How to create C-suite comms that boost your approval rating
Approval ratings aren’t just for politicians. A workforce’s opinion of the C-suite can be the difference between working towards a common goal and falling short of your business vision. To gain the full support of employees, C-suite leaders must rethink their approach to communications, with these five rules as their guide.
The secret to great leadership
What makes a great leader? For more than a century studies on leadership have sought to uncover the secrets of effective leadership. The common thread across most findings is the element of inspiration – what separates a boss from a leader is the ability to inspire people towards a common goal or vision.
Leadership as a concept stretches back into antiquity. Groups of people – whether employees, families, or societies – look to leadership for assurance and guidance; the safety of knowing someone is steering the ship.
According to Simon Sinek the best leaders are those that make people feel safe. In his TED Talk on “Why good leaders make you feel safe,” Sinek explains that when leaders create a feeling of safety, employees reward them with loyalty and dedication. Without this feeling of safety, collectivism breaks down and we become focused on protecting ourselves rather than helping each other to succeed.
Creating a feeling of safety for employees relies on clear, consistent communication that keeps employees in the know. In times of change and turbulence, the need for a thorough communications approach becomes more vital as people look to leaders for reassurance and guidance on the path forward.
Communication is leadership
Authentic communication and the visibility of leaders are two of the most influential factors on leadership success. Yet, according to Gallup:
"Less than two in ten employees agree that leadership communicates effectively with the rest of the organization. "
The CEO of a large enterprise may not have the ability to connect personally with every employee, but that doesn’t mean they can’t be seen or heard. And the value of this contribution should not be overlooked.
As our workplaces become more dispersed and the world continues to change at pace, the need for strong, visible leaders to unite employees under a common vision becomes ever more critical. More than ever, we need leaders to step up and show us the way forward with internal communications that engage and inspire.
5 rules for creating executive communications that engage employees
Gartner recently found that only half of business leaders report being well-equipped to lead their organization in the future, and 50% of employees agree that their leaders fail to effectively create a vision for the future. Communications must play a central role both leading employees with clear goals and in supporting leaders to make those goals a reality. To align people to a shared vision and show them that your C-suite are the right people to take your organization forward, take these five rules and apply them across all leadership communications.
#1. Understand your audience
The more you know about your audience, the better you can communicate with them. To reach and engage people and build the profile of C-suite leaders, you can’t go in blind.
There are plenty of tools and strategies internal communicators rely on to gain insight into their audiences that the C-suite can also leverage. Employee personas, NPS scores, feedback mechanisms, and digital workplace analytics combine to paint a picture of what your people are concerned about or thriving off, allowing you to build C-suite comms that cater to employees’ preferences to make a more human connection.
This insight can tell you which channels and content types audiences prefer, so you can adapt your approach and reach people where they work for the greatest impact. Even features like AI-powered multilingual translation can help leaders make connections with important workforce factions that may previously have been out-of-reach.
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#2. Listen before you talk
The secret to a good communicator is how well they listen. You can’t properly lead an organization if you don’t know what issues your people face or the direction they want to go in, so the C-suite needs to listen at least as much as they talk.
"The ear of the leader must ring with the voices of the people."
Before you try to open a dialogue, answer questions, and build trust you must know what your employees care about. Frequent pulse surveys allow leadership to gain a snapshot of the workforce zeitgeist and better understand the day-to-day lives of employees. Feedback forms offer channels for employees to ask questions and anonymously tell leaders what works and what doesn’t. Even social feeds that leadership actively monitor and participate in can provide an informal yet frank channel for taking the temperature of the workplace and interacting with employees on a conversational level.
#3. Consistency, frequency, simplicity
Communicators often underestimate the amount of times they must repeat a message for it to truly sink in. Long-standing advertising research tells us that it takes three to seven impressions for a message to register. Microsoft found that audio messages needed six to twenty exposures.
The point here isn’t to adhere to some ‘magic number’, but to realize that one article or video simply isn’t enough.
Take a simple, easy-to-understand message and publish it across multiple channels – think social feeds, intranet homepages, and Teams or Slack groups – to reach as many people as possible. Communicate frequently, so employees know they can expect a weekly or biweekly update from leadership, and consider housing all C-suite comms in a dedicated site on the intranet for on-demand access. You can even make use of features like push notifications to give users a nudge when updates are published and provide an easy path to your C-suite comms by tapping the native notification.
