Don't communicate, listen

At a time of skill shortages and a tight labour market, internal communications couldn’t be more important. Employers are looking at ways of retaining their people in an environment where opportunities abound, and salaries are rising.

Companies are communicating more with their people, but not everyone is getting it right.

I was recently handed an email from the CEO of medium-sized WA business, designed to explain why employees should stay with the company, rather than take advantage of the larger salary packages on offer with their competition.

It didn’t inspire or attempt to explain why the company was a better place to work, it was merely a shopping list of benefits – shorter hours, fewer clients, more convenience, better transport links. It might inspire the rational side of the brain, but it certainly wasn’t building staff allegiance.

Recently, I had the rare opportunity to read a book on leadership: Start with Why by Simon Sinek. For anyone who hasn’t read the book, his central premise is that people will align themselves to a leader, brand or company that inspires them.

He argues that organisations can inspire by starting with the WHY; understanding and carefully communicating WHY they exist and not the WHAT they do: “Unless you start with the WHY, all that people have to go on are the rational benefits.”

Most businesses don’t understand why their employees work for them, what inspires them, and what puts a spring in their step as they get ready for work every day. It’s not salary, or flexible hours, or convenience – these are important things to have, but they don’t sustain excitement in the long term.

Finding the answer is best achieved by listening, rather than communicating.

It’s by listening that we can start to understand what motivates our people. It may be as simple as being trusted to do the right thing, or working for an organisation that values their contribution, or being part of a positive team that is doing good things for the community.

Listening can occur through survey and polls, but our experience suggests employees will feel truly listened to when their manager or the leadership team makes an effort to meet and discuss what inspires them, and what is discouraging them.

CGM was proud to help one of our clients with a piece of internal communications that brought to life these internal conversations.

The first step was to understand and unify the executive team around their purpose – we started with the WHY.

We recorded why each executive worked at the company, how things were done differently, what they loved about their colleagues’ approach, and what they had learned from their discussions with people from across the business.

By sharing a short video and a range of supporting communications across the business, we familiarised employees with their leaders and what they stood for. And people felt appreciated and listened to after learning about the discussions that had taken place with their colleagues.

It was a small step, but it was the beginning of understanding their employees and catering communications for their needs.

Defining the WHY can be difficult. External support from an arms-length consultancy can help you stop, listen to your employees, and understand your WHY.

Getting your people unified and excited around your WHY, will not only improve staff retention and morale, but help improve customer service and client growth.

CGM has a depth of experience in building internal communication strategies based around clear objectives, including employee retention. Contact us for more information.


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