Your Guide To Working Out Loud

by Lotte Niens
Published on October 28, 2020

Part 1 – What is Working Out Loud?

What is it and why it’s the key to successful remote working 

As most of us are working from home, many companies are introducing new tools and technology to encourage digital collaboration and communication. I believe this is a great development that will inspire change and impact the way that we work for many years to come. 

However, this change requires our employees to adapt which leads to my question; Is introducing new tools enough for all employees to start working more collaboratively online? Or, are many of us still stuck in a pre-Internet landscape of siloed divisions, corporate hierarchy, and checklist-efficiency prioritized over personal experience and growth? Are we ready to use the digital tools to their full potential and start collaborating in a much open and transparent way?

I think we are, but we need to introduce ‘Working out Loud’ across all layers of the organisation. Only by doing so, will we be able to build a strong collaborative culture and maintain a healthy work/life balance whilst working remotely. 

Why Working out loud is crucial when working remote

As the name suggests, it initially involves working out loud. However, it doesn’t mean everyone should be sitting behind their desk shouting at each other (difficult given the remote working anyway!). The point is to openly share what you are working on to make your work visible. 

It also requires a new way of networking. Instead of sharing knowledge or information and expecting something back, the approach of working out loud is sharing without needing anything in return. Just the act of sharing what you are working on will make your work visible and therefore frame it as a contribution. 

Nobody has done more to formalize working out loud than John Stepper, who introduced the concept at Deutsche Bank and has since written the definitive book. Stepper talks about five pillars of working out loud:

  • Make your work visible
  • Lead with generosity
  • Build a social network
  • Make it purposeful
  • Have a growth mindset

Maybe your organisation is already doing some of this, but you might just be scratching the surface.  Understanding how your organisation can get the best out of working out loud is critical, especially when employees are working remotely.   Remote working has not only meant adapting to new tools, there are also more meetings, more notifications, more emails and more of a struggle to maintain a healthy work-life balance. 

Working out loud can provide relief through:
  1. Increasing the digital literacy of employees

Many organizations are realizing that the digital literacy of employees is critical to helping unlock the investment made in digital tools and drive the full benefits that can be reaped from digital. By encouraging your team to work out loud, you will also encourage the use of digital collaboration tools. In return, this will breed knowledge sharing and confidence. Working out loud can complement platform adoption and could even be a part of a digital literacy campaign. 

  1. Helping you drive a more positive organisational culture

Working out loud can help you celebrate the values of your organisation. For example, by driving transparency and encouraging a more dialogue-based culture where listening is valued. Or an environment where experimentation and innovation are encouraged and problems are being solved through digital collaboration. Connectivity, breaking down silos, networking – all are key values of Working out loud that often line up with key company values and initiatives. 

  1. Building collaboration from the bottom up

In Stepper’s methodology, he talks about “Circles”. These are small confidential groups where people can share their work in a safe space. The idea of Circles is less to create mini-communities but more to help individuals develop Working out loud-related habits and experience some kind of personal growth. Creating these safe spaces through enterprise social networks like Workplace can help employees adapt and slowly feel safer to share in cross-functional and all company communities.  By starting in small safe groups and then encouraging wider sharing and collaboration across teams and departments, Working out loud can change your company’s collaboration culture from the bottom up.

  1. Delivering benefits for senior management

Working out loud can be particularly effective for senior leaders because it will drive trust, engagement and create opportunities for 2-way conversations. Employee feedback is highly valuable and it allows leaders to get an effective pulse check on employee sentiment. Leaders can show that they are listening and interact with employees through conversation. 

  1. Reducing meetings

Working out loud is about sharing information as you go, instead of having status meetings or unnecessary catch-ups. Which is important, because every minute you avoid spending in a meeting is a minute you can get real work done instead. Most information we share is not time-critical. Instead of scheduling meetings, we should ask: “does everyone really need to hear this information at the exact same time”? If the answer is no – you don’t need a meeting. Making use of both synchronous and asynchronous communication (i.e. people communicating with each other at different times) to get more productive. Use chat or 1;1 calls for anything time-critical and work out loud in groups for anything that doesn’t warrant an immediate response.

  1. Supporting health and well-being

 An employee working out loud asks for help, rather than working in isolation. When employees get comfortable with working out loud, they will also get more and more confident to ask for help. By doing so, they can get the support when they need it and will create a strong relationship with their colleagues

Working out loud can be a step outside the comfort zone for many and might be met with some resistance. Check out part two of this series for my advice on ways to help your teams get on board with working out loud and how Workplace from Meta can help you to create a culture where working out loud is the norm.