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#4. Align with internal communications
No great leader works alone. To gain the support of your employees and boost approval ratings, you must seek the support of ambassadors within your organization that are well placed to amplify your messaging. In most cases, this alignment should start with internal communications.
Leaders should align their strategies with internal comms to ensure that employees aren’t bombarded with messaging from all sides. Internal comms represents a trusted voice within the enterprise, so partnering on content campaigns allows leaders to increase visibility and presence in an organic way.
#5. Candor over charisma
Boosting approval ratings is less about winning people over and more about building trust between employees and employers. When Harvard Business Review polled employees on what they need most from leaders, trustworthiness topped the list.
The 2021 Edelman Trust Barometer shows that businesses have become more trusted than any other source. Yet, paradoxically, CEOs’ credibility is at an all-time low.
The goal of C-suite comms must focus on rebuilding this trust, and the best way to do that is with honest, open, and transparent communication. The same study that showed the need for trusted leadership also revealed that 63% of executives describe their company culture as “opaque”. The C-suite must focus on comms that break down silos, set information free, acknowledge mistakes, and encourage an open dialogue with employees where questions and critiques are encouraged.
Simply put, the most significant boost to the C-suite’s approval ratings won’t come from the likability of its members, but the candor with which they communicate.
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The power of technology to upgrade C-suite visibility
In our digital-first workplace, leaders must embrace the power of technology to connect with employees. With the digital workplace now at the heart of the organization, it’s vital that leaders are visible in this space and utilizing its capabilities to enhance their communications.
Why an employee experience platform is the key to succeeding at leadership comms
Employee experience platforms (EXPs) are the intranets of the modern workforce. Acting as a digital HQ, the employee experience platform has become a surrogate office of sorts, a place for employees to connect with each other, company news, resources and knowledge, and the tools they need to do their jobs.
As workforces become more dispersed, the employee experience platform acts as a universally accessible hub that keeps employees connected to the company no matter where they work. For leadership, the employee experience platform provides extensive opportunities to increase visibility and communicate with employees in a more efficient and effective way.
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EXP features that support leadership comms
There are many ways leaders can leverage an EXP to upgrade communications. To be an effective communicator in the digital age, leaders must embrace these opportunities. The first step to doing so is gaining an understanding of the features at their disposal. These include:
- Multi-lingual translation
- Forms and polls
- Multi-channel delivery
- Reward and recognition
Case study: Samuel, Son & Co
When leading metals and industrial products manufacturer Samuel, Son & Co. underwent a change of leadership their new CEO mandated a digital-first approach that would drive culture and connection across the geographically dispersed organization. The enterprise turned to their employee experience platform to change the way leaders communicated with employees and to build trust through a culture of transparency. Here’s how they did it:
How Samuel, Son & Co are embracing technology to excel at leadership comms
Samuel’s leaders get together to discuss important strategic imperatives once a month. Previously, these meetings had been reserved for 150 of the enterprise’s most senior employees, but the CEO wanted to change this.
To bring more transparency to the organization, Samuel’s leadership team decided to open up the huddles to every employee in the enterprise. But they didn’t just want the workforce to be able to listen in on the conversations, they wanted employees to be able to play an active part. To enable this, they turned to their employee experience platform, The Torch, and worked with internal communicators to create a dedicated site for Leadership Huddle content.
How it works:
The site hosts a back catalog of recorded Leadership huddles in a searchable video library that allows employees to tune in when it suits them. Employees with limited access to desktops – those on the manufacturing floor for example – can access the site from their personal mobiles via the app meaning that no one misses out on the chance to engage.
To support a two-way dialogue, the site also hosts a range of forms that allow users to feedback on the topics discussed and propose ideas for issues they would like to see discussed in future meetings. A poll is also leveraged as a simple way for employees to provide instant feedback on the experience that helps leaders keep track of how the huddles are being received by different segments of the workforce.
The response to the initiative was overwhelmingly positive. The use of technology to democratize access to leadership huddles has contributed to a culture of transparency across the organization with employees reporting increased trust and engagement as a result.
"Being able to watch the monthly leadership huddles and having access to information updated frequently on The Torch is not only changing the way we operate but how we think. There’s been an infusion of positive energy throughout the organization and it continues to grow stronger."
Support your C-suite enterprise comms with a world-class solution
Leadership communications need powerful technology to make an impact and take approval ratings sky-high. To learn how the right solution can get your message out and reach employees where they work, speak to an expert today.
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