Why making room is imperative in today’s business environment
What would you do if you found out your employees had established a private Facebook group to share information about your company, and didn’t clue you in? I recently worked with the CFO of a company who experienced this first-hand.
The CFO, who worked for a major employer in my community, gave me a call.
“I think we have a small communications problem,” the CFO shared, and went to explain how years of increases in workers comp claims had triggered an OSHA investigation, resulting in an edict from the company’s insurance provider for the business to “quickly turn this trend around.” Despite the addition of an onsite nurse, the workers comp claims continued. The CFO feared the company would lose its insurance. And if that happened, the business might not survive.
“We need your help making sure employees know the nurse is available, and ensure they see her,” the CFO told me.
As we dug into the problem, we learned employees didn’t understand the severity of the issue, nor the impact claims had on the company’s health, or how the nurse could help them. There was no communications plan in place.
For generations, organizations large and small, for-profit, non-profit, and even government, have made decisions based on operations, sales, financials, and outreach with little thought to how audience members (clients, prospective clients, employees, stakeholders, etc.) need to receive the message.
Communications needs a seat at the table.
Technology and a generation of consumers who want instantaneous information are forcing companies to think and act differently … or feel the pain. Individuals now use social media and other digital platforms to find information and make decisions in seconds. They share opinions, engage their networks, and influence audience perceptions at light speed.
According to Brandwatch, a social intelligence research firm, the internet has more than 4 billion users worldwide with more than 3 billion social media users. Between Q2 and Q3 of 2017 alone the number of social media users grew by 121 million. While social media platforms come and go, the rapid digitization and personalization of communications has transformed the communications function. The pace of change can be overwhelming, but organizations that sit back and watch, wait and tread lightly begin to feel pain in the business — this passive approach results in disengaged employees, reputation issues, recruitment challenges, loss of market share, and more.
In the company I mentioned above, employees had created their own Facebook page to communicate with each other. Void of information from leadership, they built a channel that both relayed up-to-date information to coworkers across the country, and made it possible to engage with each other. Leadership had no idea this was happening, and thus, their voice was missing in the conversation.
The C-suite strategy for success is to question the role communications plays in your business today. Is it a tactical function, called on to design materials for sales, update your social media pages or put our fires? Or does your communications team work strategically to advance and protect your business? How do you measure the success of communications? In impressions, likes and emails sent? Or in the way it helps your organization achieve critical business goals? Whether you have an employed communications team or consultants managing this function, you want communications operating proactively as a core business strategy.
When it came to our client with the workers comp issue, we set goals with company leadership and their insurance provider, and included employees in the creation of a communications plan. By giving communications a seat at this table, our client saw the number of claims plummet and kept their insurance. And, as an added benefit, the company earned multiple awards for this work.
By giving communications a seat at this table, our client saw the number of claims plummet and kept their insurance.
- Kimberly Kane
Looking Back on a Whirlwind Week at PRSA ICON 2019