Trust in politicians is at an all-time low – trust in business leaders is not much better

During the last few years, we have witnessed seismic shifts in politics. There has been a tidal wave against moderate politics, which has gathered pace through 2018. This process began with Brexit and Trump and has accelerated. A lack of effective political cohesion has led to splits within unions, countries, parties and people. For example:

  • Italy has rebelled against EU financial rules
  • Macron’s popularity rating of around 20% is the lowest of any leader in the world
  • Populist parties are growing in influence, as evidenced in Spain, where far-right parties have won seats in a regional parliament for the first time since the death of Franco

Whatever your political persuasion, it cannot be denied that in most democracies, politicians are even less trusted than they were in the past. This mistrust has led to the overthrowing of the ‘establishment’ and the uncertain world in which we currently live.

This trend should be taken seriously by business leaders. Interestingly, an Ipsos MORI survey, using the Veracity Index published in December 2016 found that politicians and government ministers were the most mistrusted professions. Not much more highly regarded are journalists and estate agents. Fifth from bottom are business leaders, with only 37% of people saying they are to be trusted.

The question that business leaders may need to answer (if they are to avoid similar turmoil within their companies to that which we have witnessed in politics) is how they improve their internal organisational communications to build the trust needed to lead their organisations in a constantly changing business environment.

In this article, we discuss four internal organisational communications challenges faced by business leaders today.

 

1.    Improving communication capabilities

During turbulent times and times of change, positive leadership is essential. An organisation’s leaders and managers play a critical role, creating a path upon which employees will walk toward the future vision. Internal organisational communications is mission critical. Without effective communication, people will not understand what is expected of them, what their responsibilities are, and how their role integrates with the bigger picture.

Organisations that don’t help their leaders and managers communicate more effectively should expect high failure rates. To engage people in change, managers should communicate more openly, break down complexity, and empower employees to understand their own role in the process of change.

Leaders who don’t communicate effectively or show genuine empathy (something at which politicians fail miserably), are likely to find resistance grows and disinterest blossoms.

 

2.    Deepening employees’ connection with purpose

In its 2017 study titled ‘2030 Purpose: Good business and a better future’, Deloitte found that 73% of people who say they work at a purpose-driven organisation feel engaged with their work. To ensure that their employees are similarly engaged with their employer, organisational leaders should ensure that the future vision and organisational goals are clearly defined. They should also ensure that employees understand the difference attaining these goals will make and that these same employees are confident about their contribution to making a difference. The way to do this is to develop an effective internal organisational communications strategy.

Many employees thrive on receiving feedback. This is especially true of millennials and Gen Z, who have entered the world of work having grown up in the social media age. They are used to a constant stream of information sharing, and are enthused by likes, shares and comments.

Internal organisational communication is key to providing the messages that motivate and engage staff in an organisation’s purpose. By highlighting why people are asked to do the job they do, broadcasting achievements and sharing progress reports, organisations can motivate their staff to pull together in a more productive effort towards goals.

 

3.    How organisations communicate change

Many companies use a “download” approach when communicating change, relying on traditional communication methods (i.e. town hall meetings and presentations) to inform employees of a project’s aims and the process of making change happen. This download approach often results in a lot of information being shared from the top, but little information effectively reaching where it is needed most: at the front line. It also leads to a lack of two-way information flowing back up the organisation relating to how well the change resonates at all levels.

When Karbon Homes (formerly Isos Housing) undertook a significant restructure of their business, they realised that employee engagement would be key to success. Through an employee survey, they identified that their staff wanted greater organisational clarity and direction. Without a considerable improvement in employee engagement, its “Better as One” restructure had the potential to “negatively affect morale and performance if they failed to engage staff through the process”.

To address its internal organisational communications challenges, Karbon Homes created ‘The Big Picture’, designed to facilitate and communicate organisational clarity to engage employees at all levels. To ensure clarity of the need for change and the process of change, Karbon Homes incorporated the Learning Map System in its communication strategy. Results were startling and included:

  • 99% saying they understand what Karbon Homes is about, where they are going, and why
  • 99% understanding how important the company’s values are to its future success
  • 98% feeling proud to be a part of Karbon Homes

Providing leaders and managers with effective communication tools enables organisations to understand their employees better and improve information flow, thus driving the decisions that help to improve employee engagement.

 

4.    Reducing complexity

Often, when explaining complex situations, circumstances or decisions, leaders and managers fail to communicate in a language that is easily understood. They use jargon and technical language, interspersed with frustratingly tedious statistics, presented on confusing PowerPoint presentations.

Good communicators understand that reducing complexity and keeping it simple is the essence of effective communication. Leaders like Jeff Bezos at Amazon utilise the strength of storytelling rather than the pain of presentations to get their messages across. Effective communication methods to shift complex to simple (and memorable) include:

  • Adopting metaphors
  • Storytelling
  • Using analogies and anecdotes
  • Employing visual communication techniques

Complex messages are frustrating for everyone, and the likelihood that they can cause confusion and distance between employees and an organisation’s vision makes them more prone to being ignored. The moral is to develop internal organisational communication processes that keep messages simple and, therefore, improve employee engagement.

 

In conclusion

Internal organisational communications binds an organisation’s different parts together. Therefore, internal organisational communications should be an integral part of strategic business planning, and not an afterthought. Unless internal organisational communications work to share values, beliefs and vision effectively, an organisation will be a collection of individuals with their own individual goals. This is likely to lead to disconnected teams and disconnected motivations.

When an organisation’s internal organisational communications work effectively, they help to engage employees in the big picture, and bring internal connections into focus. In turn, this helps to increase productivity and motivate employees to achieve their full potential.

To discover how our Learning Map System helps to drive more effective internal organisational communications and improve employee engagement, get in touch with BigPicture Learning today.

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