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HOME NRI JOURNAL Communication Strategies for Managers

NRI JOURNAL

Innovation magazine that generates hints for the future

クラウドの潮流――進化するクラウド・サービスと変化する企業の意識

Communication Strategies for Managers

Ichiro Morisawa, Senior Managing Director, Deputy Division Manager, Consulting Division

#Management

#Internal communication

Jan. 19, 2021

Management that highly values an organization’s “purpose” is a major trend today.
Having a purpose that can revalidate a company’s core competencies, and that can define the company’s reason for being from the third-party perspective of society, will clarify the company’s starting point and serve as a compass for decision-making in uncertain management environments like the present. Also, with social consciousness on the rise worldwide, purpose is now one of the most important reasons workers select the companies they work for – as important as pay and career advancement.

Difficulty of communication with employees

Because purposes are expressed in short, easy-to-understand phrases, detailed interpretations and operations are entrusted to the local actors. Thus, if a company’s purpose does not adequately take hold among individual employees, differing interpretations and gaps between ideals and realities will emerge, leading to confusion and uncertainty at sites where that purpose is put into practice. Many managers fully understand the significance and difficulty of this type of “purpose introduction”, and they personally take the initiative in leading efforts to put it into practice, while sending various kinds of messages to their employees. However, from the employees we often hear “I don’t understand management’s intentions” and “They don’t know what we actually do here”. The voices of the managers do not seem to reach their employees as fully as the managers value the initiative.

This phenomenon is not limited to introducing purpose. It occurs frequently in all types of companies, and is occurring in spite of the rising importance of communication between managers and employees, as many companies launch innovation initiatives in a fiercely changing business environment.
When we examine these issues, it is striking how little communication between managers and employees has evolved.
There are a number of occasions every year when managers convey information directly to employees, and the methods used on these occasions are email, company newsletters, large volumes of text on company intranet, and communication from superiors. Even ascertaining employee awareness is dependent on reports from organization heads and questionnaires several times a year.

Evolving employee communication

When we look around the world, we see that means of communication are diversifying and rapidly evolving. The majority of employees own smartphones, and by employing social media platforms and the technologies utilized on them, managers are able to directly, frequently, and easily send their employees easy-to-understand messages that draw on the powers of video and animation. The administration and analysis of questionnaires is becoming more simplified, and the precision of AI analytics for writing and other text is now at a utilizable level. Today, it is feasible for companies to build communication platforms through which managers can transmit information directly to employees and ascertain their responses, and to provide employee experiences (EX) tailored to each individual employee’s circumstances and level of understanding.
A glance at national leaders and administrators shows that they are also making good use of the new environments. Examples include U.S. President Donald Trump and Osaka Prefectural Governor Hirofumi Yoshimura.
Toyota Motor President Akio Toyoda is another leader making strategic use of social media. By building a system integrated with the “Toyota Times” website and YouTube, Toyota has begun using video to broadcast not only shareholder meetings and financial disclosures, but even labor-management negotiations and New Year greetings. The content of these videos moves beyond mundane pleasantries and frankly expresses any sense of crisis or dissatisfaction being felt, allowing managers to convey their thinking as-is, and showing not only strength and leadership but also weakness and candor as well. It is said that many employees credit Toyota Times with helping them to understand company strategies and to feel greater pride in their company than they had felt before.
Needless to say, the expansion of opportunities for direct communication with employees also carries the risk of amplifying negative criticism or encouraging information leaks. At Google, a TGIF event where the CEO directly addresses more than 100,000 employees used to be held every Friday, but was reduced to once a month due to divulgence of the content of meetings. Nonetheless, the reason this event was not completely canceled was most likely that the management themselves could sense its effectiveness and necessity.

The rebuilding of employee communication strategies demanded of managers

Sophisticated managers have begun reconstructing strategies for communication with their employees as weapons for enhancing the unifying forces within their companies and increasing the speed of managerial decisions.

In discussions with one manager, we asked what is most troublesome when implementing reforms. He replied that the hardest aspect of reform was figuring out how much his employees can endure. Clearly, any manager will be an emperor with no clothes if he cannot ascertain certain nuances within the company, such as how strong a sense of crisis his employees have and what makes them anxious. For managers involved in ongoing reforms, a communication platform that can proactively utilize social media etc., directly convey the manager’s intentions and thinking, and collect employees’ frank opinions in real time, should be an indispensable asset. The present moment, with Covid-19 accelerating various changes and demanding enhanced communication between managers and employees, may be a golden opportunity to for managers to reassess their communication strategies.

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