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Building a Foundation of Trust for Internal Communications

Posted on September 7, 2021 by

Tim Finerty

Tim Finerty

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In past discussions on winning the talent game, we covered leadership development concepts, post-pandemic workplace changes and basic definitions of company culture. Here we explore the role internal communications practices play in establishing a vibrant organizational culture.

In conversations with Clayton & McKervey’s Industrial Automation, Architecture & Engineering and Manufacturing & Distribution communities, the quality of internal communications comes up time and again as a vital factor for a talent-magnetic culture. Success takes more than a punchy keynote speech from the CEO – everyone needs to be in on the conversation to make the message stick.

Communication demands a two-way conversation

A common reflex is to focus on the “outbound” message in communications planning. There’s often a rush to create slick “core values” images and drop them into every company channel. Cultural assets like these are important, but they’re likely to be ineffective unless your people believe that leaders are also actively listening.

Do 1:1 meetings allow employees to safely address concerns, or do they mostly serve leaders who want to offload their own to-do lists? How often do senior leaders visibly seek feedback on the workplace experience through objective surveys or open “fireside chat” gatherings?

To ask and do nothing is worse than not asking

Companies with successful cultures not only seize opportunities to listen to the whole organization, but also come back with honest progress reports. Here are some best practices that emerged in our conversations with culture champions:

  1. The best communications plans focus on key messages that are important to your front-line workers – not just the performance metrics that matter to shareholders.
  2. Key messages need frequent repetition in small bites to become an authentic part of daily work conversations. Think “7 touches,” “rolling thunder,” or “10 times in 10 ways.”
  3. When there’s tough news, it should come from a senior executive. People want to hear good news, or simple job specifics, from their direct supervisor.
  4. Make sure “cascading communications” are built into your plan.
  5. Trust is key. People can handle more of the truth sooner than we give them credit for. Sometimes information must be closely held but try to err on the side of transparency.
  6. Build a “street team” of culture champions that represent the entire organization. Bring them into message planning early and provide them with “grab and go” tools that make it easy for them to help cascade messages.

When you have processes like this in place, your cultural objectives have a better chance of success. In turn, this boosts engagement in a way that makes people want to invest discretionary effort in fulfilling your organization’s purpose.

Continuing the culture conversation

We look forward to discussing how culture can contribute to a healthy bottom line. Contact us today to learn about the programs, tools and resources we offer to help guide this process.

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Tim Finerty

Shareholder, Industrial Automation

Tim provides tax, accounting and consulting support to help industrial automation companies maximize profitability.

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