Keep on yakkin’ – From cascade to conversation

To follow from attending #thebigyak unconference at the eBay offices in Richmond on Saturday 28 June and our blog post yesterday about ‘how to make HR comms cool’, here’s our second post:

From cascade to conversationCascade communication

Making the cultural shift from an organisation that uses all the tools to cascade communication and broadcast information to one where listening and conversations are commonplace is a big step, but critical to improving employee engagement. Giving employees a ‘voice’ may be scary for some organisations and leaders. Many may worry: ‘what if I don’t have all the answers?’

Ask questions

In our discussion about this topic, people suggested forget about the hierarchy – just get asking questions, no matter how small make a start to make the change. As an aside to this we wondered if people felt able to ask questions in their organisations, and how this can stem back to whether you can ‘take your whole self to work’ and therefore feel able to ask the questions you naturally consider. Being an organisation that’s open makes this possible, and some organisations will find this harder than others to achieve but that shouldn’t be a reason not to try.

Enterprise social networks as conversation tools?

Enterprise social networks (ESNs) can be a great place for conversations to start. But take up can be slow, people often watch and listen first before feeling brave enough to post questions. Sometimes the heavy use of policies about the use of ESNs etc. can be off-putting and make participation even more daunting. Light handed policies that just simply say don’t post anything you wouldn’t put in an email to someone or say to someone on the phone should be enough to regulate and if anyone is abusive it should be dealt with swiftly.

Let go and listen

Leaders need to feel comfortable with not having all the answers, being able to say we’ll find out and get back to you. IC can support leaders with this, show them that it’s ok to not know all the answers, to let go of the control of communication. In fact, just being there, listening and showing that you care is respected, appreciated and a great start. Sometimes the questions could be just about the type of loo roll or other seemingly ‘small’ detail. But show people you can answer and resolve these issues and they’ll feel more inclined to start talking about the bigger stuff too.

Do not use scripted questions in Q&As – everyone knows you’ve done it and it ruins any credibility. Give people the chance to post questions anonymously before the event. Use different channels so that you can reach the people who balk at the idea of raising a hand in a town hall or the thought of speaking into a mic.

Remove the physical barriers like the lectern and the board table, they reinforce the hierarchy, restrict openness and prevent real conversations taking place.

Communication teams should also ask line managers what works best for their teams. They know their teams so don’t assume you know what channels will work best for them.

During the discussion, Valve was referenced and its value handbook as a particularly good example of the way organisations thrive with conversation – read it here.


Do you have any great examples of an organisation that has truly open conversations with its people? We’d love to hear about them.

We joined four sessions during #thebigyak: Making HR comms cool; From cascade to conversation; Authenticity in internal communication, and Change communication so we’ll cover those here, covering one a day this week.

Making HR comms cool posted Monday 30 June

More to follow soon…

Other resources

Buzztale feed

Eloise Hinde’s post

And if you were there remember to do the survey

Image credit

Waterfall In Tropical Forest, By Sura Nualpradid, from


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