In an age of hyper competitiveness, global economic volatility and socio-political uncertainty, you would think companies would go back to the drawing board to make sure all the fundamentals in their businesses were right in order for them to squeeze out as much value as possible. Simple things like internal communications and company culture!
The fundamentals of course lie in the value chain which varies from company to company, but the one constant for all businesses is your employees – your means of production! How many companies do you know that pay serious attention to internal communications? And by serious, I mean the same kind of serious as they pay to R&D or sales or manufacturing best practice…
I would hazard a guess that the answer is ‘none’ and yet there is a large body of research that shows that engaged employees outperform those less engaged; they yield greater returns and increase customer satisfaction – i.e. you will make more money from them!
I doubt anyone will dispute that it’s good to have engaged employees, the problem is that there doesn’t seem to be a real commitment to this, it’s not given the same kind of serious attention that other facets of the business are given.
The C suite counter is probably something along the lines of: “but we spent RX million building an intranet and our internal brand ambassador campaign won a design award”. Sorry, but it’s not enough and adding an extra channel and flooding staff with information or getting the comms team to write a monthly “On (insert CEO name)’s Mind” blog isn’t going to fix the problem either.
The fundamentals of effective internal communications are blindingly simple – the qualities and influences of leaders and front line managers / supervisors and organisational culture.
According to Jim Shaffer in his book, The Leadership Solution, 55% of employees’ attitudes and perceptions are determined by the business leader. Job processes (30%) and formal company media (15%) are far less influential. In order to build trust and engagement, leaders need to be ‘out there’. They need to be visible and available, they need to use face to face communications, they need to invite and act upon feedback and two way communication and they need to empower managers / supervisors with information and decision making ability.
This ‘championing’ of communications enables a ‘communication climate’ upon which a company culture of openness, trust, participation and honesty can flourish. In fact, researchers have found that how an organization communicates internally is more important than what is communicated in terms of building culture.Which is something you would think leaders would want to do given the fact that a company with a strong culture has a distinct competitive advantage.
Yet despite how simple these basics are, employee engagement is worryingly low. Only 10% of employees believe that their leaders are honest and ethical and only 12% believed their employers listened to them or cared about them.
Add to the pot the arrival en masse of The Millennial and you have yourself a serious business risk.
So since it’s so easy and obvious, why does this problem even exist? Because, we sadly have the wrong leadership.