Talk is Cheap (And Effective)

On Steve's Mind: a Newsletter

Why Executives Should Share Successes with Employees

Most best-kept company secrets I encounter aren’t proprietary processes, acquisition plans or locked-away family recipes. They are the ordinary, day-to-day successes and plans for success that businesses have.

Latent ProfitI was speaking with two senior executives recently, and they told me about some positive breakthroughs the business had experienced since the last time we spoke. Their client attrition rates had dropped significantly, and their client satisfaction rates had improved significantly. They had also noticed a meaningful increase in the number of referrals from current clients. I asked if these positive developments had helped boost the morale of the company’s 100 employees. “Well,” one of the executives sheepishly responded, “We haven’t shared any of this news with them.”

In another recent conversation I had with a CEO of a different company, I learned of his company’s new strategies for growth, which were the product of much hard work by his senior executive team. The strategies sounded impressive, and I asked if he had shared them with his team of 250 employees. “I don’t think they’d really care,” he said, “They are very skeptical of everything we tell them.”

Why keep the good news a secret?

My belief, after years of advising senior executives, is that employees don’t hear about positive developments for a few key reasons:

  • Senior executives don’t think about sharing good news. The broader population of employees isn’t on their radar when they are thinking about big-picture company issues.
  • Senior executives assume employees won’t care.  The only reason they won’t care is if you don’t communicate the information in a way that is meaningful to them. You should be able to describe how your company’s success benefits your employees, or you are defining success in the wrong way. (Simple exercise: List the ways your employees benefit if your company is more profitable.)
  • Senior executive assume employees won’t understand.  Trust me, they will understand. I have conducted hundreds of employee focus groups and described countless company strategies to front-line employees, and I am convinced that inarticulate communication is the only real reason employees can’t understand company strategies and successes.

Why share good news with employees?

It’s simple human nature. People perform better when they understand– and value– the impact and implications of the work they do. If employees believe they are part of an important organization, and that they play an important role in that organization’s success, they will feel more fulfilled and perform more effectively. It’s not rocket science. It’s life.

Try this out at your own company. Ask five employees, “What are our recent successes?” Then, separately, ask “What are our company’s key priorities over the next two years?”

Are employees able to answer these questions?

If not, ask yourself, “How well have we been communicating important company issues to our employees?”

There are many company-improvement initiatives that could cost you a lot of money. This is not one of them. Bringing your employees in on conversations about current successes and future plans is a very inexpensive investment that can bring you powerful returns with relatively modest effort.

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Posted in Internal Marketing, Latent Profit, Observations

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