Greg Smith’s public resignation from Goldman Sachs via the New York Times’ op-ed page shone a glaring spotlight on what he called a "toxic" internal environment. As PR News’ Diane Schwartz wrote in a blog post today, Smith’s op-ed is an HR and PR nightmare for Goldman Sachs. It’s also a wake-up call for internal communications specialists—Smith’s op-ed piece could signal the beginning of a trend.
Smith's powerful editorial reaffirms the need for internal communicators to constantly monitor an organization’s culture and to relay the findings honestly to senior management. “It illustrates the need for PR pros to be counselors, not just people out there ginning up publicity, and be willing to have hard discussions with senior people,” says Steve Halsey, senior vice president at Gibbs & Soell. There is a real opportunity here as well—communicators can earn a seat at the table if they can prove to senior management the value of sharing clear-eyed accounts of an organization’s culture. This should be easier now in the wake of Smith’s op-ed.
Halsey's recommendation: “We have to look at indicators that something is wrong,” he says. Although it's an external measure, the Harris Interactive poll offers a good look at a company's reputation, he says. It provides insight on how an organization, and its industry, stacks up.
Indicators of internal culture and employee sentiment can also be discovered through effective employee engagement, which needs to be driven day in and day out, says Halsey. “It’s not just about corporate news or the culture that you can make. It’s about developing a trust in the organization,” says Halsey. “This requires really identifying what the culture is and figuring out how to celebrate it so employees can see and understand what that culture means.”
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