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Dialogue 2.0 – the New Approach to Employee Engagement

Original Post: The Talent Dialogue Approach to Employee Engagement, Deloitte

For many organizations today, the importance of managing talent is no longer an abstraction – it’s an all too pressing reality. Even in the current economy, business leaders are searching for solutions that can help them continue to attract, retain, and engage key talent in an increasingly competitive environment. But though it can be tempting to jump right in and start fi xing things, it’s essential to first develop a foundation of facts that can help you put the right elements together in a winning combination.

The convergence of new technologies and cultural evolution now makes possible an emerging superior approach – one that can provide specific insights into the drivers of engagement and help continually refi ne that insight through ongoing two-way communication. We call this approach “Talent Dialogue.”

Talent Dialogue Explained

Using the Talent Dialogue approach, an employer establishes a systematic, ongoing dialogue with its employees to better understand their views and expectations about the employment experience. Unlike point-intime employee engagement surveys that offer little opportunity for interaction, you use a variety of tools with Talent Dialogue, including social media platforms as well as more traditional forums such as interviews, focus groups, and surveys, to facilitate two-way conversation and enlist employees’ active involvement in shaping the organization’s talent management strategies. A thorough Talent Dialogue can provide companies with a competitive advantage in Employee Engagement by understanding employee preferences, wants, and needs; by creating an organizational culture of engagement; and by enhancing the return on investments in talent.

For all the talk today about the importance of listening, it’s not easy to do it well, especially when it comes to talent management. It’s about more than asking questions; it’s also about listening for opportunities .

The Talent Dialogue approach can help organizations do both.

How to Start Your Talent Dialogue


1. Create a Talent Dialogue Strategy. Define a strategy that includes specific Talent Dialogue objectives and a plan for analyzing, responding to, and using the information it generates.

2. Dialogue 1.0. Once the strategy is in place, a company can jumpstart the dialogue with what we call “Dialogue 1.0” – pursuing Talent Dialogue through the tools, processes, and vehicles it already has in place for interacting with its employees .

3. Dialogue 2.0. The next level of Talent Dialogue, “Dialogue 2.0,” supplements Dialogue 1.0 by using social media mechanisms, enabled by modern communications technologies, to help knit employees and employers into an evolving, interactive community.  (As a platform for Talent Dialogue, social media tools have several advantages over many of the Dialogue 1.0 mechanisms: They’re more economical to deploy on a large scale; they’re available 24/7, so employees can engage in dialogue at their convenience; they’re collaborative, allowing employees to interact with each other as well as with management; and they’re fl exible. Most of all, as evidenced by the popularity of sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, and MySpace, many employees have already embraced social networking in their personal lives and would likely fi nd it natural to engage in it at work as well, discussing and providing feedback that is more targeted at their employment experience .

Dialogue 1.0, Dialogue 2.0, or a mix, some general principles to consider that could help strengthen the results: • Use multiple approaches. People who hate fi lling out surveys may be avid bloggers and message board readers. Employees skeptical about posting to an online forum may be amenable to sitting on a live or tele-/videoconference focus group. Consider which tools and methods are most appropriate for particular audiences and objectives, and combine them in a way that allows you to reach the people you want to reach in a way that works for them.

Guiding Principles of Talent Dialogue

  • Consider your employees’ adoption of and comfort with technology. A company where almost everyone spends their working hours at a computer with e-mail and the Internet will find Dialogue 2.0 easier to implement than one where most of the work is done “unplugged.”
  • Rely on continuous feedback from employees instead of intermittent spot checks. Build Talent Dialogue into how you do business so that it helps you anticipate and plan for workforce issues.
  • Respond to employees’ views in a timely manner, even if it means admitting you’re not sure about something. This can represent a major change for leaders who believe that it’s better to keep things quiet until decisions are set in stone.
  • Ask “What if?” questions with scaled responses that allow you to crunch the data more reliably.
  • Avoid fuzzy questions that are open to a lot of interpretation
  • Keep improving. Refi ne your questions to build on answers already received.

Companies today can’t afford to ignore the voices of their employees. The global talent crunch is creating a seller’s market for talent with scarce skills, while modern communications technologies give the masses greater visibility and infl uence than ever before. In a highly networked world, employee feedback is a given; the only choice for employers is whether to fear it as a threat or leverage it as an opportunity .

A well-managed dialogue between critical talent and business leaders is an essential way of getting the insights you need for strategic workforce planning. After all, your employees are the ones doing the work. They’re the ones trying to balance their lives and careers, and they’re the ones you depend on to deliver enterprise value. Listen to them. Get the facts. Understand them. And act.

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