Corporate America has a hard time being authentic. We focus on the right tone, the right data, the right audience and the right timing. It's a highly planned, scripted, and organized approach. Yet, the way people naturally communicate with one another is usually none of those.
What if unscripted authenticity is the overlooked secret sauce to building and maintaining a strong company culture?
A 2023 study by Axios found that ineffective internal communication costs an employer $15,000 annually per employee. Conversely, when done effectively, it can be a driver of company revenue, increased employee retention, and productivity. Let’s dive into a fresh perspective on organizational success through authentic internal communications.
The Power of Internal Communications
Internal communication serves as the lifeblood of any successful organization. It ensures clarity, transparency, and feedback among employees, fostering a nurturing work environment. A robust internal communication structure directly correlates with heightened employee engagement. For instance, Delta CEO Ed Bastian is applauded for hosting consistent company-wide town halls throughout the COVID-19 pandemic and beyond. In an interview with Harvard Business Review, he shared:
“One of the most important things I’ve already mentioned is about communications, about staying very, very close to your team, to your people, to being authentic, to being transparent. It’s easy when times are difficult to want to shy away when you don’t have the answers to the questions that you need. It’s never more important to be visible and let people know what you know and what you don’t know.”
On the flip side, when leadership fails to communicate effectively, the consequences can be severe. Poor communication leads to confusion, distrust, and can also result in missed opportunities and costly errors.
Breaking Down Barriers to Communication
Information flow amid a large organization can often be blocked by red tape and bureaucracy. While a management structure ensures an organization’s growth, it can also contribute to hierarchical barriers. Overcoming these requires a concerted effort, including open-door policies where leadership is actually accessible and receptive. Leadership plays a crucial role in fostering open communication, setting the tone for the entire organization.
Consider a scenario where a CEO is unaware of the lack of a feedback loop within the organization. The absence of open communication channels prevents employees from sharing their ideas and concerns. This leads to missed opportunities for innovation and growth.
Amplifying Internal Voices
Actively seeking and valuing employee feedback not only helps identify areas of improvement, but also boosts employee morale. Implementing feedback mechanisms, like suggestion boxes or regular surveys, is essential. Whether it is replacing paper towels with air dryers, our employees' voices matter.
Leaders set the tone for open communication and trust within an organization. They must lead by example, avoid common mistakes like lack of transparency, and be open to regular feedback. Each year, Comparably ranks the top 100 CEOs by employee feedback—it doesn’t take long to skim through the rankings to see a common denominator: they talk the talk AND walk the walk.
However, there’s a pressing question: how DO you inform a CEO about a non-existent feedback loop, especially when it hasn't been established in the first place?
Sometimes, organizations may need an outside voice to identify issues and provide unbiased feedback. The value of an external voice lies in its ability to provide a fresh perspective and challenge the status quo—or in some cases, broker a conversation forward. They should be viewed as a resource, and an advocate—someone that will eventually leave the organization and has no personal stake in the game.
We believe authenticity can often start there.
Anna Stallmann is CEO and Managing Principal at Anna Stallmann Communications.
Jeremiah Shirk is CEO and Founder of Showpiece Solutions.