Thursday, September 03, 2009

The Biggest Bang for the Buck

If one of your goals as a leader is to become a better communicator, there is no better time than now to do just that. Indeed, given the present economic envionment, if you are a leader there has never been a time where it is more important for you to communicate to those you lead.

As we all plan to spend the balance of 2009 moving beyond the recession and into some sort of recovery, the fact remains that the economy and its instability are top-of-mind for most employees. Therefore, it’s crucial to keep the lines of communication open as you navigate your company through these uncertain times. Employees are counting on you for that.

Consulting firm Watson Wyatt surveyed employers about communicating in this rough economic climate. Among the topics employers said they are addressing include company performance and solvency as well as job security — issues employees say are of the most interest to them. Hardly surprising.

How is this communication occurring? According to the survey, the most popular methods seem to be town hall meetings, staff meetings and face-to-face talks. Even email and company intranets are effective tools. Apparently the survey was done before Twitter came on the scene or it probably would have had that as a source as well.

Regardless of the channel, the good news is that the majority (62 percent) said they’re not going to stop. In truth, I was a bit disappointed and surprised that the percertage wasn't higher, but 62% is a good start and hopefully once times improve they will not go back to "business as usual" and allow the "grapevine" to communicate for them.

Why was I disappointed even with 62%? The answer is because if I was the head of HR and the boss came to me and said your budget for the year is $1.00 and you must pick only one item on which to spend it, I would tell him that I was going to spend it on communications with the staff. That's how important I think it is and here's why:

The real driver for productivity doesn't come from the application of technology. The technology is just the tool. The real difference maker is the committment level of the individuals in whose hands the tools are placed and my belief is that committment comes from the motivation that is bourne out of trust and good news or bad (especially bad) the enteprise that levels with its people - wins.

This is not to say that there aren't any number of other elements involved, of course there are, but if these are not bulit on a foundation of trust, long term the organization will find committment replaced by people who are simply going through the motions.

And before you say "Hey Dave, tell me something I don't know," explain to me why more companies don't do it? Maybe it's because as my mother used to say their leaders have the "morals of an alley cat?"

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