Communicate! Communicate! Communicate!

     Last week I conducted a Leadership Workshop for nineteen Front Line Leaders (progressive companies continue to believe it is essential in this bad economy to develop their Front Line Leaders because training & development programs sends the message “we will survive these tough times stronger then ever by making you stronger than ever”), and, once again, the number one issue raised by these committed Core Employees was the lack of communication within the company.  So, I’m compelled to re-emphasize the need for adequate communication with the workforce during these increasingly hard times.

     While it is never easy to tell Employees bad news, not communicating is worse.  The failure to communicate leaves Employees susceptible to the rumor mill that crushes productivity as Employees wonder if their jobs are safe. Yet, research shows 46% of organizations have taken "no action" to communicate with the workforce during this economic downturn! To make sure your organization isn’t in that 46% of loser companies follow these recommendations:

1.      Develop a Formal Communication Plan:  Without a formalized Communication Plan setting forth in detail the “hows” and the “whens”, adequate Communication seldom is accomplished – especially during a crisis.

2.      Be constantly visible in the workplace: Being in the workplace is communication. Being visibile reassures and allows for informal dialogue with Employees. Being visible isn't just having formal meetings with the workforce – it’s also being where the Employees are and joining in the informal discussions that take place at daily kick off meetings or sales meetings; its sitting down with different lunch groups and showing up on every shift and in every department.  Some will ask “Isn’t this a huge time commitment” The answer: Yes it is!  But it is a necessary and worthwhile time commitment leaders must make if the company is going to thrive in the current business uncertainty.

3.      Acknowledge Emotions:  Your Employees may be disillusioned, worried and angry. The sooner you acknowledge these emotions the better. To acknowledge these emotions consider what Employees need to hear, not just what you want to say. Address what Employees have lost or are afraid to lose and the issues Employees will talk about when you leave the room.

4.      Inform the Team: Don’t assume Employees know what you know nor that they need to know everything.  Employee need information about what affects them. Your Employees are adults and can handle some bad news. Give Employees the information they need to understand the situation. You don’t want to alarm anyone unnecessarily but you don’t want Employees jumping to the wrong conclusions because they aren’t getting information from you.

5.      Make it a Dialogue, not a Monologue: Ask for feedback and questions. Letting Employees talk and ask questions will make them feel better. Questions reveal Employee concerns and tell you what Employees are really thinking. Also, while you can’t stop rumors, questions allow you to discover what those rumors are and quickly respond to them. 

 

6.      Issue a Call to Action & Shared Hope: One of the hardest things for a leader to do is to communicate bad news, admit they don’t have all the answers, and then reassure Employees that the problems are being addressed and the company will survive. To do this successfully means communicating a Plan of Action that addresses the current situation and also the future, and one on which Employees can focus their energy. Employees want to be involved in helping the company.  The Plan of Action needs to tell Employees specifically how they can help and why there is hope for the future.   

    

7.      Follow up: Once is never enough!  Keep coming back with updates and answers.

 The Bottom Line: The secret to thriving in the uncertainty of the WorkQuake© & the current crappy economy?  Communicate! Communicate!  Communicate!  

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2 Comments

  • Paul Glover

    Good observations Aki.
    The issue is to not tell employees what they want to hear but what they need to hear. If it affects them directly they need to hear it. If it affects them indirectly they may only want to hear it.
    Overinformation - especially without adequate explanation - can be as detrimental as no information. Good managers know the difference and - as you point out- are able to satisfy employees' need to know.

  • Aki Ben-Ezra

    Hello Paul, this is an excellent post. I so agree with you on the point 'Employees are adults and can handle some bad news'. This is what I keep telling our Managers and a lot of them still don't get it. People can handle tough messages and if you don't tell them what is going on they become distrustful. Once this has happened it takes YEARS to win their trust back!!! Employees feel appreciated when Management involves them in 'current affairs'. My experience is that they don't always want to know all the details, sometimes it's even enough to tell them that discussions on a certain topic are being held and that they will be informed in due course.