Parsons Empowers Managers to Create a Speak Up Culture

In this guest blog, Mike Taylorson at Parsons shares how they empower managers to create a Speak Up culture. We examine this more in our white paper, and how Parsons is increasing engagement as a result. Below, Taylorson emphasizes how they empower managers through support and coaching. Taylorson is VP of Leadership & Strategy at Parsons.

Empower managers with support

It is a broad endeavor to empower managers to create a Speak Up culture. I agree that it is “unreasonable to ask managers to solicit and encourage ideas from employees when they are not empowered themselves…”[1] Also, I believe that empowerment is more effective with tangible support. At Parsons, we empower and support managers by providing them with tools, as well as the help to use them well.

Empower managers at each level

Creating a Speak Up culture can not be done at just the organizational level. It is true that this level creates the conditions for this culture to grow. However, this culture also requires thousands of small actions at each local level as well. Building this culture is a lot like building a fire. Both require the fuel and optimal conditions to spark. 

Begin a transparent dialogue

The fuel for a Speak Up culture is a transparent dialogue between managers and teams. Once this culture is sparked, it needs nurturing and support to keep it going. Organizations help managers begin this transparent dialogue in a few ways. Firstly, they communicate to managers that this dialogue is expected. Secondly, they give managers resources to guide their dialogue. Thirdly, they develop managers’ skills to have this type of conversation.

Empower managers to know what to discuss

At Parsons we set clear expectations with managers to have these conversations with their teams. We indicate that this conversation should align their team objectives with our organization’s. Then, we help managers fulfill this expectation. For example, we provide managers with talking points. These help them explain how their team priorities fit into our organizational goals. Therefore, managers feel equipped and confident during their team conversations.

Empower managers to know how to discuss

Also, we provide managers the right blend of development resources to be effective. As uncertainty increases, so does the manager’s role in maintaining stability within their teams. Transparent dialogue is key to this. Managers must be able to have a 2-way conversation with their teams. They must encourage questions, even when they might not have all of the answers. Given this, we provide a virtual manager curriculum that focuses on listening and asking open-ended questions. 

Coach managers as they need it

We also empower managers with coaching. Typically, when I find managers engaging their staff in a transparent dialogue, I also find motivated HR professionals actively supporting them. For example, these HR professionals may help dissect their Waggl pulse results. These are a roadmap for what to discuss with their team. HR may also coach managers on how to have a transparent dialogue about these results. They may guide managers on discussing with their teams what actions to continue, stop or start.

Who really owns the creation of a Speak Up culture at Parsons? Organizational Leadership? Managers? HR? In my experience, it has to be all three acting in conjunction with each other.


Editor’s note on how Parsons empowers managers through crisis

It’s interesting to see how this empowers managers specifically in a crisis. Taylorson shares how Parsons empowers managers holistically with support from organizational leadership and HR. This aligns with what global analyst Josh Bersin recommends during a crisis. Bersin states that right now “we need to distribute authority fast, make sure responsible owners have strong capabilities and experience, and coordinate the response.”

Photo by Greg Rosenke on Unsplash