It would be great to think that employees are fascinated by every piece of information about your company, and that they can’t wait for leaders to share information about Big Picture topics like the 7-point strategy or a bold new initiative or EBITDA results.
But despite the fact that senior leaders approach communication as if employees are hanging on every word, the reality is quite different.
You can see so much of this hanging-on-every-word assumption in standard leader communication: sending email messages to all employees, posting long blogs, talking for 40 minutes during town hall meetings, and holding forth at web meetings, conference calls and other information-sharing venues.
Meanwhile, a percentage of employees may be facing the stage and opening the message, so they seem to be on board, but the reality is that their minds are elsewhere. They’re worried about losing their jobs, or meeting their goals, or their boss’s increasing anxiety, or their customers’ increasing elusiveness, or a million things other than what the CEO is saying.
How do you know if you have this problem—if all that communication is falling upon deaf ears? Two ways:
- Use measurement—surveys and focus groups—to determine what’s actually happening with employees. (Don't assume that just because communication was sent or occurred that it actually worked.)
- Once you know for sure that you’ve got a problem, change the way leaders communicate (which, by the way, is long overdue in any case). The leader’s communication role is not to deliver information—it’s to provide the focus and context so employees know what to do to help the company succeed (or survive). That’s very different than a 44-slide PowerPoint deck.
Even though employees do care about the company, the “they’re just not that into you” problem occurs in almost every organization.
That’s why it’s time to focus much, much more on WIIFM—“what’s in it for you”—than “what we want to share.”