Are communicators doing the right things to help leaders engage?

The latest CIPD Employee Outlook report makes interesting reading and should at least get us to question our priorities, if not our effectiveness, as professional communication practitioners.

The report shows that most UK organisations – with the public sector being particularly poor- continue to fail to engage the majority of their staff –only 35% are actively engaged, while a huge 61% are neutral. Linked to this is, amongst others, a worrying erosion of employee belief and trust in senior managers in all organisations.  Employees are particularly critical of the way senior managers consistently fail to listen to them and to show understanding and respect.  To quote the report authors:

“This dissatisfaction with the way employees feel they are consulted by their senior leaders is also reflected by an increase in negative views on the extent employees feel they have a voice in their organisation.”

Satisfaction with communication on the other hand, at least in terms of information transmitted,  seems to fare much better. The report shows that just over half of all respondents are fairly or very well informed about what is happening in their organisations.

What should communicators conclude from this?  Can we say we are doing a good job on this evidence?  Yes, we must take some credit that at least half of all UK employees appear to know what’s going on in their business. Yes, there is still a job to be done in getting the other 49% to the same place – by managing the information flow, by creating clarity about organisational purpose and priorities, by helping to shape the organisational narrative.

But, when our leaders continue to struggle and falter, when dialogue in the organisation is poor or non-existent, when trust and employee engagement remains at an all time low, we should also ask ourselves whether we have our priorities right. How many of us are prioritising helping our leaders to get out there and connect with employees in meaningful, authentic ways? And I really mean prioritising; helping leaders to address this issue should  no longer be a ‘nice to have’, no longer one of many streams of activity (“we’ll get to it when we can”), no longer too difficult to do, and certainly no longer someone else’s responsibility.

Many communicators are very effective at the ‘heartland’ stuff – creating strategy, managing channels and processes, adapting messages for different audiences. These are important things we should continue to deliver.  But if we cannot support the development of open, constructive conversations between leaders and employees in our organisations, if we cannot help our leaders to get better at listening and at connecting, if we cannot get these numbers to change, we are simply not doing our job!

Read the full CIPD report  - http://www.cipd.co.uk/hr-resources/survey-reports/employee-outlook-winter-2012-13.aspx

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