We’re all familiar with the Industry Super ads that compare the performance of two worker’s superannuation funds. One worker is stagnant while the other worker – and their stocks – rise. The same message could apply to organisations and their willingness and ability to have ‘difficult’ conversations.

In this context, organisations addressing issues by having those tough conversations are the ones on the rise. Those avoiding addressing safety, performance or other business issues, usually out of fear of potential consequences, are the ones being left behind.

The cost of avoiding rather than having what subject expert Celia Swales calls ‘courageous’ conversations can, in fact, be greater. Because not addressing important issues allows poor safety practices or work performance to continue, compromising workplace safety and productivity.

“The conversations that could be had and the problem solving that could be had are all lost opportunities,” she said.

“It’s lost improvement in systems, better alignment for people, greater engagement – people leave organisations because their leaders are not having the real conversations.

“I recently heard about two young people doing placements in different workplaces. One was confused about what she was supposed to be doing so she asked someone and got the answer. The other was too frightened to ask because she knew the response wasn’t going to be good. So she will have an ineffective placement and she will continue that pattern in other workplaces.

“All of those kinds of things cost organisations money, and that’s the hidden cost of the conversations that are not held.”

Like Super, it’s about long term performance

Celia Swales has been guiding organisations through ‘courageous conversations’ for many years. She shares the benefits and advice on how to approach such discussions in this Thought Leadership piece, and will answer questions on the subject in this NRSPP webinar in February.

In particular, Celia says, preparation and follow-up are as important as how the actual conversation is conducted. Preparation, for example, can help keep emotions under control during a tough conversation, and implementing agreed actions after such a conversation demonstrates their value to the workforce.

Over time, being brave enough to have those conversations, and knowing how to conduct them well, also helps create a culture where safety, performance and other workplace issues are quickly and continually resolved.

Turning potential hidden costs into safety and bottom line benefits, and keeping organisations and their people on that upward trajectory.

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