Never Grow Up
Here's Why Internal Communications Starts With Leadership
People want to know what their employer thinks of everything from the economic climate of the country, to social issues that could potentially affect the company. We’re not just saying this. According to a 2019 Edelman Trust Barometer Report, 71% of employees expect their leadership to speak about the following four aspects:
Industry issues | Political events | National crises | Employee-driven issues
While it may not be possible for employers to regularly comment on everything going on in the world, the onus does fall on them to speak to their employees at least about things that directly affect them.
The importance of internal communications is well known to anyone in a people manager position in a corporate. However, is it clear that this communication needs to be top-down? And if so, then why?
Transparency and Belonging
A 2018 survey on the State of Employee Engagement by HR.com showed that trust in leaders is the biggest influencer of employee engagement, with 77% of employees ranking it highest, followed by their relationship with their immediate supervisor. Clearly, it’s important for employees to feel a connect with their leaders, both at a managerial and at a C-Suite level. Regular communication from the leadership fosters a sense of faith in employees that they are entrusted with important organisational information, and that their presence is noted and valued.
This level of transparency also helps each individual in the company to understand where the organisation as a whole is headed. Whether it’s a global health crisis, or national economic strife, employees who are not in the know about how their organisation is intending to proceed, will feel lost and helpless. This is sure to dampen employee morale and create a deep disconnect. To truly ensure that employees feel like they belong, regular dissemination of information and timely top-down communication can work wonders.
In an interesting piece of research, Gallup found that in the US, employee engagement had increased during the pandemic period. The percentage of workers who reportedly are highly engaged has increased to 38%, the highest since 2000 when Gallup had initially started measuring engagement. Via further tracking, it was discovered that one of the top reasons for this increased engagement is an improved employer response during the COVID-19 pandemic.
Over the past many months, through this circuit breaker period, employers across the globe have striven to deliver the best communication to their employees. Making goals clearer, setting lucid plans in action, holding regular meetings and engagement activities virtually, and even going out of their way to create awareness around COVID-19 – The frequency, volume and quality of top-down communication has been at its peak. While the aforementioned numbers speak for the US alone, this is a trend that the rest of the world can learn from, because organisations all over the world have been stepping up their communication game. Yes, many countries have exited the circuit breaker period, a lot of organisations are back to work as normal. But does that mean we revert to old ways of communicating? Or rather, not communicating enough.
As of the beginning of 2020, according to a study by Qualtrics, Singapore was behind the global average in terms of employee engagement, with the score across the country being 47% while the global average lies at around 53%. The research also states that employees place high value on their work aligning with their company’s strategic objectives. Another key deciding factor for engagement is the ability and freedom to give feedback and have it acted upon.
To put it simply, when employees are actively aware of the vision, mission and values of their company, they are more likely to find their space and what matters to them in the organisation. And when these aspects are communicated to the entire organisation by the senior leadership, a level of gravitas and credibility gets added.
Without internal communication that starts in a top-down manner, none of this is possible. For employees to truly align with their company’s business goals and people goals, they need to be aware of what’s going on. And this means going beyond simple communication. Once employees are aware that the company has certain business goals in mind, they need to know how their individual role helps fulfil these. On the other hand, once the values are stated and conveyed to the organisation, it’s also important to elucidate what kind of behaviours and contributions actually comprise these values.
For example, simply telling employees to be agile won’t change things. What helps is to illustrate the meaning of agility. Making faster decisions, finding more efficient processes, prioritising tasks so that the important ones are done first, staying up to date by analysing competition – These are simple, broken down methods to actually emulate the value of agility.
The art of effective communication is to ensure that it starts top-down and then evolves into a continuous, sustained dialogue where employees are as much a part of the conversation.