and shows fragile quality, need renewal.

We would like to invite you to get to know the power of people, based on (mostly) open questions, with the CircleLytics Dialogue Solution.

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Dialogue

HR has to go through it every year, quarter or month, and so do the employees: the employee survey. Collecting employee scores for 10 to sometimes 80 general questions. No wonder employees are not happy with these surveys. It’s unclear what happens next, and they can’t give their real opinion. As a result, management and HR are burdened with what to do next. The big question is: what is the reason behind the survey figures? And, what will we do?

 

If you know why, you can anticipate

In the meantime, 200+ organisations have worked with employees to find out the why, their true opinions, the story behind the figures. The story of the people themselves. Especially now that employees combine home and office, and are seriously considering changing jobs, it is even more important to know what really matters to them. General questions with a score do not give us that answer. The next step is to start talking to your employees.

 

HR Director: “Gallup research has shown for years that employees are more motivated if they are allowed to express their opinion. That turned out to be a real goldmine in our organisation.”

 

In dialogue, you can really listen

The questions you ask your partner, friends and family are not limited to multiple choice and scoring questions. Why, then, are they used for employees? From now on, you can also enter into dialogue with employees using open questions. When you use open questions, you tell your employees that you trust them, that you invite them to be open, and that you show you’re interested. Open questions will get you answers that matter, that make the difference, that give insight. Check out our white paper with all the design principles for formulating solid open questions.

 

He who asks, receives. And then? 

Our customers, mainly HR and management teams, use CircleLytics to ask open questions to 10 to 100,000 employees. We are 100% inclusive; everyone simply participates via a link. The answers may be given anonymously. Afterwards, they can see the anonymous answers of others and indicate whether they find them valuable or not. This ensures structure and priority.

 

What is the result of listening to employees?

Happy employees. You take them seriously and that makes an impression. What’s more, you learn a whole lot from what they say, how they solve problems, and how they make improvements visible. Just because you ask them. Management is very enthusiastic about this because they now understand what lies behind the figures and HR gives them the information they need to make better decisions.

Interested in the CircleLytics online dialogue? Visit our website

 

Maurik Dippel, CEO, Co-Founder

Rules. Which ones really hinder employees, do we understand why, and can we solve them? How do you as a works council, HR, manager or CEO ensure that employees actively think about this, come up with ideas and help set priorities? After all, they know exactly what it is that frustrates them every day.

I remember a lecture on Mintzberg and the usefulness of bureaucracy to manage chaos in growing organizations. Today, it is thought that we need to be flexible, embrace bottom-up decision-making, servant leadership and agility precisely because markets are so fickle. Onward! Right? Down with rules, then? Freedom and trust so we can be creative and solve problems together? As Seth Godin pointed out in his book and TED talk Tribes, people are most easily led in the direction they always wanted to go. In a McKinsey study on stability versus agility, the authors state that modern leadership is the art of removing procedures, structures, and rules that get in the way of change, and keep what is needed.

And which rules and procedures should remain? Which ones are in the way of people changing in a direction they have wanted to go for a long time? 

The remarkable thing is that we don’t really appreciate change. At least, not if we have no influence on it, have no part in it, or have no co-ownership of it. We shy away from change when we have no role in it, according to, for example, research from the American Psychology Association on Well-Being. Stress increases as employees see the values they implicitly live and work by threatened. And vice versa. Values are therefore smarter to deploy than rules! Netflix discovered this much earlier. They follow a very simple rule: Avoid Rules! People over Process! However, a close examination reveals that Netflix only allows rules if something can lead to irreversible damage. Netflix apparently allows a margin of error, so to speak, to learn. Fail fast often is what start-ups and gurus like Gary Vaynerchuk sometimes say. So do we. And rules hold back this learning process.

In his book Doorbreek uw bedrijfscultuur (Break through your company culture), Rudy Snippe talks about the self-referential ability of organizations. They maintain their own system, and rules, and confirmative bias ensures that people are mainly open to signals that confirm them right and do not threaten their already existing perception or views. Managers or employees who say: “this is the way it has to be, because those are the rules, don’t ask me why” or “it doesn’t work that way here” are not wanted by anyone, except your competitor. Well, not even them..

There is evidence that €5 billion of administrative burden is wasted in the healthcare sector in the Netherlands alone. It’s quite bold to state that this ‘can therefore be scrapped’, because rules also provide structure, support accountability and make risks transparent and manageable. And last but not least, the legislator also wants to see all kinds of things complied with, such as requirements for a license, tender, etc.

