Small scale vs scatter gun internal communications.
“I want to reach as many employees as possible in one hit! What’s the point if I can only speak with 15 at a time?”, said one CEO I was supporting with internal communications strategy, plan and activities. “Well”, I said, “The point is that you can have a conversation one to one. An intimate, authentic conversation that gives both the employee, and the leader, a fantastic opportunity to speak openly about “what’s up”. What’s up, what’s bothering them, their challenges, priorities, successes and much more. Even something personal.
In all my roles, as Head of global or regional internal communications, I have always been a great advocate of supporting the underdog. Those voices that are not as loud as the others or that are drowned out by more prominent, vocal employees. The introverts and individual contributors who are not necessarily willing to speak up or to put their heads above the parapet but who have something to say and contribute that can add value to the business with their ideas.
My current internal communication consultancy, ‘Where to Look Communications’, provides communication consultancy. I see myself as a ‘Great Connector’ and a ‘Universal Friend’ to all. Ensuring that very junior employees get an opportunity to engage regularly with leadership is the key to creating positive relationships, building goodwill and ensuring that the gap between strategy and execution is as small as it can possibly be.
If there’s a total disconnect between the two then having regular discussions can, at the very least, help expose the gap between what leaders are saying and what is being executed by colleagues on the frontline. This type of honest and open forum can be perceived as threatening both to leaders being questioned and to the employees doing the questioning.
There are several ways to tackle the reluctance. From framing the initial conversations and progressing to the topic as an unstructured Q&A session to submitting questions, in advance, (the old tricks are the best!) and, most importantly, providing clear guidance on the purpose, objectives and process for the sessions. This should include information about how to use the platform – if it is an online chat for example – even if you think it’s obvious because it will almost certainly NOT be obvious to all employees.
As well as etiquette guidance for conduct on the call or platform, during the session.
In my experience, these interventions go a long way to making the events more effective, efficient and fruitful for all participants – including the leader in question.