How Communication Can Stop the Employee Exodus


American companies are looking forward to the day when the recession is over and the financial books don’t read like horror novels. But they shouldn’t get too comfortable. They’re about to be hit by another blow to the bottom line, according to a recent survey.

Deloitte’s annual “Ethics & Workplace Survey” reveals that one-third of American workers say they will look for a new job when the economy recovers. That means companies will have to invest in the search, hiring, processing and training of new employees, which adds up to real money. That doesn’t even count the cost of losing institutional knowledge.

Nearly half of these employees — 48 percent — say their motivation for leaving is a lack of trust in their employers. Forty-six percent say a lack of transparent communication from their leaders is the primary cause of their unhappiness at work.

How much more evidence do we need to demonstrate that an organization’s relationship with its employees affects the bottom line — and that how leaders communicate is a major factor in the health of that relationship?

Let’s break it down to the basics. Here’s how companies can practice communication that helps stop the exodus:

Be real with employees. Most people already know at least some of the truth about what’s going on in an organization, such as how the company’s performing or what customers are saying. They also know when they’re being fed a load of crap. The buzzword “transparency” simply means shooting straight with employees and not misleading them. Most people are grown-up enough to handle the truth.

Be available. Leaders can’t cloister themselves in the C-suite and hope inquisitive employees go away. A big part of leadership is getting out among the people you lead, listening to their ideas and concerns firsthand, and getting your (truthful) message out. I once worked in the business unit of a large company, the president of which said communication was his most important job. Unfortunately, that’s a rare thing.

Promote all-way communication. This is more than just two-way, which usually means the Q&A portion of a town hall meeting. In order for trust to exist in an organization, communication must happen all ways — from leaders to employees, from employees to leaders, across departmental boundaries, within teams, from supervisor to group, from individual to supervisor and every which way you can imagine. The truth is, communication is happening like that, whether or not leaders acknowledge it. Why not inject some facts into those dialogues rather than allowing the rumor mill to run amok?

Trust employees with information. As noted before, most employees will act like grown-ups if treated that way. Most people want their employers to succeed. That means most people will treat sensitive company information with appropriate care. When employees feel business leaders trust them, they are more likely to trust leaders in return.

And when mutual trust happens in an organization, people stay put.

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4 Responses

  1. Well said. : )

  2. […] writes Robert J. Holland (photo left) on his blog – robertjholland.wordpress.com. Mr. Holland is a leader in the communication industry and is founder of Holland Communication […]

  3. […] wrote about this coming shift nearly two years ago and how employee communication could play a role in helping to stave off the exodus. Now it’s […]

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