I received tons of questions on last weeks blog on how not to EFF Up talking to your people.
Communication in rough times is critical, and it must be truthful, open, and proactive. But that doesn’t mean leaders shouldn’t weigh their words carefully. Here are some suggestions for what leaders should communicate — and what they should keep under their hats.
Don’t talk to workers like you would talk to analysts. The Bank and Investors need to know the details of your financials and your projections. They want hard numbers. Employees, however, need your humanity. Tell analysts that your layoffs represent a small fraction of your workforce. Tell employees that letting people go was the last thing you wanted to do.
Don’t let the rumour mill take over. As bad as things seem, the rumour mill will always make it sound worse. So communicate regularly through every available channel, and — whether the news is good or bad — make sure the message is consistent across all channels. Tell employees everything you can about your company’s finances and how they affect individual employees.
Talk about the greater good. Your business strategy, tactics, and changes are meant to preserve the health of your company. Let employees know when hard decisions are necessary to ensure your company’s survival, especially painful changes like job cuts.
Don’t let employees hear the bad news first on Twitter. When a companywide decision has been made, employees need to hear it first and from you. In tough times, employees need a sense of security, and they won’t get that if they are the last to know.
Be visible. Employees need to see you believe you. They can’t trust that you understand their troubles if you’re not visible in their world. Make the rounds, listen to people, and ask about their situations. Workers will know you care, and you’ll learn things you couldn’t have learned otherwise.
Explain how the economy is affecting your company in words everyone can understand. Don’t assume that your employees know esoteric financial terminology — but don’t talk down to them either. It’s wise to explain why, for instance, a lower share price doesn’t necessarily mean downsizing or how a leveraged buyout will affect personnel.