Employee comms hurt by scandals, surveys reveal

NEW YORK & ANN ARBOR, MI: Ongoing corporate scandals have decimated companies' ability to communicate their goals and vision to employees. That is at the heart of two new studies, one from Fleishman-Hillard, and the other from Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute.

NEW YORK & ANN ARBOR, MI: Ongoing corporate scandals have decimated companies' ability to communicate their goals and vision to employees. That is at the heart of two new studies, one from Fleishman-Hillard, and the other from Aon Consulting's Loyalty Institute.

mmitment skyrocketed after September 11, but Aon's latest survey found worker commitment this year has now fallen to near the lowest level since 1997.

"This year's survey says commitment is back down to pre-September-11 levels," said Ray Seghers, director of research at Aon. "Organizations had an opportunity, but didn't take advantage of it."

But now companies have a new opportunity to repair the damage they've done. "It clearly is a time when companies are taking actions that go against the grain, and it's important to understand how to address employees' concerns," said Don Etling, co-chair of Fleishman's internal-communications practice. "We look at internal communications as something that affects performance, whether you have two or 200 employees. Companies that do a good job of explaining their values, not just to their partners, investors, and clients, but also to their employees, seem to enjoy better results."

The Aon survey found that 38% of employees don't feel they adequately take part in company planning changes, and 36% feel their company doesn't help them manage stress.

According to Aon's index, worker commitment sank to the lowest level since the survey began in 1997. And the confidence index, measuring how workers feel about their companies' business prospects and performance, sank from 44.5 to 41.8 after September 11.

"Every organization needs to communicate with its employees to find out what's important to them," Seghers said. Too many companies communicate information down the management chain, but have no provisions for employee concerns to work their way up to top executives, he added. "Organizations really need to restore the trust of employees, but most of the effort has been about the trust of investors and customers."

But employees are just as important as those investors and customers said Peter Verrengia, co-chair of Fleishman's corporate-credibility advisory practice.

"Employees need to be treated like an audience of owners," Verrengia said. "They make judgments about where they work as if they are investors. They are investing their time and effort and future."

"Companies really need to look at this as a performance issue," added Etling. "Leadership needs to have frank and honest discussions with their employees. E-mail memos just won't cut it. The most important form of communication is leadership behavior. And this is a wake-up call that they need to be more frank and honest and candid, to build up trust internally as well as externally."

Aon spoke with 1,700 employees in April, while Fleishman questioned 200 employees in July and August.

EMPLOYEES SPEAK UP

80% of employees say greed is driving corporate scandals

77% agree their performance as employees affects their employers' stock

value

72% believe corporations care more about stock value than customers'

needs

72% believe information they receive from employers is "adequate to very

comprehensive"

60% say the stock market causes companies to focus on short-term profit

47% of employees are more encouraged to raise questions about corporate

accounting practices

41% believe investor demands impede their companies' focus on meeting

customer demands

39% say their companies are now communicating more financial information

to them

SOURCE: Fleishman-Hillard

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