Hay research supports importance of leader communication2005-11-23
In his rebuttal to my argument that executive communication is critical during times of change, Dr. T.J. Larkin wrote, “In this context, the book concludes that the type of communication most likely to change employee behavior: targets frontline supervisors, relies on face-to-face communication, and deals with issues relevant to the future of the local work area. Our book supports this conclusion with a review of 254 studies.” In fact, Dr. Larkin’s thesis—that communication not aimed at immediate supervisors and local work areas is a waste of time—is supported almost entirely by the research Dr. Larkin cites. In recent months, I have been reporting equally valid research that supports the importance of leader communication.
Colleague Craig Jolley points to yet more such research, this study conducted by the Hay Group, which surveyed 1.2 million employees at 400 companies (not a bad sample) and determined that leader communication is “a leading factor in employee motivation, morale and even loyalty,” according to CIO magazine’s report on the study. Hay’s research also indicates that “keeping workers informed is not something executives do well.” Probably because they’ve been reading Dr. Larkin.
Okay, that’s not fair. Any number of reasons account for poor executive communication. It is the job of the internal communication department to help improve—not ignore—the leader’s communication role. Otherwise, their organizations risk high turnover from employees who don’t understand where their organization is headed. Not their own department’s role in achieving company goals, a critical role for immediate supervisors and managers. It is the executive’s job to communicate the big picture to the entire workforce. When that doesn’t happen, employees who don’t understand the big picture feel more inclined to provide their services elsewhere. “One of the most important predictors of employee commitment, and ultimately loyalty, is the connection between the individual and the big picture,” according to study author Mark Royal, senior consultant at Hay.
Among study findings:
- Just 49% of employees are satisfied with the openness and honesty of communications in their companies
- 42% were not satisfied with the company’s ability to keep them informed about how the business is doing
- Among those employees who indicated they were inclined to stay with their employer, 57% were confident in the direction senior leaders communicated
- Among those employees inclined to leave the company within two years, only 27 percent said they understood where their companies were headed
There’s plenty of evidence to support the importance of communication between workers and immediate supervisors. But every study I see indicates that executive communication is the dominant factor. You’re wise to employ both.