Anthony Hilton: Happy employees promote success

The management consultancy firm Booz & Co has just published a survey of the opinions of 800 senior managers across the world about how the businesses in which they work are coping with the global slowdown.

Anthony Hilton
Anthony Hilton

The results showed two in five of those senior managers doubted their company's leadership had a credible plan to address the economic crisis. Just under half were sceptical about its ability to carry out the plan.

There is more. The Booz survey also discovered that one-third of the chief executives and main board members - the very people who had drafted and approved the survival plans - were also sceptical about whether they would work.

The situation is even worse among hard-hit companies where two-thirds of executives said their boards were not doing enough to ensure their survival. Even among the financially strong there is a sense of paralysis that means they are not moving to take advantage of the opportunities to improve their position thrown up by the crisis.

Now there is a lot written about the role of public relations in a downturn and whether companies should continue to try to communicate with the outside world, when the outside world seems determined not to listen, or to put the worst possible construction on anything it is told. There is far less comment on the need for communications within an organisation, in spite of the fact that, as this survey shows, morale in a lot of cases is so badly undermined that it puts in doubt management's very survival plans.

And if senior executives feel like they do in this survey, what chance do employees have?

The lesson from previous recessions is that the companies that survive most easily are those that manage to motivate their employees and tap into their ingenuity. A decade in which communications strategies have been outward facing and investor-focused has led to a neglect of the importance of internal communications in successful companies. It is a set of skills that needs to be rediscovered and redeployed.

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