Do we leave it at that? No, definitely not. What if you had a smart online dialogue twice a year and asked your employees which rule they think could be abolished and why? What if you could let employees respond to each other’s ideas, and you would know which ones could potentially be abolished, and more importantly, why? What if you also asked which rule allows them to do their work in a stable and structured way?

One of our clients tackled the ‘rules’ topic by simply asking its employees (nearly 3,000 employees) to name rules that only bother them and the organization and do not benefit the client, prioritize others’ answers and comment why you favour their answers more or less. The outcome was clear and could be divided into:

1 rules that hinder employees from doing their jobs and unexplainably still exist;

2 rules that are inconvenient, but serve a purpose;

3 rules that need to be looked at more seriously but have the appearance of not being so.

Anything under 1 can be simplified or removed after further analysis. Note the chain effect: ask the question where the rule got its origin. Do we still understand if the rule is outdated and unnecessary? Conduct further online dialogue in a small(er) group if necessary.

Anything under 2 is explained in more detail. Apparently, the main thing you need to make clear to employees is that these rules exist and why compliance is necessary. Realize that they apparently didn’t know that. Therefore, go over why they didn’t know that? Why are there rules that are unknown, untrained, and/or untraceable? You can also train important rules smartly with groups of employees via dilemmas. Contact us if this appeals to you.

Finally, anything that falls under 3 should be analysed more closely. You can have deeper online dialogues with the group that identified these rules to clarify what to do with them. Again, what is the origin, why don’t we understand why we have these rules?

You get the idea. Clearing clutter and making important rules visible are both necessary. Something you simply can’t pass up. You don’t want to wait for this: you either want to get rid of rules or see them enforced. There is nothing in between, in our opinion. So neither work, nor the customer, nor your employee falls between two stools.

How do we proceed: We can set up a program with your organization or department for the above challenges. You will have the first results with groups of 10 employees up to 10,000s within 2 weeks.  You will be amazed to see the results: a quick return on investment. This will not only be reflected in money and agility, but also in higher employee satisfaction and commitment. The best companies in the world, have a foundation based on the commitment of employees. At the time, not the CEO of IKEA, but an employee came up with the idea of removing the legs of the LÖVET table, in order to develop “flat packaging” as a smart, customer-friendly logistics solution. Don’t underestimate employees, they have ideas, they want to improve their work and they know which rules can be thrown out and which ones are badly needed better than anyone.

Fancy a challenge? Contact us today to get started tomorrow.

Vragen

 What are right questions to ask employees? And how do you get more insight from the participants’ answers? How and why did they come to their choice? What is the real underlying story? Or does that linger under the surface?

The right questions will lead to a successful round of questions

Asking the right questions sounds simple, but it’s not. Countless surveys you have ever distributed as an organization show this. The response rate is low, the answers hardly give the desired results and the frustrations of employees only increase because they have the feeling that ‘nothing is being done’ with their response.

Therefore, we won’t use the word survey. We talk about challenging, listening to each other, working together, where the approach is to engage in a conversation with each other. In question rounds, the right questions are critical to making a question round successful. By successful we mean; whether the outcomes lead to solutions that contribute to the purpose of the questions.

Coming up with questions is difficult

We found that many organizations struggle with asking the right questions. To this end, we conducted research in recent years at dozens of organizations with many tens of thousands of employees, examined studies and designed 100s of questions. We asked them how they are doing, what could be improved or even what needs to be improved.

The 2nd unique round of CircleLytics is used to challenge and inspire each other to think deeper about the questions presented. Organizations such as Fivoor, Inspectorate for Health Care and Youth, Movisie, Unilever, Municipality of Utrecht, HR Community, RSM (global) and several others engaged in a dialogue with employees and their network in this way.

In recent months, dozens of organizations have surveyed 10,000 employees about how they are doing, and what could or should be improved, including what work can be done at home, or not, and why? How much of the work should be done at home, how much at the office? What do employees want, what do they demand? How much room does the labour market allow for not meeting the employees’ demands or wishes? Will employees continue to have the same wishes and demands when it comes to working at home or in the office? What if this changes? What is the influence of the government and social developments when it comes to choices regarding working at home or at the office?

Together with several client organizations, we designed questions, did research and read studies. As a result, we designed top-notch dialogue questions for you and your organizations. You can use these unchanged, enrich them or you can make a selection.

People, society and organizations are currently facing unprecedented circumstances. Insecurities regarding health, finances, jobs and a future for you and your environment go hand in hand. In addition, home and office work must be combined and that in itself is complex enough without corona . Societies and countries are also under pressure to keep their heads above water, to be accountable to parliament and citizens and to ensure that healthcare is or will be up to standard, to offer confidence to all. And then there is the labour market, accessibility of offices, cost of office space versus working from home, etc. Organizations are already making different choices, like Lloyd’s and Goldman Sachs do in this article.

