Business has embraced social media, with more and more industry leaders seeing the advantage of almost-instantaneous communication tools now available online. Five hundred million people like, post and poke each other on Facebook. Direct Messages (DMs) from 110 million Twitter users fly online everyday and LinkedIn is giving more professionals a networking edge throughout the world. But while industry leaders are eager to jump on this communication bandwagon to promote themselves, many are leaving their most important resource out of the information loop: their employees.
The Credible Company: Communicating with a Skeptical Workforce by author Roger D’Aprix is an argument for business leaders to put their employees at the front of the line when it comes to communication. Penned by an expert internationally known for his communication strategy work, The Credible Company outlines not only the reasons the information links with workers need to stay intact, but also how to strengthen them with some practical and effective advice. No longer are workers the cost of doing business, D’Aprix writes, they are, in these times of lean resources, the means. Added to that is an increasingly complex global economy where employees now work between companies and across borders, and an increased skepticism from employees about the communication they receive at work. The result is angst that not only affects performance and output but also erodes trust.
Preventing this is easy, says the author, who has identified several principals for any organization wanting to improve communication, embrace employee enthusiasm and maintain trust among its workers. INFORMS is the acronym D’Aprix uses to pull his principals together: Information, Needs on the job, Face-to-face, Openness, Research, Marketplace and Strategy. Scattered throughout The Credible Company are lessons learned directly by the author from a career of communication in the business world. Some herald the success stories, others are mistakes none of us want to make. Take D’Aprix’s experience at Xerox in the early 1980s: Just weeks after proposing a ‘full employment’ policy essentially guaranteeing certain employees lifetime job security, D’Aprix learned of management’s plan to lay off up to 15 percent of its workers. Overwhelmed by the reversal of policy but determined to implement a plan for internal communications of the issue, D’Aprix found himself facing leadership who refused to talk to their employees. The results were devastating. Rumors elevated the number of workers to be fired; the media bombarded Xerox with questions and market shares collapsed. The inability of senior leaders and communication professionals to work together blew up a problem that would send Xerox into a tailspin. Only after seven long years would the industry leader pull out of its dive.
The Credible Company is a quick read of less than 160 pages from cover to cover. But its size is no reflection on the importance of its essential message and the ease that we can all put the author’s ideas and experience to work. In today’s ever-changing world, communication professionals need to realize the importance of information to a skeptical audience and organizations must recognize the need to become more transparent. As I write this, our political leaders have only just averted a government shutdown. I can’t help but wonder whether an agreement might have been reached before the 11th hour if some of our elected had copies of The Credible Company in their briefcases. LN
Benjamin Ola. Akande is Dean of the George Herbert Walker School of Business and Technology and chief of corporate partnerships at Webster University. Follow him on Twitter: @Benjamin_Akande