Communicating important messages and inspiring people into coordinated action is a major challenge for executives. Imagine the nightmare scenario in which most employees do not know the mission of the company and do not understand what they should be doing to help the company achieve its goals. There are not many issues that keep executives up at night more than that?
What makes this nightmare scenario worse is that it is not a nightmare at all. It is happening in companies right now. All over the world.
Research shows that only 14% of employees understand their company’s strategy. In another study, 61% don’t know the company mission statement. OK. Fine. Who memorizes those meaningless statements of hyperbole, superfluity, and jargon? (If you have read Josh Bernoff’s new book, you’d know what I mean). Gallup offers a final crushing blow to this reality showing that only 41% understand the overall company direction.
This execution gap is holding our company back
Stephen Covey makes this point strikingly clear. He talks about an execution gap that organizations experience when people do not understand the goals and what they can do to help achieve those goals. Covey cites a study that shows:
- Only 15% of employees understand the organization’s top goals.
- Of the people who know the goals only 19% are bought in to the goals.
- People only spend 49% of their time working towards those top goals.
- 51% do not understand what they can do to help achieve the company’s top goals.
Put all this evidence together, and one cannot help but be worried that their organization will not last long on its current path.
Covey uses an analogy of a sports team to bring this problem home. Image if most players on a sports team do not understand the purpose or strategy of the game. Would that team ever win? Unlikely.
This execution gap holds many organizations from achieving its goals. Executives should therefore spend a lot of time communicating the mission, goals, and strategy of the organization and help employees understand what they can do to help achieve the overall purpose.
Required strategic communications abilities
Communications expert and author of The Power of Presence Kristi Hedges agrees in a Harvard Business Review webcast, “Getting work done through distributed teams, virtual workforces, and flattened hierarchies requires having outstanding strategic communications abilities." She discusses the five required abilities:
- Creating an intentional presence
- Being able to get buy-in
- Delivering executive briefings
- Connecting with distributed teams through virtual leadership
- Giving and receiving direct feedback.
When I think about these communication skills, I imagine the executive trying to figure out how to leverage Workplace by Facebook to apply these skills.
Creating an intentional presence in Workplace
Though not exactly how Hedges describes it, an executive can create a presence throughout the organization in a variety of ways using Workplace.
For starters, an executive can spend just a few minutes a day, scrolling through the newsfeed to see what people are working on. By occasionally “liking” a post or commenting on a conversation, an executive can show presence in a variety of teams, locations, and levels. This simple act shows people the executive is paying attention and is accessible no matter where they are. At the same time, the executive can reinforce the company mission, offer support for projects, and also question the importance of some work in the context of the mission.
Another way to be present is by using live video while traveling to various office locations. With ones smart phone, record short, live videos with people the executive meets at each location. Just ask people three questions and then say, “It was great to meet you.” This takes just a few minutes, makes the person feel special, and now the live video is saved in Workplace for all employees to watch. Most importantly, this type of action makes the company seem smaller and more connected.
Improving communications is critical for enabling organizations to close execution gap between company goals and people's work towards them.
A tool is not the solution, but the right tool can reduce friction in the process of getting one’s message out there.