Part 2 – Getting Your Team On Board With Workplace from Meta

Thanks for tuning in to the second part of this guide to working out loud. If you didn’t catch the first part, check it out here to get the rundown on what working out loud is and how it can help teams be more productive and connected while they’re working from home.

In this post, I’ll be talking about how you can support everyone in your team to embrace working out loud. 

Overcoming resistance

One of the key problems with working out loud is people’s resistance to write something down because it might not be good enough. 

When I joined Enablo, I experienced this myself. Being a bit of a perfectionist made me reluctant to share things before they were ready.  But, as I saw everyone around me working out loud, I realized it was necessary to join in, not only to grow and build relationships but also to keep up with the pace. 

For me it helped to take things slow; sharing into small groups to start and then building the confidence to share more broadly. 

John Stepper, the author of the definitive book on working out loud, also emphasizes the importance of sharing in safe spaces first: “The mistake I made early on was asking people to do too much too soon. The first step is just finding some connections in a psychologically safe space.”

Guide your employees and slowly transition to working out loud by making them feel empowered and engaged. For example, ask them around 4 pm each day what they have been working on to encourage working out loud and sharing. You can also ask them every Monday morning to share “what do you plan on working on this week?”. 

Last but not least, make sure you emphasize the benefits of working out loud and acknowledge any reservations that the team might have.

Below are some tips that might help for anyone that feels a little anxious:

Frame things as a learning experience. Ideas don’t need to be worked out into a beautiful presentable plan. Share ideas early to gather feedback and insights. Input from others can transform your ideas and push them in new directions. 

You don’t need to be an expert. Don’t feel like you shouldn’t have a say in something just because it is outside of your remit. Working out loud gives you the opportunity to share your talent beyond your day-to-day role. Research has found that, when presented with a challenge, diverse groups with different skill sets would solve problems better and quicker. So don’t assume your input isn’t valued – it most definitely will be.

You get out what you put in. Make an effort to respond to work from others and share your feedback and ideas. You will see that the more you collaborate on other people’s posts, the more input and feedback you will receive on yours.

Don’t be afraid. We are most often held back by our fears of what others will think, fear of being vulnerable. In reality, it is our sharing of doubts and mistakes, asking of questions and admission of not knowing everything that connects people. It not only opens up pathways to collaborative learning but also creates a safe space for others to come forward with their own doubts.

Others feel the same. You are probably not alone! There are most likely lots of others within your organization that find it challenging to work out loud. Create an empowering environment by being positive and encouraging.

Workplace from Meta: your secret weapon for working out loud 

Now that we’ve identified the benefits of working out loud, you might wonder: “How do I start creating this working out loud culture within my organization?” 

Part of creating a successful working out loud culture is about having the right tools to do so.  Being able to share documents and hold discussions in closed groups, wider communities, or even across the enterprise is a key enabler for working out loud. Employees need a platform to connect, communicate, and collaborate. 

Social enterprise networking tools are a natural fit because of the emphasis on networking and social collaboration.  Partner this with a tool that is easy to use and familiar means you are on to a winner. 

Workplace from Meta ticks all these boxes. Most employees will have already used Facebook in their personal lives, making it super easy and familiar. Workplace is able to connect the whole organization from senior leaders all the way to front-line staff. On top of that, it will allow you to quickly find colleagues and experts across the organization through the org chart and search functionality. In return, working out loud will help with platform adoption and familiarity. As the adoption of Workplace grows, it’s only natural for working out loud to grow too.

At Enablo, we’ve even developed a stand-up bot that integrates with Workplace to help encourage working out loud. A ‘stand up’ meeting is a quick check-in, held frequently to get a short status update from members of a team. The stand-up bot can be programmed to ask members of a group specific questions (via work chat) at a particular time of the day e.g. what are you focusing on today? And, what do you need help with? Everyone’s answers are automatically posted into the group and can be used either in place of a meeting altogether, or to develop an agenda to run the meeting more efficiently by only focusing on critical items or challenges people are facing. 

There are many examples and best practices of how working out loud can help you shape your organization. If you’re interested to find out more or you want to see some examples of how Workplace can help you build a collaborative company culture, please get in touch!

Meet the Author
Lotte Niens
Enablo Experience Director Lotte is a comms expert who's passionate about employee experience and loves to inspire others to build great experiences. She’s worked in different communication and education roles across a number of industries including telco and retail.

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