Organizations operate in an increasingly uncertain environment. With this often chaotic backdrop, Communications can play a powerful role in helping employees to positively react to changes and to ensure they contribute to company growth amid volatility.
Choosing the right communication style can have significant impact on employees’ ability to understand changes and adapt to them promptly. The results of our recent survey of 2,000 employees at large companies show that employees found an interactive (two-way sharing) communication style significantly more valuable in helping them adapt, compared to a directive, top-down (command and control) approach.
So, what’s your typical approach to communciating change? An announcement from leadership, detailing the context and providing as much directive guidance as possible?
Looking at how employees perceive the value of such major announcements about change (usually coming from Communications), only 12.5% answered that they found a very directive, top-down communication style valuable in helping them adapt to change. Compare that to the 87.5% of employees who prefer a highly or at least somewhat interactive communication style. Which percentage would you rather be reaching with your corporate messaging? (If you picked the second group, GOOD!)
However, there seems to be a large disconnect between the style employees respond to and the one they are being presented with. Fifty six percent of employees in our survey described their corporate communications’ messaging style as “very directive” and as “discouraging idea sharing,” and only 5.7% described it as highly interactive.
What are the implications of all of this for Communications?
As the needs of the organization shift, Communications needs to evolve to help employees cope with changes better, faster, and more efficiently. In our 2011 major research initiative on adaptive organizations, we argue that Communications’ role is changing from being a top-down, hierarchical “message creator” to being a “communication enabler,” whose focus is on creating an open environment for employees to listen, share, and interact. Since employees tell us that an interactive communication style (aka dialogue) helps them adapt to changes better…which in turn helps them perform better… isn’t it worth listening to them and giving interactive communication style a try? What’s stopping you?