In this sense, we are part of a great experiment in which many people and agencies have opinions, point to each other and are constantly confronted with new, mostly uncertain information. Uncertainty and forms of social isolation can lead to stress and mental problems that transcend normal absenteeism. This can result in a serious loss of confidence, commitment and productivity.

CircleLytics has developed top-notch questions that allow the leadership of the organization, HR, the works council and all employees together to determine what is going well, and what can or must be improved. Contrary to the various corona surveys, the CircleLytics questions reveal the scores: why and how employees think about ‘how to do better’. This provides deeper insights into how to make sound decisions compared to using scores from an old-fashioned survey. It also results in collaboration: employees learn from each other and listen to each other. Something that is desperately needed in these times of little social interaction.

People need trust and connection. You increase this by taking them seriously, showing them that their opinions matter and connecting them in the 2nd round.

We designed a set of questions for dialogues with managers and a set for dialogues with employees. These questions are incorporated into CircleLytics and can be used immediately. We recommend that you don’t limit the dialogue with your people to just one because conditions, markets and uncertainties are constantly changing. You can enrich the questions with matters that apply specifically to you.

An example question:

“To what extent is information from leadership clear and available to you?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“And please indicate what improvement you see for a higher score next time.”

Or:

“And please explain your score with a recent, clear and telling example.”

Another example question:

“What is the biggest challenge in leading your team when you work from home?”

Enrich this question with, for example, the following:

“Describe a situation that other executives can learn from the most.”

or you can give even more direction to the participant:

“In answering this question, don’t focus on video conferencing/IT but on the social side of your work.”

The first round of questions will generate scores and quality answers. These serve as input for the second round of questions in the Circlelytics dialogue. This is how we challenge participants to think more deeply about the questions presented earlier. They learn from each other and listen to each other. This brings about collaboration and creates support for final decisions. A dialogue emerges and the power of an organization’s collective intelligence now comes to the fore.

Ask it!

Ask managers and employees the right questions, show that their opinion matters and connect them in the second round of questions, so that you can respond as an organization to the real needs that are felt by employees. The right questions help management, Human Resources, the works council and all employees to gain more insight into what is already going well, what can be improved and what really needs to change. And make sure you repeat these rounds of questions regularly, because circumstances are constantly changing.

Looking for more information on these dialogues for your employees and/or managers and are you ready increase your insight immediately? Then email us and start your Proof-of-Concept today.

 

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After becoming a Works Council member, you still want to be able to easily consult your constituents, ie. your colleagues. A tool that is based on data provides a solid foundation for advice from the Works Council to senior management.

We talk to Rachid Adbaili, chairman of the Central Works Council of Unilever and Jacqueline Lafranca, official secretary of the Central Works Council Unilever. Unilever has a Central Works Council in the Netherlands and also a local Works Council at each location in the Netherlands.

“We deploy CircleLytics’ dialogue on a regular basis. Employees elect the members of the (Central) Works Council and we represent them, yet we also find it very important to be able to easily consult them. The results of the dialogue also enable us to substantiate our advice to senior management on the basis of data.”

See the entire interview here, or just read on.

Rapid deployment to reach decisions based on facts

A great example of how quickly you can arrive at data-driven decisions is when our European organization was divided into clusters. We were asked for advice and within two weeks, a dialogue was initiated via CircleLytics with the employees involved. Not only did we ask for their advice anonymously; we also explicitly invited them to write down their comments. And obviously we asked for what the dialogue is known for: weighing and responding to each other’s input in the 2nd round.

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We presented the data collected from the dialogues to management. Management then used this in its internal communication towards the employees. The results were also shared with the management team as input for the renewed organizational structure. In this way, the Supervisory Board also immediately had a good picture of what was really going on in the organization.

Underlying concerns and demonstrable support also emerge

The dialogue not only shows people’s thoughts; it also shows which thoughts are supported and reveals people’s concerns. For example, people who wonder what change will mean for them. This is extremely valuable information for us, and we pass it on to management who can then respond to this.

Practical applicability

We can indicate parameters in CircleLytics and after the second round the results are clearly displayed. For example, you can immediately extract a Top 5 and Bottom 5 and, based on the data, clear graphs and additional substantiation are generated. You can also show certain quotes from people – anonymously – for example to senior management. This measurement will provide a solid foundation for a conversation or advice.

We are very satisfied with the support from the CircleLytics team. Especially in the beginning, you’re still searching for answers and it’s great if you can get help in formulating good questions. We always look at how we can formulate questions in a way that is as neutral as possible and really gets people thinking, without influencing them.

