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How to promote a speak-up culture in a workplace | Rungway

A speak-up culture benefits everyone in an organisation, and this article is a guide to effectively implementing and encouraging open communication in the workplace.

19 Apr 2023 | 12 min read


Employees being able to speak their mind has always been important, but it is arguably more important than ever today, with challenges like remote working having an impact on ‘traditional’ communication channels and placing greater onus on organisations to provide safe, effective methods for employees to speak. In fact, Simpplr says that 1 in 4 managers say that hybrid working has made communication ‘very challenging’.

In this article, we’re going to look at the importance of a speak-up culture, how to recognise the signs that your organisation may need to transition to a speak-up culture, and the ways in which such a culture can be implemented successfully.

What is a speak-up culture?

A speak-up culture is a culture where all employees in a workplace feel empowered and comfortable with expressing opinions, ideas and concerns, whatever they might be. It’s a vital component of an effective internal communication strategy, and therefore an open, inclusive workplace.

Without a speak-up culture, leadership is likely to miss out on identifying concerns and flashpoints before they worsen because the employee or employees in question do not have the platforms or the confidence to raise them. 

For example, imagine an employee is concerned about the conduct of a colleague, whether that’s someone of the same seniority or a member of management, but they feel unable to raise this concern because they do not feel comfortable doing so as a speak-up culture doesn’t exist. The issue remains un-raised, and the conduct in question continues - not only is this a problem in itself, but the lack of action/lack of space to express their concerns can affect the concerned employee’s wellbeing, their performance, and attrition rates. 

Why is a speak-up culture important and what are the benefits?

A speak-up culture is important for a number of reasons. Arguably the most important reason for implementing a speak-up culture is for mitigating risk. With such a culture in place, leaders will hear about issues and flashpoints more quickly and in greater detail - this means they can be resolved swiftly before they become unmanageable or leak into public domains such as Glassdoor or Reddit.

Benefits to the organisation as a whole

faster feedback loops

Without a speak-up culture, employee concerns, opinions and potentially valuable ideas are going to be missed by leadership. Implementing a speak-up culture will help leaders keep track of the day-to-day experiences of their people, stay across goings-on in their organisation and help to surface crucial data and flashpoints, which in turn will help them be proactive in taking necessary steps. This, in turn, helps leadership make better decisions when it comes to processes like organisational change.

Trust between employees and leadership

With effective, open and inclusive communication in place, leaders and employees can build stronger relationships and build greater trust between each other. By listening and acting on employee ideas, opinions and concerns, leaders can show they care for and value their employees. This fosters greater trust and support from the employees themselves as they can see that what they’re saying is being taken onboard - key when it comes to boosting employee buy-in during any organisational change programme.

One of the most effective summations of the importance of communication is Sidney Yoshida’s ‘Iceberg of Ignorance’. Yoshida says that only 4% of organisational problems are seen by leadership, with the remaining 96% being seen by various management levels. What this means is leadership will only act on the issues they can see, which means they’re working off old or inaccurate data, while wider problems remain unchecked.

Rungway Icerberg of Ignorance

Better collaboration

Collaboration cannot happen without effective communication, and so building a speak-up culture is a key step in improving collaboration across an organisation. By creating a safe space for communication, your people can bring ideas to the table with confidence, and when that happens, the best ideas will always make themselves known.  

On the flip side, this means employees have an outlet for telling leadership when they feel something isn’t working, so the organisation can correct it quickly. This kind of speed can be invaluable for navigating change.

More effective change

A survey by McKinsey & Company found that when employees are invested in change, it is 30% more likely to stick. A speak-up culture is a key factor in change advocacy - effective communication allows employees to voice concerns and ideas about change, and it allows leaders to respond to those concerns and potentially win advocacy and support.

To really take advantage of a speak-up culture, it should be paired with a platform for two-way dialogues. This helps organisations to manage the people side of change, and when that side is managed more effectively, employee buy-in increases and that is what makes any organisational change more likely to succeed.

For more tips on how to improve employee buy-in and navigate change successfully, download our playbook here. 

