Views: Two-way conversations key in workplace decision-making

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THE impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on employees highlighted the need for empathetic and compassionate leadership – and this includes ensuring a two-way conversation in terms of workplace decision-making, writes Edel Fitzgerald, associate partner at Reputation Inc. Asking your employees for their views on how best to connect with leaders is an important way to kick-start planning for a thriving workplace, wherever teams are located. It also ensures they feel heard and appreciated. 

Inclusivity in a remote and hybrid environment is also important for leaders to champion. All employees, wherever they are based, should feel connected and have a strong sense of belonging to the culture of the organization. Investment by CEOs in technology and infrastructure can help to ensure everyone feels included and their opinion is heard, avoiding remote employees feeling isolated and on the ‘outside’. 

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More broadly, in an increasingly polarized world where views can be conflicting, CEOs need to consistently promote respect and fairness in an agile workplace. In our work with global companies on their DEI strategy, an increasing area of scrutiny and focus by all stakeholders, including investors, is how to ensure differing views are embraced but are also not divisive and disruptive. This is a challenge for many CEOs we engage with.

Promoting a culture of trust rather than presenteeism and micro-management needs to come from the top. Remote working encourages self-directed outputs and accountability, and CEOs have a role to play in encouraging confidence amongst managers of teams, so they don’t always need to only feel ‘in charge’ by having everyone in person. 

Finally, leaders of companies should be mindful that it is their energy that feeds and drives organizations and people. Creative, meaningful communications and regular company updates directly from the CEO helps to excite and motivate teams. Connecting with employees – at all levels and wherever they are located – and making sure staff get to know the CEO more personally through authentic communications, is increasingly expected by employees and important in the new working environment. 

Ensure internal communications echo culture and values

If a company wants to be truly driven by its values and therefore have a strong culture, it’s important to explicitly write them down and clarify the positive associated behaviors. 

The next step is to communicate them consistently and display them widely across the organization. Indeed, if leaders want employees to embody company values, referring to values often and whenever the opportunity arises is important. Relevant internal communications should integrate the culture and values regularly. A good rule of thumb is the rule of 7 when it comes to communicating messaging consistently and often, in order for employees to take action.

However, it’s often not enough to share the company’s values with a new or existing employee. The company must show these values in action. A great way to do so is to recognize employees who champion them and therefore enhance the culture of an organization. Through internal communications, companies can highlight and congratulate employees on examples of behaviors that deliver these values. There is also the opportunity to invite employees to nominate colleagues who are living the values and celebrate them; for example, through internal publications, a company intranet, team town halls and internal staff briefings. In Reputation Inc, we have seen in our work across several highly demanding industries such as retail, healthcare and manufacturing, that public praise highlighting such internal value ‘ambassadors’ can inspire others to follow suit

Finally, emphasizing why culture and values are so important to a company’s success is instrumental to employees. Leaders of organizations should highlight the impact of these values on the final outcome, ensuring everyone feels aligned with the bottom line and takes active part towards the common goal. 

Instill mission and objectives among team

Too often, a company mission statement is written and forgotten. It’s developed when the founders first establish the business and is written into the initial business plan, but then gathers dust. However, an impactful mission statement can provide strategic direction for an organization, pointing a business towards the right path and ensuring leaders don’t lose sight of what they do well. It also helps stakeholders, such as investors and customers, understand the purpose of the business and supports their decision-making.

Importantly for internal engagement, mission statements can help motivate employees and communicate a clear common goal. This helps improve employee satisfaction by ensuring they understand their role in the business which results in stronger employee engagement. It also helps to differentiate an organization from its peers and encourages a strong culture when emphasized and promoted, reflecting a company that is proud and confident of its identity, purpose and mission. 

A useful way to promote a company’s mission is through storytelling. We are constantly looking at new ways to help companies connect with their employees through creative collateral – and such impactful and engaging collateral can help organizations demonstrate internally how the organization is achieving its mission and objectives. 

Indeed, identifying opportunities to highlight how ongoing projects and initiatives reflect the company’s mission and how every employee plays a role in achieving it, is a great way of bringing the mission and objectives to life and making it tangible. Any internal announcements and updates on targets, progress, results, and achievements should all ideally relate back to how they reflect the overall mission of the company. 

Barriers and opportunities

Good internal communication ensures clarity and allows employees to feel valued. As hybrid becomes normalized and we spend less time in the same space at the same time, communication — and the tools we use — has never been so important for employees to connect and feel like they ‘belong’ to the organization. 

On the other hand, if employees are not informed and updated and they hear about major workplace changes elsewhere, including from outside sources, it can come across as if the team can’t be trusted or isn’t respected by management. 

Barriers to effective internal communication include assuming that employees are fully briefed and aware – particularly if there are language and cultural barriers, and conflicting or mixed messages, which can create confusion; frequent technological failures (such as computer crashes or poor internet connectivity), complaints about slow or poorly performing platforms; and too much information – too convoluted, complex, technical or irrelevant for the communications to be digestible. 

Meanwhile, opportunities include being realistic about what can be achieved, and asking employees what type of communications they want and in what format; consolidating communications platforms; it ensures the company is increasingly ‘speaking with one voice’, simplifying communications platforms and ensuring it’s less likely employees will miss important correspondence. Finally, streamline approvals and sign-offs; often in internal communications programs, there are several layers of reviews and approvals. Assess at the outset of a new strategy how best to acquire approvals efficiently and without being cumbersome. 

Edel Fitzgerald is an associate partner at Reputation Inc, specializing in corporate communications, stakeholder management, strategic digital campaigns, and advocacy. She has led political, regulatory and communications campaigns across a number of international markets.

Fitzgerald currently leads across several clients, devising and implementing strategic communications, reputation research programs and stakeholder management plans.

A graduate of the University of Limerick and Queen’s University Belfast in the area of European Integration and Public Policy, she is proficient in French and German and has worked and studied in Europe.