Do you know the gap between what you want employees to know and feel and what they actually think and feel right now? As you’re developing a communications strategy for any major initiative, whether the topic to be communicated is a major change or the company vision or anything else, you need to understand their current point of view.
The typical engagement survey may not tell you how far away your current reality is from your desired reality. To understand that, you need to ask questions specific to the issue at hand, and to listen for the nuances of what employees are really saying. For that you need more than quantifiable data. You need qualitative conversations.
Time consuming though it may be, focus groups and personal interviews can help you get at the back story. For instance, we once worked with a company that had recently hired a very charismatic and energizing CEO. He was fantastic, and all the survey data indicated that employees’ opinions of him were very high.
But over the course of a handful of focus groups with employees in a wide range of functions, seniority and geography, an interesting theme emerged. Yes, employees thought the new CEO was awesome and they supported the new vision he brought to the organization. Although there also seemed to be an undercurrent of stress, not about the changes he was making, but about their own workloads.
This seemed curious, especially since there had been no layoffs associated with the new CEOs tenure. People still had largely the same job responsibilities they had under the former CEO.
As we invited employees to speak to this undercurrent of stress we had noticed, we learned something we would never have uncovered through survey questions. For one thing, we wouldn’t have known to ask about it.
Employees were stressed because they couldn’t keep up with the CEO. This was a man who seemed to need little sleep, who was at work early and stayed late, who could move from town hall to public appearance to site visits without ever seeming to tire. Although he had no expectation of employees keeping the same kind of schedules, they assumed he did.
That’s something we could address in the communications strategy. It revealed the gap between what leadership wanted employees to think and feel and what they really were thinking and feeling. Knowledge of that gap provided an important perspective for developing communications related to the culture the new CEO wanted to create.
Interested in learning more about your communications gaps? Tribe can help.