Southwest offers employees many avenues to sound off

You can’t demand engagement, but you can coax it. A tour of Southwest’s intranet reveals how this is done.

Making it happen is easier said than done, says Gordon Ross, owner and vice president of OpenRoad Communications.

“You cannot ask your staff to be engaged,” he told the hosts of the Intranet Benchmarking Forum’s IBF Live broadcast. “It’s the same as asking them to be spontaneous. You take away the conditions in which they can be spontaneous.”

Paul Miller, founder and CEO of the Intranet Benchmarking Forum, asked why leaders are so reluctant to encourage engagement at all. Ross responded that, often, executives just aren’t thinking about it. Often, their minds are on big-picture fiscal or technological issues, and engagement strikes “at very personal topics.”

However, Ross cited a Harvard Business Review report which stated that a thriving workforce has engaged employees that are “creating the future” of the company.

How can you accomplish that without forcing it? Ross said it’s all about control. Employees often forget why what they do day to day is important. With some degree of agency or voice, and the proper tools to communicate, they can see the value. Ross listed blogs, comments, employee profiles, webcasts, and internal social tools as worthwhile ways to provide employees with some degree of control.

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