Companies exist for a reason yet many of their employees don’t know what that reason actually is. According to a recent survey by staffing firm Robert Half International, one-third of CFOs said their employees weren’t that aware or not at all aware of the company’s overall objectives.
“It’s like sending a football team out to play without having a playbook,” says Brett Good, a senior district president at Robert Half. “When you get everyone on the team to understand what the goals are they become much more effective.”
This lack of knowledge on the part of employees may seem like a big company problem, but it turns out, at least based on the survey, it’s more of an issue with the nation’s smaller companies. Of the survey respondents, 35% of executives at companies with less than 50 employees said their workers aren’t aware of the goals compared to 9% at large organizations with more than 1,000 employees.
According to career experts company executives are failing their employees and their business if they aren’t keeping them up to date with the goals and objectives. Often employees will become disengaged, disenfranchised and it will lead to a higher risk of turnover and lost productivity, says Good.
Many executives wrongly assume it’s enough for senior level people to know the objectives, but according to Pat Sweeney, human resource manager at Old Colony Hospice and Palliative Care, workers on every level need to be kept informed as to what’s going on.
“Employees below ‘C’ level who are clueless or not engaged generally hold positions that are not viewed as actively involved in promoting/supporting missions and goals by either the management or the worker,” says Sweeney. “Too often management overlooks the contributions of these positions and thus the frequent and costly turnover of these jobs – especially if there is no discernible ladder to climb.”
That lack of engagement on every level can be particularly devastating if the company is changing it focus or direction. If the business doesn’t communicate the mission to all levels when change is afoot it will result in rumors, turnover and potentially even the demise of the business. “Businesses that change focus or direction without sharing the change with workers are doomed to failure,” says Sweeney. “Unfortunately some workers are not made aware until they are filing for unemployment.”
How a company goes about engaging and informing their employees will vary based on the business. For some firms it’s enough to hold town hall meetings periodically while others will get their managers involved and schedule one-on-one meetings with their workers. At other companies it may mean flyers hung up at common areas, regular emails or quarterly conference calls to provide up-dates on the business goals. The missions and goals at most companies whether it’s a ten person shop or a 1,000 strong can also often be found on marketing materials, letterhead, logos, and their Website and Facebook pages, says Sweeney. Sweeney points to foot and apparel company Nike as one example. The company’s “swish” logo sums up what its mission is all about.
At the end of the day, how effectively the mission is communicated to the workers boils down to the leadership. “Great leaders keep the communications flowing to all members of the team so that the organization doesn’t stall,” says Laura Kerekes, chief knowledge officer at Think HR, the human resources company. “Otherwise, instead of working together to get the organization ready for growth, employees might be getting themselves ready for new opportunities outside of the organization.”
According to Kerekes when communicating about the business plan and goals, managers have to not only focus on addressing the what, when and how, but more importantly the why. The why is what most employees want to understand and it’s often the one thing management leaves out of their communications with employees. “I just don’t know why we are doing what we are doing echoes throughout the hallways of organizations where managers are driving on business results and asking employees to perform certain work tasks without addressing why,” says Kerekes. “Great leaders decide what needs to happen in the business and why they want to do it.”