Improved performance

Organisations that strive to ensure their communications reflect their culture are 5x more likely to be industry leaders and 2x more likely to innovate effectively, according to The Josh Bersin Company. This again shows that communication can provide a huge boost to productivity across the board. 

Benefits to employees

Confidence and feeling valued

In a workplace without a speak up culture, employees will feel like their concerns are either unimportant or not important enough to bother management with, so they will likely internalise issues because they lack the confidence to speak to leadership or management. 

With a speak-up culture in place, employees will know that they will be listened to, which in itself is a significant factor in people feeling valued at work. As The Josh Bersin Company states, organisations who listen to employees and act on feedback are 8.4x more likely to inspire a sense of belonging amongst staff.

Improved job satisfaction

Employees who know they can speak up freely and that they’ll be listened to when they do so will feel more valued by their organisation and therefore happier and more motivated at work. They’re less likely to internalise issues, which would usually have a negative effect on their well-being and job satisfaction. 

Improved wellbeing 

The knock-on effect of a speak-up culture is clear to see; feeling valued feeds into feeling happier at work, and feeling happier feeds into improved wellbeing. According to McKinsey & Company, there’s a 22% gap between employer and employee perceptions of wellbeing, and a speak-up culture can close this gap significantly. 

Employees can confidently speak up about their feelings and experiences, and leadership can then act on these points to improve the situation.

A positive workplace culture

All of the above benefits feed into a positive workplace culture, which is what all organisations should be striving for but something that many fall short of. Around 70% of candidates that you’re trying to recruit are actively searching for information on your workplace’s culture, according to Entrepreneur

MIT Sloan found that more than 90% of North American CEOs and CFOs believe that improving their corporate culture would boost financial performance, but 80% also acknowledged that their organisation’s culture was not as healthy as it should be. By improving communication and implementing a speak-up culture, you can enact a wider cultural change that works for the organisation, improves productivity and performance, and helps to make your organisation more attractive to potential new employees.

Signs that your organisation needs a speak-up culture

A lack of trust between employees and leadership

If your employees don’t trust leadership to make the right decisions, and if leadership rarely takes ideas from employees, then a speak-up culture is needed. As we’ve said above, a speak-up culture helps to foster trust because it gives employees the platform to raise their own ideas, and it gives leadership the opportunity to act on concerns and explain decisions, which will build trust amongst your people. 

Even if employees don’t agree with the decisions being made by leadership, an effective explanation can help them to understand why those decisions are being taken.

A high turnover rate

We’ve already mentioned the impact that a speak-up culture can have on workplace culture. The McKinsey Health Institute found that toxic workplace culture was one of the biggest predictors of employee intent to leave, and 1 in 10 workers experience their workplace culture as toxic, according to MIT Sloan.

Without a safe space to speak up, there is nowhere for employees to voice concerns about workplace culture, their role, their job satisfaction and anything else that might be bothering them. As these issues go unresolved, job satisfaction decreases, and employees are more likely to look for a new challenge. 

Absence of diverse perspectives in ideas or decision-making

Diversity in an organisation helps leadership to hear from a wider range of experiences and perspectives, which can help to shape decisions and strategy for the better. A healthy communication culture encourages ideas from all corners of the business, from every level and every person. If you are not hearing ideas from anyone other than senior management or leadership, or if decision-making is solely informed by those same people, then your organisation is in need of a speak-up culture.

Six tips for building a speak-up culture in a workplace

Psychological safety & constructive anonymity

Creating psychological safety means creating a space where employees feel able to speak up without fear of being judged for what they’ll say. Amongst the many ‘traditional’ channels of communication, few of them provide this type of safety; chats on Slack or Teams, ‘ask me anything’ sessions and town halls - none of these platforms allow for anonymity, which means they inherently prevent full transparency, both in questions asked and feedback given.

By creating psychological safety for your employees, you’ll encourage them to come forward with what they want to say. As more and more employees speak freely, a speak-up culture is created and people feel empowered and supported to say what they want to say. 

