May 24, 2012
Preventing the Next Greg Smith: How to Avoid a Resignation Letter in the NY Times
By Rick DeLisi, Senior Director and Executive Advisor, Corporate Executive Board
In the wake of the recent Greg Smith/Goldman resignation and public rant, executives at every public company have to be asking themselves, "How many ticking time-bombs do WE have, waiting to detonate their way onto tomorrow's OpEd page?"
And while conducting a worldwide search for disgruntled employees might seem like a shrewd risk-mitigation exercise, companies would be wise(r) to re-think their entire approach to employee communication.
Many top global corporations are recently coming to the realization that employee communication is not just a prudent defense mechanism, but is actually the key to unlocking a whole host of positive outcomes—increased engagement and productivity, greater collaboration, innovation, longevity of top talent.
However, companies that would admit to having under-leveraged the strategic value of communicating with their employees over the past few years, have often tried to amp up the volume of outbound messaging to the workforce.
Certainly, that sounds good.
If we've been guilty of under-communicating, let's start over-communicating. If less is bad, a lot more has got to be a lot better, right?
But it turns out that communicating TO employees rarely solves anything. In a CEB study of 1,500 employees, the primary drivers of employee productivity and performance were found to come not from "sending more messages to employees and communicating more frequently," but from far more emotional sources, like personal connection and peer support.
Alleviating communication breakdowns and engendering a culture of two-way communication, provides opportunities to identify and address early warning signs of disgruntled employees who feel like "no one is listening to me."
Companies that are investing time, creativity and resources into tools like peer-sharing forums, more frequent one-on-one dialogue between managers and employees, and online dating-style introduction prompts between employees who would benefit from collaborating, are seeing significant upticks in positive employee behaviors and corresponding upward impacts on performance and productivity.
In fact, CEB's research study revealed that a 10 percent improvement in communications factors leads to a two and half percent increase in work force performance. This is huge if you consider a two and a half percent boost for $1 billion in revenue could yield an additional $16 million in a given year.
So, in addition to preventing a "Greg Smith" before he or she even drafts such a resignation letter, companies should take notice that leveraging these two-way communications channels costs relatively little and can also produce significant economic gains.