This is not a line from a lover’s quarrel it is a reflection of the corporate conversations that occur daily. Talented employees often leave organizations because they do not feel valued. They feel that they are being taken for granted and their opinions are not considered. This view is supported by research done by the US based Corporate Leadership Council which reports that 67 percent of employees who intend to leave their organizations feel that they are not valued. Listening or not being heard is one of the key indicators.

When employees feel they are not being valued they vote with their feet. Unfortunately the pattern is repeated in the next organization because corporate communications is generally low on the list of priorities and listening is not a core value.

Some organizations believe that producing a glossy newsletter means that they are communicating effectively. This is such a misguided notion. An analysis of these newsletters often reveals an absence of clear objectives resulting in a publication which reflects the viewpoint of management with little regard for what the employees think or say.

Corporate communications must be at the forefront of the move to ensure a strategic, holistic approach to having meaningful corporate conversations throughout the organization. The cornerstone of effective corporate communications is a system which ensures feedback.

It is no understatement that people feel valued when they believe others are listening. When they perceive that the organization is not listening they experience a significant “disconnect” and leave.

Technology provides us with the opportunity to take a multi disciplinary approach to employee communications.

Maybe the oldest and most abused instrument is the employee survey. Before undertaking a survey you must know what will be done with the results. If the end use is not in the proposal then the survey may be ill advised. Too often organizations conduct employee communications surveys or audits and end at the data gathering stage. This is a recipe to develop cynicism. Employees need to know the results of surveys and subsequently need to be part of the implementation. Well structured surveys can give management excellent insight into the real issues from the perspective of employees and provide the framework for continuing healthy dialogue.

If the survey provides a snapshot of views at a point in time, then ongoing feedback mechanisms provide real time responses to actions taken by management. This means that management can be nimble and responsive based on instant employee feedback.

By definition, management is aware of changes which are on the way long before they are communicated to employees. The announcement is therefore often couched in terms which appear to be cold, uncaring and autocratic. Changing the style of the announcement can work wonders for the receivers of the information.

A common example of a quick feed back system is the use of voice mail. The down side of this is the fact that originating numbers can be traced. This however is not an insurmountable problem.

Another way of obtaining feedback is to encourage written responses. The key is that the organization must act on the reponses or talented people will leave.

Ongoing feedback narrows the gap between what management feels is in the hearts and minds of employees and what is actually in their hearts and minds.

As a final strategy, exit and post exit interviews provide information which would be otherwise lost to the organization. As an additional benefit, this also provides an opportunity to enhance the corporate memory of the organization. When employees leave, they carry with them informal information which can prevent organizations re-inventing the wheel.

To capture the data, the methodology and approach must be consistent. It is not a task to be carried out simply to satisfy a requirement. It might therefore be appropriate to engage a third party from outside of the organization to conduct these interviews.

Linking these tactics to the overall communications strategy means taking action and where this is impossible providing employees with suitable explanations. If this sounds like a lot of work, then rightly so because improving corporate communications has the potential to retain talented employees and positively impact the bottom line.

Organizations intent on maintaining their competitive advantage must ensure that listening becomes a core value.

One caveat, listening without action is merely passing time, listening with action is ensuring organizational survival. Nobody actually says “Listen or I’ll leave” they just leave and that’s expensive.

By Dennise Demming – Public Relations and Training Consultant

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