Having worked in a professional services environment for a number of years, I am fully aware of the price of some conversations: solicitors, architects, tax advisors, accountants. We know that these come at a price but we also understand that when we need to be informed or advised, this may be a necessary investment.
But what is the cost of not having a conversation? This is often overlooked within a business and little value is placed on the simple act of having a conversation with a colleague, a member of your team or even your boss.
In today’s office (or home office) environment, we are focussed on our screens, the need to immediately respond to emails and the ever-present pressure of deadlines and subject-specific meetings.
Yet, so often an open, positive conversation can reveal knowledge, expertise, experience, abilities and ambitions that were never identified previously. Business leaders struggle on, even when the solution to a long-term challenge actually existed within the building but nobody bothered to ask. And how do you know what somebody wants out of their working life, or their career aspirations or their thoughts about how the working environment can be improved if you don’t give them a chance to say?
Yes, there are appraisal systems but they don’t always generate the candid input we were hoping for. Staff surveys have their place but in my experience, the conversations I have with members of staff are the most revealing and the most constructive as I consider how to resolve the issues which have been placed before me by the senior leadership team within the organisation.
This is not just about talking, it is about listening. About hearing and encouraging people to participate and contribute to the future of the business.
Though some may dismiss this as idle chit-chat, my more forward-thinking client teams make provision for these safe-space conversations and actually appreciate the opportunity to make use of the facility themselves. What transpires is knowledge, vision, awareness, connectivity, possibilities. And positive engagement. And the opportunity to create a healthy, positive culture for existing staff (think staff retention) and one which future candidates will want to be part of (employer brand, talent attraction, recruitment success).
So many areas of value. So many key business objectives to which this can constructively contribute.
So, what price a conversation?
The bigger question is perhaps, what price for the lack of?
Kirsten is a Chartered Member of CIPD (Chartered Institute of Personnel and Development), with a special interest in Human Resource Development. She is the Managing Consultant of Phoegon Consulting, which offers a range of HR and operational services to clients within Oxfordshire, surrounding counties and London.
With a background in teaching (including special needs) and success in bringing often disparate teams of people together, Kirsten combines a wide range of skills and knowledge to create safe spaces, collaborative working opportunities and encourages honest, open communication styles.
Kirsten has recently qualified to Level 3 Supervising First Aid for Mental Health, is a qualified First Aider and has knowledge of Health & Safety principles, gained through practical work experience and a NEBOSH qualification. She has over 30 years of business administration experience, gained through working within larger and multinational corporations as well as consultancy firms, private practice, SMEs and start ups.