More and more companies are realizing the role good internal communications play when it comes to creating a healthy corporate culture, engaging employees, and ultimately driving future success. The formula, by now, is tried, tested and true, with one step naturally leading to the next.
So a year or so ago when I met with one CEO, whose business had recently acquired a much larger company and with it approximately 1,000 new employees, I was a little surprised to hear him say: “We’re a private company, we don’t need internal communications the same way a public company does.”
He viewed communications as only being necessary when shareholders were in the picture, not taking into account the internal stakeholders – his employees – whose buy in he would need if he wanted to succeed.
You see there had been some fairly significant missteps during those first few days following the acquisition of that new company in terms of what was said and done – or more specifically, what wasn’t said or done – and I was meeting with him to discuss how a little outreach via regular updates could drastically improve employee engagement and corporate culture overall, and with that, his bottom line.
An entrepreneur at heart, this CEO was more accustomed to running small start-ups and working with a very small group of people. Now, here he was working with a much, much larger employee base. The new additions to his team came from a corporate environment at a large, publicly traded company where communications – both internal and external – were key and viewed as the very foundation of success. The differences in culture between his original company and this new one was significant and a proper change management process, with a focus on communication, was going to be instrumental for a successful integration.
Approximately 70% of change efforts fail! – Why is that?
Here are three key reasons:
- A disengaged employee base – it’s very hard to succeed in getting that boat to port, so to speak, if everyone inside the boat is just sitting there, refusing to paddle;
- Management/leadership behaviours that do not support the desired change – the whole ‘say one thing, do another’ approach or consistently making empty promises regarding things to come; and
- Lack of active and/or visible sponsorship of said change – employees are told that everyone needs to come together to succeed and yet because the proper change management process isn’t in place to integrate new employees into the fold, more and more silos go up. (Nothing kills engagement and enthusiasm faster than silos.)
What can change all that? The short answer: Communication.
That is literally all it takes. A good internal communications strategy can do more for employee engagement and a healthy corporate culture than anything else. And that doesn’t mean telling everyone everything; it means telling everyone something, and being open, honest and transparent about it. If you can’t go into details because the information is commercially sensitive, say as much, people get it, but they’ll also feel a part of something bigger, and instrumental in the company’s success.
These employees have a vested interest after all. As in the case of the CEO I was speaking to, he had acquired a company with a remarkable employee retention rate, with many people having worked there for 15, 20, even 30 years. These are the experts in the company, and want it to succeed as much as the CEO did.
When there is no communication, no sharing of a vision, no call to action, there’s no engagement, no pride and no culture. The CEO is left with one big company that is massively divided between ‘us’ and ‘them’; the employees feel ostracized and expendable. How healthy and productive can any company be when its people feel like that? How can it ever thrive and succeed?
So what to do?
First and foremost, the CEO has to properly convey his vision for the company, he has to communicate his strategy and by doing that he will reduce the natural resistance to change, while also engaging employees and in the process getting their buy in on that strategy.
Key steps to engagement:
- Close the gap between leaders and employees by opening the channels of communication;
- Promote two-way dialogue – not on a one-off basis but as an ongoing means of gaining feedback; and
- Engage employees in telling the company story – keep them informed, and recognize and reward success.
Through a well thought out internal communications plan, you build confidence and pride in your employees, while also ensuring the change you implement is sustained and becomes engrained in your corporate culture.
Do you have any tips when it comes to employee engagement?
Has any one thing worked well for you?