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The Value of Realism

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Have you ever been tempted to tell your employees a "partial truth" because you're concerned about what will happen if they know the whole story? It's a strong temptation but often does more harm than good because the rest of the information usually leaks out and not always accurately.

Recently while working with a client that has just gone through a downsizing various members of the management team were divided over how much of a "dose or reality" the remaining workforce could handle.

Some of the team felt the lay-offs had been discouraging in their own right and to add the anxiety and emotional upheaval was counter-productive. Other members of the team believed that realistically talking about the challenges the business faced and engaging the workforce in dealing with them was the route to take.

Weaving its way through the discussion were also issues of credibility, confidence in the employees, trust and a somewhat uncertain future. Ultimately the team decided to share all the facts and engage the workforce in developing and implementing action plans to meet the business objectives, hopefully avoiding additional layoffs.

Here is what their plan included:

  • Communicate the business goals for the next 12 months
  • Share the key financial targets with all employees for the next 12 months
  • Explain the positive and negative factors and forcing affecting the business and an action plan to leverage the positive and minimize the adverse impact of the negative ones
  • Engage employees in setting departmental goals for the next 12 months
  • Engage employees in setting personal performance goals linked to both departmental and business goals
  • Identify key progress points over the next 12 months including time frames in which each should be reached
  • Engage employees in defining the correct metrics to measure results in each department
  • Utilize multiple sources of information sharing and communications throughout the buildings to keep people focused on the goals and share regular updates on the business was performing
  • Monthly town hall meetings to communicate progress, problems and successes in each department
  • Weekly departmental meetings for both communications updates and to continue to actively engage employees and use teams to solve new problems or take advantage of new opportunities
  • Quickly share any rumors with the entire management team to discuss and determine an appropriate rumor management response as part of the overall communications effort

Lastly, they agreed to be guided by 3 key words in employee communications and engagement moving forward:

  • Educate
  • Inform
  • Involve
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