If you asked employees to list the most common silos in your company, would you expect them to mention executive leadership vs. employees? In Tribe’s recent survey with employees of large companies, this silo was the fourth most frequently selected option, along with departments, business units and geographic locations. (Silos white paper available in September.)
It might be interesting to ask your own top leadership if they feel employees understand their vision. Ironically, many have the impression that they’re keeping employees fully in the loop when there may be little to no communication sent directly from them to the hoi polloi of the workforce.
Cascading this information through managers is a half measure. Yes, it’s important to give managers the tools and training to communicate important messages to their teams. But in Tribe’s research, the company vision is one topic the employees want to hear directly from the CEO or other top execs. (See the executive summary of this earlier study on the Expertise page of Tribe’s site.)
Executive management is also often woefully out of touch with what employees think and feel. I once had the CFO of a Fortune 500 brand tell me that they had not given an employee bonus, for the first year in the company’s history, and everybody seemed fine with it. When I asked how he knew they were fine, he said because he hadn’t heard any employees complain about it. As if any of the guys from the warehouse would feel completely comfortable stopping by the CFO’s office to mention a perceived slight or disappointment.
Actually, that is the solution, or at least a first step. Providing two-way communication between employees and the executive team gives people a chance to share their concerns, but also their questions and ideas. There are a number of ways to create this channel, from a feedback page on the intranet to an 800 number to something as low-tech as an old-fashioned suggestion box that allows employees to jot down a comment on paper and drop it in the slot.
Another part of the solution is at least one direct channel from top leadership to employees regarding the vision. This channel can inspire employees to align with the vision, and to understand how their roles in the company contribute to achieving that vision. It might be an executive leadership blog, rotating authorship from one executive team member to the next by week or month. It could be part of an internal magazine sent to employees’ homes. It could even be tweets or texts. The critical element is that it be communicated directly from the top to employees at all levels, not filtered through managers to their teams.
Need help breaking down the executive silo in your company? Tribe would be happy to help.