Lessons from Live!

Going Dead with Employee Engagement

By Beth Whelley and Paul Vetter

We don’t usually comment on daytime TV in this space, but today we’ll make an exception.

Tuesday on “Live with Kelly and Michael,” Kelly Ripa returned from a self-imposed exile after learning she was among the last to know that her co-host Michael Strahan was leaving the show to join the team at “Good Morning America.”

Kelly’s beef is that ABC Network leadership spread the word to many, and out of concern for her reaction, had told her just before the news leaked out. She disappeared from the set for days, returning with an articulate, genuine and ultimately well-received explanation.

Among Ripa’s comments was a statement that is ringing true in companies and organizations around the globe, that is Ripa said the situation prompted “a much greater conversation . . . about communication and consideration and, most importantly, respect in the workplace.”

In other words, she was disappointed and even angry that her workplace family demonstrated so little respect for her that it completely failed to engage her regarding key decisions about her show.

This resonated with us because transparency is such an important element of workplace communications. We’ve used the term, “the naked organization.” That is, organizations that have more conversations in public; that demonstrate respect for employees’ need to be considered a thinking, logical and mature individual are going to be employers of choice. This desire for organizational transparency is strongest, perhaps, among the millennial generation. They want to know what an organization stands for and understand what is behind its decisions.

Why? Transparency provides a foundation for trust, and trust builds a more engaged workforce that is enthusiastic and committed to the organization’s success. Given that Gallup reports less than one in three employees is truly engaged, it’s a critical goal.

The incident points to three larger lessons to consider when communicating a major change to your team:

  • Reach all stakeholders. While the focus has been on Ripa, there’s a larger team essential to running the show that was also left out of the loop. In announcing a major change, ensure that information cascades through all levels of the organization.
  • Remember the golden rule. If you were in their shoes, when and how would you want to be told? Developing your announcement plan with this question in mind ensures you build trust with your team.
  • Respect your team’s intelligence and integrity. People can often tell when significant change is looming. By bringing your team up to speed in a timely way – and showing you trust them with sensitive information – you can minimize rumors and distractions.

How is your organization building and supporting employee engagement through open and timely communications about significant decisions?



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