I’ve said this many times and I’ll likely say it a million times more during my career. That is, “the world in which we live, play and do business in is constantly changing and evolving”. Technology and a global marketplace are the 2 biggest factors influencing the workplace, among many others. Humans hate change; we know this to be true, even if the change may be perceived to be positive. People are leaving jobs more frequently than ever before, and the so-called “gig economy” is real and proliferating. Please note that the gig economy does NOT only refer to Uber drivers or low-paying hourly workers. Millennial workers will outnumber any other generational group in a couple of years, and the estimated mass exodus of baby boomers is not happening now, nor will it happen any time soon. It is becoming more and more difficult for the regular white collar professional to get ahead in life as daily living costs continue to rise at a higher rate than disposable incomes. Constant change is the norm, and this could not be more true at work, whatever that is for you.
With all this volatility, growth, change and financial pressure, senior executives and middle managers struggle to figure out how to best lead their employees so that they perform to the best of their abilities. After all, isn’t this what organizations want from their employees, from the rank-and-file to the top? I know it’s not easy because I have experienced it first-hand several times during my career, and have spent countless hours helping to figure out how organizations can perform better through their employees.
From HR’s perspective there are several areas that we own that help organizations drive employee performance – performance management to talent management to employee communications to rolling out new programs, and everything in between. These things are ALL hugely important but there is one thing that I have learned that needs to be there in order to have a chance at any success. That is “clarity”.
With our aversion to change and the changing workplace and business climate, one thing that we as organizational leaders can control is our message. Simply put, the clearer a leader is in his/her communication the more effective, productive and successful the organization. It drives everything about how the employee feels while at work. To be frank, it doesn’t matter how great your total compensation offering is, or how many opportunities there are for employees to learn new skills and take on new opportunities, if they feel like they’re working in a world of sheer chaos and ambiguity, and lack of clarity, everything will simply suck.
Let’s dig deeper in this concept of clarity. An interesting fact from work that I have done in employee engagement is that employees want to know exactly how they impact and influence their organization. What role do I play in helping the organization achieve its objectives? Do I matter? Is there a place for me longer-term? Based on where the organization is going strategically what does it mean for me? Imagine for a second if the CEO is unclear on what the business strategy is? What if the CEO wavered from time-to-time? What if the CEO’s message was vague? Your responses to the questions I asked in the first part of this paragraph likely wouldn’t be overly positive.
If there’s any take away from this blog post it is this. Clarity in communication from the C-Suite is so important and has more impact on employees than you think. If you’re a senior executive reading this post and you are about to communicate a message in your organization (note: it doesn’t matter how big your audience is) ask yourself if it’s clear. If the answer is yes, go forth. If no, either don’t communicate or go back to your message and clarify it. In the era of full transparency and open communication it still is okay to hold off on communicating something if the impact to the audience might be negative. Give it a shot and run everything you say through the “is my message clear” litmus test. You will see the change in your employees for the better.