As workforces age and skills gaps widen, it’s imperative for leaders to bring together strategy deliberation and execution. According to research commissioned by consultancies SuccessFactors and Accenture in April, 80 percent of leaders recognize they are not doing their best to communicate strategy through the organization. Further, according to findings from a survey of 1,400 corporate executives and employees announced in May by leadership development and training firm Fierce Inc., more than 70 percent of respondents either agree or strongly agree that a lack of candor impacts the company’s ability to perform optimally. As economic recovery continues and developing and executing the organization’s strategy becomes a priority, leaders should reverse traditional information flow and facilitate a bottom-up flood of opinions and ideas rather than one-way delegation from management.
“Conversations are the building blocks of relationships, and those relationships either create [an] engaged or unengaged workforce — a positive or toxic culture,” said Halley Bock, CEO and president at Fierce Inc. “To nurture cross-boundary collaboration, leaders should invite employees to be part of executing the organization’s mission and strategy. Too often, companies rely on recognition or engagement programs to reward employees they want recognized. The problem with that is that people don’t engage with programs, they engage with other people. The gift of your time, involving them and being specific on how they contributed goes a lot further than leaders seem to understand.”
While more than 90 percent of respondents to the Fierce survey reported believing decision makers should seek out other opinions before making a final decision, approximately 40 percent think leaders and decision makers consistently fail to do so. Employers who fail to communicate their business plans properly to their staff and dismiss their points of view are missing out on engagement.
“Ninety-five percent of what leaders need is right there in front of their noses,” said Vivian James Rigney, president of Inside Us LLC, an executive coaching organization. “They just need to slow down, listen and engage with people. You get more valuable information, build bridges of trust and share accountability much more effectively when you begin to communicate. Organizations thrive best when there’s a culture of calibrating lofty goals and strategies with people resources and maximizing that. It’s listening, acknowledging and understanding that there’s more to decision making than listening to those at the top.”
Workplace communication problems are not unique to any industry sector or rung on the corporate ladder. Nearly 100 percent of respondents to the Fierce survey prefer workplaces in which people identify and discuss issues truthfully and effectively, yet less than half said their organization’s tendency is to do so. These issues are slowing down projects, productivity, employee retention and the bottom line.
Workplaces lacking in collaboration and communication may arrive at undesirable operational business results. According to Chieh-Wen Sheng, Yi-Fang Tian and Ming-Chia Chen, authors of the article “Relationship among teamwork behavior, trust, perceived team support, and team commitment” published last year in Social Behavior & Personality, in order to cure maladies of ineffective, closed-contact workplaces, leaders must communicate what the goals and objectives of the organization are because employees are more apt to produce when they are aware of what is expected. Leaders should empower employees and involve them in the decision-making process to boost employee morale, confidence and trust, and they should recognize, acknowledge and reward employees who consistently demonstrate expected behaviors.
“Employees get enormous amounts of motivation from being involved,” Rigney said. “When they’re part of the process, they believe they’re listened to, respected and part of something. This allows a dominant leader, an alpha leader, to continue being the strong decision maker, but it also allows their team to be with them and an integral part of the development of the business.”
Ladan Nikravan is an associate editor of Chief Learning Officer magazine. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.