Leaders want to be heard and great leaders want to listen, which 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 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 to 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 still struggle to get the necessary approvals and budget to make certain 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 the success of our various communications strategy. Although compelling (and we know our efforts make a difference), true ROI is hard to prove.
Data is the answer and is 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 from leadership, and whether they feel leadership demonstrates 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. An article in Forbes, “Companies Need To Know The Dollar Cost Of Employee Turnover,” gave one estimate to turnover as follows: “Cost of an entry-level position turning over at 50 percent of salary; mid-level at 125 percent of salary; and senior executive over 200 percent of salary.”
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. Make sure these channels are accessible to all employees and ensure the 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 front line, hourly employees will want to hear a different message than the finance team at the corporate office.
Developing a strategy for leadership communication and getting leadership to embrace the plan will have significant impacts on your organization’s bottom line and to the overall 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.