This blog is provided by the IPR Organizational Communication Research Center
The Edelman Trust Barometer always makes me sit up and take notice when it’s released each January. Its insights and trends are telling, and give me food for thought as the year ahead takes shape.
The 2020 Edelman Trust Barometer tells us none of the major societal institutions – government, business, NGOs and media – are enjoying high levels of trust. And as far as business is concerned, this year’s respondents said employees are over five times more important to a company’s long- term success than shareholders.
So are companies doing enough to earn and maintain the trust of their employees? Here’s how internal communications can help.
Be clear why the company exists and what it stands for.
Purpose is becoming more and more important to employees as they make decisions about who they want to work for. Internal communicators can help get employees involved in articulating this purpose, so it resonates beyond the boardroom, and help company leaders understand what matters to employees and why they come to work.
Connect employees to business performance.
Do your employees understand what their organisation wants to achieve and how they contribute to these goals? People want to know if they’re making a difference, so help them understand what this means for the work they do. Their work makes the numbers, so each time your organisation tells the outside world how it’s performing, share this with employees in a meaningful way.
When change takes place, do it with your employees – not to them.
Change in business is constant. Employees realise that businesses cannot stand still, but it doesn’t mean they’re any less affected by change when it happens. So involve them every step of the way. Hear what they say when you explain why change is needed, and build this into what, when and how change takes place. Employees who feel they were listened to are more likely to accept and embrace change, and to trust their employer is doing it for the right reasons.
Celebrate the people who make success happen.
For each customer win, cost initiative or community contribution, there are passionate teams that made them succeed. Good internal communication shines a light on the people behind the project or process. So seek out stories that include the challenges they overcame and the lessons they learned.
Demonstrate action over intent for what matters the most.
Good companies take employee development, diversity and inclusion and sustainability seriously. The best demonstrate action over intent, because they know it can be the difference between employees choosing to join or to leave them. Internal communicators can keep these issues at the forefront by finding new and exciting ways to involve employees in what matters to them the most.
Treat employees like the adults they are.
Whether things are going brilliantly or badly, people appreciate being told how it is. Treating people like the adults they are, who can handle good news or bad, is one of the fastest ways to earn their respect and trust. Treat them less so and it’s also one of the quickest ways to lose it. Honesty is always the best policy.
Show you understand their world and their work.
Too often there’s a disconnect between what we think is the best way of communicating with people and the reality. This is a chance for internal communicators to show that they know their workforce, what they do and how they do it. So beware of shiny new things. Don’t impose a communications channel on people if they don’t have the time or means to use it. Instead, invest time and energy in understanding what they want to hear about and who they want to hear from – then find the solution for delivering this.
Don’t just talk – listen.
Even the best internal communicators can’t be everywhere at once. Nor should they rely on an annual survey to understand how employees are feeling. So develop a network of people in the business that you can trust to tell you how it really is, and use this intelligence and insight to act on what you hear.
Neil Jenkins is based in the UK and is Director of Internal Communications at Iron Mountain. He has worked in internal communications for over 20 years, including senior roles at Siemens, Vodafone, Coca-Cola and BT.