No one's going to raise a personal topic in a town hall or start asking for career advice on Slack. With a psychologically safe platform like Rungway, employees can voice their opinions, ideas and feelings at any time, from anywhere, with total confidence. A built-in anonymity feature helps to bolster this confidence, and the real-time nature of the platform means that leaders can respond quickly and directly to their people. This is special, because it means a wider range of voices come to the surface - colleagues of colour ask 3x as many questions than their white counterparts - and also a greater breadth of topics are discussed. This gives leaders a much clearer idea of what impacts their employees - outside of the work, as well as inside. Hearing this stuff means not only can they respond and show empathy using the Rungway platform, but they can also react quickly to build trust and connection with their people.

Leadership accessibility

Using the right channels is a fundamental part of creating and maintaining a speak-up culture in the workplace. It ties into the psychological safety point that we touched on earlier in the piece; you need to use the channels that make people feel comfortable with communicating.

Many organisations talk of their ‘open door policy’, but such policies aren’t as welcoming as they might sound. Having an open door policy is very different to having the confidence for people to walk through it. Even though management says their door is open, employees may still find the idea of one-to-one conversations intimidating, and it’s unlikely that they’re going to get honest feedback this way. 

Management needs to go where their employees are: a platform like Rungway allows for direct communication between management and employees, and the option for anonymity encourages honesty and therefore generates a bigger, clearer, more detailed picture of employee sentiment

Our data shows that posts from leadership receive twice as many click-throughs as other posts, reaching 96% of employees who are using Rungway in the process. An effective channel which provides a safe space for communication should be utilised to the fullest extent possible by leadership.


Unless leadership in your organisation has a proven record of acting on employee concerns and ideas, you must convince your people that what they say will be listened to. For many employees, it can be easy to think that their concerns will be set aside and forgotten about, which deters people from speaking up in the first place.

By being transparent and showing employees that they have been heard, being clear about any action you plan to take, you’ll help to encourage people to speak up. Not only does this help to foster a speak-up culture, but it can also help leadership win support from their employees.

Conversations on Rungway can be seen by all users in that organisation, so employees can see that leadership does respond to employee concerns, and that it is worth speaking up when they feel they need to. 

Utilising communication platforms

Using the right channels is a fundamental part of creating and maintaining a speak-up culture in the workplace. It ties into the psychological safety point that we touched on earlier in the piece; you need to use the channels that make people feel comfortable with communicating. Management needs to go where their employees are: a platform like Rungway allows for direct communication between management and employees, and the option for anonymity encourages honesty and therefore generates a bigger, clearer, more detailed picture of employee sentiment. 

Effective communication

Certain communication channels, while widely used, are simply not effective for building a speak-up culture. We’re talking here about things like surveys, ‘Ask Me Anything’s (AMAs), and town halls. In the case of surveys, people are unlikely to respond in great detail to questions, and even if they do, it can be very time consuming to sift through the answers and pull out useful insights. 

AMAs and town halls usually favour the loudest voices - the most confident people in the organisation. If someone is naturally shy or lacks confidence for another reason, they are highly unlikely to speak-up in these environments. 

Instead, look to safe, real-time, anonymous communication platforms like Rungway. People can post what they like, when they like, in a way that suits them, which is ideal for encouraging bottom-up communication. 

Be proactive

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 41% of millennials said they don’t believe their feedback leads to meaningful organisational change. It’s crucial that leadership takes real action where necessary and where possible if an employee speaks up about something. This not only helps to foster trust and advocacy amongst employees, but it also shows that speaking up works, and that leadership is willing to act in the interests of their people. Going through the motions and promising to take action without doing so will simply discourage people and potentially cause them to be disillusioned. 


Encouraging a speak-up culture is in the interest of every organisation. It helps leaders learn more about their people, uncover real truths and subsequently take the action needed to help improve employees’ experience, which helps employees feel more confident, comfortable and more valued. Open communication can help to drive positive change in an organisation, which can in turn have a positive impact on success and growth.

Rungway is a key tool in promoting a speak-up culture by providing psychological safety. Rungway creates an open channel where anyone can speak up, and leaders can listen-up and engage directly with their people, promoting leadership visibility and rapid decision-making. 


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