The additional characteristics of the participants, which you build into the dialogue, are also very useful. Once you filter the results by these characteristics (such as department, years of service, age category, region) and distil a top 5, you can be more precise in the advice. We now also include these in the advice.

We chose to do this in our own branding with our own logo, completely separate from Unilever, and with an external tool. We have a high response rate, and our employees really appreciate that we ask for their opinion.

Our advice to colleagues in participation bodies

In an ever-changing environment, CircleLytics is an ideal tool for us to consult our colleagues remotely. We can reach a large group of people online and give quick feedback to HR and management based on data. Previously, consulting consisted of many meetings and you only had a fraction of the input you now have.

The speed and the advice that is proven to be supported by the majority is also a major advantage of the online dialogue. You can expect participation bodies to use such tools more often in order to provide faster feedback with correct data.

Should you be interested in a demo for your management, HR and / or participation body, please contact us.

Since 1 January 2018, Aventurijn, Palier and de Kijvelanden have formed one new organization: Fivoor. Fivoor provides a regional offer of forensic and intensive psychiatric care.

Jeroen Gast, board member at Fivoor: “We chose and are choosing modern, participative leadership and want a top-down and bottom-up approach. In a continuous dialogue we keep in touch with employees regarding various topics in order to maintain a broad support base within the organization. With this goal in mind, we set to work.”

Pieter de Man, HR director explains, “After the merger, the organization was large, geographically dispersed and three different cultures came together. That was a challenge. Yet the ambition was immediately clear: we don’t just want underlying works councils, we want a broad support base and broad participation throughout the organization. Our employees are well-trained professionals, very articulate and they like to share their thoughts, we like to make use of that.”

Based on this ambition, Fivoor started looking for a solution and approach that could support them in the continuous dialogue and connection with their employees. After comparing various participation solutions, they ended up with CircleLytics, because this online dialogue is the only solution with 2 rounds, taking up a few days each time. This ensures that not only dialogue with employees takes place, but also dialogue between employees. Maurik Dippel, CircleLytics Director: “CircleLytics dialogues provide participants with 3 steps: giving your opinion, valuing other opinions, and being allowed to adjust your opinion. It turns out that participants are very open to the opinions of others and learn a lot from them. Of course, they then think more deeply about your question and usually adjust their opinion. Reflection, in other words. Really think and listen better. And because it’s anonymous, hierarchy, time pressure, weird looks, impatience, extra/introversion, working at home or in the office, or who you are just don’t play a role anymore.”

Now, some two years later after commissioning the online dialogue as a tool and strengthening our participatory organizational culture, we look back at the experiences and results for support and employee engagement within Fivoor.

Reina Schot, Works Council chair: “We have set up various digital dialogues within Fivoor. For example, we gather ideas about safety in the workplace from within the organization and then we test them against the employees to find the best possible solutions. But we also use the dialogue to draw our employees’ attention to subjects such as vitality and schedules for New Year’s Eve. This is how we create greater involvement in our decision-making, so that employee participation really takes place together.”

When the topic in the dialogue is close to the employees and they are dealing with it on a daily basis, we see that there is more response, greater involvement and a better substantive dialogue. We can only applaud that. It is then up to us to give proper feedback to the employees and show that their feedback or idea is actually implemented. That way, they feel heard.

Of course, it’s not always a success story. One dialogue was, in retrospect, too broadly formulated in terms of questions; we received less response. We learned from that. How do you design the question? How much space do you give, how much guidance? Do you also add a quantitative scale? Do you repeat the dialogue after a few months? Who do you ask as participants, a team, a department, everyone?

Gast: “We see the digital dialogue as an indispensable fulfilment of our corporate culture and being a good employer. The importance of asking the right questions and properly feeding back results and decisions to employees is a learning process that is still part of our growth.”

Partly because we value our managers and professionals and use this dialogue, we experience high engagement among employees. We ask for feedback, let them choose and together they come up with an explosion of creativity. Schot: “You just don’t get that with a traditional survey anymore. We value their opinion. After all, they know a lot about it and have to deal with all the challenges on a daily basis. We use that response to get to work.”

Gast: “For us, having dialogues are inseparable from modern leadership. Because of the distance and the large number of locations, the content of the dialogue is guaranteed in this digital way. We can now continue to build our organization in a qualitative, engaged way.” Interested in a demonstration of the online dialogue? For example, to follow up on an employee survey and really zoom in? Or to get and keep employees involved in organizational change, and many other applications? As a Works Council, HR, management or jointly?  Then get in touch with Maurik Dippel.

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