CONNECTIONS

An Edelman perspective on making meaningful employee connections that deepen engagement, build trust and accelerate business performance.

NOVEMBER 2012

EXPLAIN, ENGAGE, EXECUTE
FIVE STRATEGIES FOR HELPING LEADERS BECO ME BETTER COMMUNICAT ORS
Picture a strong leader. What makes them so special? Most likely, they deliver solid business results. Respond to customer needs. Capitalize on emerging trends. And demonstrate less-quantifiable behaviors as well: Walking the halls and connecting with employees. Sharing information freely and proactively. Simply listening. It’s clear that a strong leader has both functional expertise and communication skills. This isn’t a profound or new revelation. But it’s easy to lose sight of this basic truth as social media and a 24/7 news cycle give employees other avenues for gaining information about their company. Still, bosses continue to hold enormous influence over their teams. Indeed, leaders who demonstrate effective communication skills can:      Minimize turnover and retain top talent Align employees’ work with strategy Increase trust in leadership Surface emerging issues early Limit distractions caused by rumors or speculation

Communicators say “improving line manager communications” is their No. 1 challenge
(Melcrum Member Survey)

Only 41 percent of employees say their leaders create a dialogue with them.
(2011-12 Towers Watson Change & Comm. ROI Study)

Only 40 percent of employees say the CEO is a credible source of information.
(2012 Edelman Trust Barometer)

DEVELOPING LEADERS’ COMMUNICATION SKILLS: WHAT DOES IT TAKE?
Not every leader thinks about communication as often as they do the latest sales numbers. Some are just less comfortable engaging with their teams. Fortunately, leadership communication is a teachable skill. Numerous training programs are available to help build such competencies, some customized right down to the individual. Generally speaking, though, the companies that best empower their leaders to communicate treat them as a special population, not just as a communications channel. They engage leaders in the business so they have the skills and context to initiate conversations with their teams to:    Explain new information Engage employees in dialogue Agree on actions they will Execute

Typically this approach involves combining several strategies to provide leaders the confidence and context to communicate. Here are five critical ones...

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at employee.engagement@edelman.com.

CONNECTIONS
From Edelman’s Employee Engagement Practice | October 2012

1. CREATE EXCLUSIVE FOR UMS FOR MANAGERS
Many companies host regular, planned events (either virtual or in-person) for leaders and managers. The goal: to get them more deeply involved in the business beyond their immediate business unit. This helps them provide context about new developments when engaging with their teams. It also serves as an opportunity for managers to interact with senior leaders and their peers. Some communication departments set up virtual discussions via Yammer, Sharepoint or other interactive platforms just for those who manage people.

LEADERSHIP COMMUNICATION STRATEGIES

2. PROVIDE ADVANCE NOTIFICATION
How much time before a major announcement do your leaders and managers get to review talking points before they must communicate with employees? Often, it’s only a matter of minutes. Provide managers as much time as possible to become familiar with their communication materials, while of course not creating any regulatory disclosure issues. If feasible, schedule a call before announcements so managers can ask questions and prepare for communicating with their employees. Some companies do this ahead of quarterly earnings announcements, sharing a preview of the release (with actual numbers omitted) the night before. At one organization, managers join a call with the CEO and ask him their toughest questions. Consequently, managers get to learn more and the CEO is able to prep for questions he’ll later get from analysts.

3. OFFER COMMUNICATION AND STORYTELLING TOOLS
Provide leaders and managers a central place to find everything they need for their communication. Whether it’s a standalone website or section on the intranet, house all templates, toolkits, sample materials and communication guidance there. One organization follows a “60/40” formula in delivering materials for every announcement: Sixty percent of the content is standard for everyone in the company, while managers have autonomy to customize the remaining 40 percent to address their team’s interests.

4. PROVIDE TARGETED TRAINING AND COACHING
Just as communications prowess varies from leader to leader, so do the types of training programs available to them. Many companies start by assessing managers’ skills, then creating a mix of in-person workshops and selfpaced online modules. Typically, these focus on general communication skills (such as training for first-time managers) or on specific topics (conveying strategy, crisis communication, engaging employees during times of change, etc.). Often, communicators will offer senior-level executives one-on-one coaching and support with the goal of empowering these leaders to communicate effectively on their own. One client recently launched a training program to help managers develop their own personal storytelling approach to drive change with their teams, even when the communications staff wasn’t present.

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at employee.engagement@edelman.com.

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CONNECTIONS
From Edelman’s Employee Engagement Practice | October 2012

5. EVALUATE AND MEASURE COMMUNICATION EFFECTIVENESS
No communications effort is complete without measurement. Holding managers accountable for communication is truly the only way to make sure they do it. Specific communication metrics should be integrated into performance reviews, with corresponding processes set up to gather feedback on how well managers meet those objectives, such as 360-degree evaluations. Look for opportunities throughout the year – and beyond the annual review cycle – to give leaders and managers constructive feedback. These can include instant polls via mobile devices or postmeeting surveys to gauge leaders’ effectiveness during town halls or other employee gatherings.

ABOUT US
Edelman’s Employee Engagement Practice helps organizations accelerate business performance, delivered by highly engaged and trusted employees. We do this by making meaningful, trust-building connections — connecting employees with the company, connecting employees with each other, and connecting employees with the outside world. We have a global network of employee engagement specialists who can develop engagement strategy; deploy the tools and processes to deliver it; create the multimedia channels and content that support it; and design the insight mechanisms to measure it.

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at employee.engagement@edelman.com.

For more information, please contact Edelman Employee Engagement at employee.engagement@edelman.com.

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