Firms fail to reassure employees

FD and YouGov report finds worrying levels of unease in the workforce.

Britain's leading corporates must make employee engagement their top comms priority as they face demotivated and disillusioned staff, according to a YouGov survey.

A poll of 524 white-collar workers commissioned by financial comms agency FD has found worryingly high levels of employee dissatisfaction facing businesses bosses as they adjust to the economic downturn.

YouGov found that a minority of employees (44 per cent) felt their CEO showed strong, decisive leadership and only 28 per cent trusted messages from their CEO more than 'a little'.

Charles Watson, CEO of FD, said: 'Businesses are now expecting people to work harder, often for less money - that is as tough a challenge as a CEO is ever going to face. Bosses have rightly been focused on the priority of making sure businesses are still viable, but the focus now must be on engaging the people who work for them in a meaningful and proactive way.'

Only 15 per cent of respondents felt that their employer had communicated news about job security 'very well', with 37 per cent saying that the communication had been poor or non-existent.

Of particular concern to businesses will be the news that the grapevine or rumour mill is seen as a more trustworthy source of news than official channels of information such as company magazines and the intranet.

Watson said internal facing comms required a 'very different' approach than during a booming market. He said: 'Employees need to be told the truth - however bad it is. Hiding behind the media to engage employees is just not good enough these days.'

A significant 81 per cent said face-to-face contact with their line manager was the most trusted form of communication, while only six per cent trusted external press or TV.

Nadia Kelly, director of PR at Ask Jeeves, warned: 'Too many companies have turned their attention to protecting their external reputations during the recession at the expense of their internal reputation. But the two need to be absolutely integrated, especially in uncertain times such as these.'

Nick Boakes, director of comms at Friends Provident, added: 'People are the most important asset in any firm and it is vital to keep as many people with you as possible.'

HOW I SEE IT

- Nick Hindle, V-P of corporate affairs, McDonald's

Problems currently experienced by companies expose historical shortcomings and existing poor internal comms practices. When you communicate with white-collar workers, it needs context and it benefits from face-to-face interaction.

- Louise McKenna, Head of internal comms, RBS Insurance

We have been up for sale in the last year and there was a lot of speculation around the company. To make sure the rumour mill is not taking hold, you have to give the best picture of reality of the situation and ensure that leadership teams are out and about and addressing concerns.

28% - Of employees trust 'a lot' of messages from CEOs
48% - Have a clear picture of their company's performance
33% - Will look for another job if boss fails to address concerns
36% - Agreed they were able to voice recession concerns
67% - Do not have common face-to-face contact with bosses

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