MAD Perspectives Blog

 Walking the Talk

Peggy Dau - Wednesday, July 06, 2011

I was discussing communication strategies with a colleague recently. Her company is initiating a series of executive videos to increase employee understanding of company strategy, key initiatives, customer priorities, etc. My first thought was - that's great. Her response was much less enthusiastic.  As chatted about our divergent responses, we realized that while we reacted differently we did have similar opinions.

My response was driven by a love for open communication. I see the series of executive videos as a way to make management more accessible to employees. While the videos do not allow for live interaction, they are available on-demand for employees to access. I hope there will be a mechanism for employees to comment on the content presented. The company has been going through a series of organization and management changes and I see this video series as a way to reinforce the direction and priorites of the company. I believe that video is more memorable than a stack of powerpoint slides. I feel that this series is a step toward open, internal communication at this company. 

My colleague is more skeptical. She feels this is just more 'blah-blah' from senior executives and that it will have little impact on rank and file employees. This is not an uncommon response from an employee working for a large corporation (I remember feeling the same way when I worked in corporate america!). My optimism and her skepticism raise the question of how to make such a video series meaningful and successful.

The videos, on their own, cannot address cultural challenges that have arisen over time. However, should the company stick to traditional communication methods with hopes that employee morale will improve? Or should the company use video, supported by other communications tools (including social media) to reinforce their committment to the company and its employees.  It really is about walking the talk.

This is what any good communication plan is about. Video solutions and social media are simply a means to reinforce this mantra. When I started working at HP in 1985, the culture of its founders, Bill and Dave, was prevalent in the way that managers, engineers, sales and admin staff worked with each other. We could easily ask questions, get answers and figure out innovative ways to serve our customers. Social media is the online instantiation of 'management by walking around'. We're just walking (and talking) to a much broader audience. Authenticity is a must. Follow through is a requirement.

I hope my friend's company is using video in a positive, meaningful way to reinforce their strategy. I hope they enable and encourage employee comments...and then, I hope they respond to them in an open manner. I hope they understand that the expectations of employees have changed. This is no longer a world of push marketing. Honesty, integrity, committment, follow through, open interaction - they have become core tenants of both external and internal communication. Is your company walking the talk?

What's your perspective?