Three Tips to Enhance Leadership Communications

Leaders want to be heard and great leaders want to listen. But this can be difficult to achieve in organizations with largely remote or deskless workers. Many organizations still rely heavily on email and print communications. And some are still dependent on leaders cascading information to frontline employees. While all can be effective, they also pose challenges and ultimately make it difficult for leaders to effectively communicate across their organization and measure the success of communications as a whole.

As communications professionals, we know our leaders are looking for more effective ways to communicate. But we struggle to get the necessary approvals and budget to make changes in strategy or to introduce new tools. 

Here are three tips to help you get leadership support and budget to enhance leadership communication.

1. Start and end with data.

Historically, communicators have had to rely on anecdotes and our instincts when it comes to assessing our communications strategy. Although compelling (and we know our efforts make a difference), true ROI is hard to prove.

Data is the answer. And it’s probably within your reach to provide leadership with quantifiable evidence that employees want to hear from them. Employee surveys are the perfect place to start gathering this data. Asking questions about trust in leadership, transparency, and whether they feel leadership demonstrates the vision / mission / values, will provide the foundation for your conversation with your C-suite. Use the results from employee engagement surveys to find gaps in current communications strategies and to understand what is most important to your employees when it comes to communications.

2. Don’t have your own data? Rely on studies already published.

Edelman’s 2019 Trust Barometer is full of valuable findings on the value of leadership communication. Here’s one example. “Employees who have trust in their employer are far more likely to engage in beneficial actions on their behalf. They will advocate on behalf of their organization, are more engaged, and remain far more loyal and engaged.”

Another great resource is www.hbr.org. Just click on this link and you’ll find hundreds of examples of why communication is instrumental to any company’s success. Whether it’s showing the correlation between effective leadership communication and employee retention and productivity, or how employees value transparency and real-time access to information, there are many reputable resources that will help you make your case.

3. Tell your leaders why you need to change and emphasize what happens if you don’t.

Steps one and two will help you explain why you need to incorporate leadership communication into your internal communications plan. But the true call to action comes from sharing the impact to your organization if you don’t make strategic changes. We all know that there is a significant cost to employee turnover, and leadership and poor communication are among the most common reasons employees choose to leave a company. Break this down for your leadership team by showing the true cost of employee turnover. The cost of an entry-level position turning over is 50% of salary. The cost of a senior executive turning over is over 200% (Forbes).

Then tell leadership what you can do about it. Present a plan which shows a regular cadence for leadership communication that incorporates both written and video / audio channels. Ensure these channels are accessible to all employees and that messages are targeted to specific employee segments for maximum impact. For example, if you include quarterly earnings as one of your leadership comms, know that frontline, hourly employees will want to hear a different message than the finance team at the corporate office. 

What’s Next

Developing a strategy for leadership communication and getting leadership to embrace the plan will have significant impacts on your organization’s bottom line and the employee experience. Don’t wait for 2020 to begin developing this strategy. By starting now, you will identify if you have the tools and resources to support your strategy which means you can assess what you need to budget for in 2020 and beyond.

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