The renewed importance of communication

France, last Mocommunicationnday we were informed that unemployment had reached levels we’ve never seen since 1997. This is not unique in Europe and this information was vastly commented, triggering anxiety among employees around the country.

This anxiety cannot be ignored by leaders. It impacts employee engagement.

So what? You ask. In fact leadership should be aware that disengagement has a real impact on productivity and productivity is what you need most in those times. In addition job insecurity impacts your best people engagement and loyalty. Your high potential or high performer employees will play less discretionary efforts than before if disengaged and they may be looking for another job in a better environment. Therefore instead of getting extra efforts from the ones that are pulling the rest of the teams, you’re at risk to be stuck in this bad environment without the ones you need the most.

You may be lucky enough to work  in a business sector that is not directly impacted by the current crisis , or you can as well be involved in an economic downturn  that threaten the survival of your current organization. In this case where to start with?

There are certainly many things to be done to address this situation and to ensure that everyone is on board doing what is needed to move forward instead of looking for the emergency raft, but the first point you should be focusing on is communication. Communication is a key element to keep control of your teams even if everything is not totally clear and if the strategy is questionable. What people want is somebody who explains what’s happening and what is done to overcome difficulties. They don’t want to be on board of the Costa Concordia ship with a mute captain who doesn’t seem to care explaining what’s happening. They want first to understand what is going on and how they can connect themselves with the decision being made. Second they want to understand how important their personal contribution to the success of the enterprise is.  These are the two main conditions of their engagement and their willingness to do the extra mile efforts that are requested from them.

Ok, easy to say, but how do you actually do it?

In terms of attitude, expressing emotional connection with the employees when communicating can eleviate fear and help building buy in and confidence among your audience. So work on your emotions, show them don’t try to hide there will be difficulties and maybe casualties but display a real empathy. Focus on the underlying needs of your audience, in such circumstances they are mainly lying in the fundamental needs related to job security. To adjust your communication to the audience, start by listening. Organize sessions with focus groups and on an individual basis to catch what really matters to them and what needs to be answered. Real active listening will help you answer their concerns. Third, involve your employees in the way forward; show them they are part of the solution by referring to their day to day job and activities. Finally make sure objectives are near terms, immediate. You need to be in a position to show that step by step successes will be there and that step by step you’ll all make it.

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