Open communication stop rumours undermining morale

Keeping water cooler gossip under control

As the January holiday period comes to a close and staff numbers come back to normal levels in offices, big questions remain about the economy and the workforce.

Many companies are preparing to meet the effects of the economic tsunami by cutting down staff strength and implementing strategies that will help them internalise a period of diminishing returns.

Global growth is no longer a given, especially in the short term. The biggest concern for many employees is: will there be a job when the storm blows over?

At times like these, when worries overwhelm the workforce, business leaders must open their channels of communication, says Sefiani Communications Group managing director Robyn Sefiani.

“We are seeing heightened demand from our own CEO clients for communications counsel designed to put employees at ease and provide an appropriate level of reassurance in a highly uncertain environment,” Sefiani says.

“Our advice to business leaders is to move quickly to establish a regular and open communications channel so staff feel they are as informed as they can be about their own work situation and prospects.

“Often the very fact of the CEO communicating is enough to restore calm and get minds focused back on the job, even if there is scant information to be communicated or if no hard reassurances can be given.”

In the absence of relevant communication from the top, rumour takes over and the result is an unproductive atmosphere, says Sefiani.

So it is important for the management leaders to talk to staff early and as often as possible.

Regular updates about where the company is going and what it intends to do can build trust among the employees.”

At all costs, Sefiani says, avoid a situation in which the staff hears of company plans from the media. Direct communication is far better.

Building optimism in the company is also a matter of being transparent, she says. It may be an unusual step, but consider sharing sales data with the staff, if it will foster hope and confidence among the staff.

“Treat employees with respect, however difficult the circumstances,” Sefiani says.

“Corporate reputation still matters in a general downturn, and shabby treatment will reflect badly in the long run.”

Above all, be honest and avoid false assurances. Communication itself is an assurance, but beyond that, presenting an unrealistic picture of the market faced by the company is highly avoidable. If the outlook is challenging, say so, Sefiani advises. Company leaders can demand more effort from the staff if it will help them survive the difficult times.

The unpredictable nature of the downturn will make extraordinary demands on chief executives, and they should be prepared for it.

“The sort of open and direct employee communication required for these times may not come naturally to many CEOs, but that does not lessen its importance,” Sefiani says.

“CEOs should consider intensified employee communications an important tool in their response to this downturn.”

The Weekend Australian

Related articles you might be interested in reading