Attention Leaders: We Need to talk by Frank Sonnenberg
To succeed in today’s competitive marketplace, organizations must give internal communication the priority that it deserves. They must view it as an avenue to release the creative genius of an organization, not as a bothersome chore. After all, communication acts as a powerful agent of change, a source of continuous improvement, and a catalyst for moving the organization forward.
According to 2010 Towers Watson Communication ROI Study Report, “Companies with highly effective communication had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the five-year period (mid-2004 to mid-2009) compared with companies with less effective communication practices.”
Employees are saying they need information today because it’s obsolete tomorrow; they are saying it must be relevant, customized to meet their specific needs, or they’re just not interested. What brought about this fierce desire to know more and know it now? It’s driven by the belief that in an age of abundant information and rapid change, you can’t be productive by waiting until the end of the month to receive a generically written, watered-down newsletter that doesn’t provide relevant information. While that may have been satisfactory yesterday, in today’s fierce global economy, it isn’t enough.
Management should embrace new technologies and support the various forms of communication that are available. It must view information as a competitive weapon, not as a threat; it must support knowledge and learning at every level. First-line managers must keep in mind that effective internal communication must be:
• Multidirectional––upward, downward, lateral, diagonal
• Objective––expressing all sides of an issue
• Comprehensive––both in breadth of subject and depth of content
• Relevant––expressing issues that are meaningful; for example, providing the rationale behind policies
• Credible––expressed by those in the know
• Inviting––cutting through the information clutter
• Honest––truthful, factual, and error free
• Open––a fair and open exchange of ideas; bad as well as good news
• Thorough––containing more rather than less information
• Prioritized––filtered by importance so people aren’t victims of information overload
• Timely––the most up-to-date information possible so that people don’t have to go to other sources to get the information
• Consistent––actions consistent with words
• Appealing––easy to scan and understand
• Frequent––disseminated at regular intervals
• Reinforced––disseminated through multiple media
• Coordinated––in line with other communication elements
• Participatory––involving and relevant to the audience
• Measurable––evaluated regularly to determine effectiveness on the target audience
Today and in the years to come, organizations will have to focus on winning employees back; building trust, respect, and teamwork between people; being receptive to and then acting on the best ideas; and once again instilling employees with pride in and commitment to the organization.
Internal communication will be a major force in achieving those ends.
This article was adapted from Frank Sonnenberg’s new book, Managing with a Conscience: How to Improve Performance Through Integrity, Trust, and Commitment (2nd edition). Frank Sonnenberg, a marketing strategist, has written four books and published over 300 articles. • IndustryWeek named the first edition of Managing with a Conscience one of the Top Ten Business Books of the Year • Trust Across America named Sonnenberg one of the Top 100 Thought Leaders of 2011 and 2012 • In 2011, Social Media Marketing Magazine (SMM) selected Sonnenberg as one of the top marketing authors in the world on Twitter. http://www.franksonnenbergonline.com © 2012 Frank Sonnenberg. All rights reserved.