Visible leadership is mission critical

Brendan Cooper1.jpg

According to the Facebook Power of Pride survey, people want to work for a company that makes them proud[1].  Their personal value is linked to the value prescribed to the company and the company’s value is taken from what good it is doing in the world.

This trend is known as value-ation. People want to know what good their companies are doing and this “good” needs to resonate with their own personal values in order for them to stay with the company and be productive within it.

The value-ation mindset wildly differs from the traditional attitude of working for a salary and being grateful for a job. It gives importance to people having knowledge of what the company is up to – internally and externally and it represents the mission critical nature of conversation between leaders and staff to drive staff retention and attraction.

Hence visible leadership has become an internal communications catch phrase - often partnered with purposeful leadership, and a variety of other terms that represent leadership buy-in to employee engagement strategies – all positive and beneficial for an organisation.

Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook epitomises the implementation of this concept. His personal availability, authenticity, transparency and ability to get people to “buy into” the Facebook culture has resulted in a company with an employee satisfaction rating of 4.8 out of 5[2] as well as great personal success.

So where does South Africa sit on the visible leadership scale? Surprisingly strongly. The field of internal communications is growing as business and corporate owners start to realise that staff attraction and retention are no longer purely based on remuneration.

South African CEOs and other senior executives are adopting new tactics and channels to ensure that they are visible and in communication with their staff.

After all, technology allows for it. Whilst leaders might need help in presenting on camera or writing articles for digital platforms, it is increasingly obvious that it’s imperative that leaders engage and help shape content and conversations to be seen as authentic.

Regular videos that are sent to staff, or are active on internal social platforms; group or “town hall” meetings that take place face-to-face; presentations to the entire company via live video streaming and generally, engaging with staff in a more relaxed manner, is proving very effective at driving company culture, mission and values.

One of the communication tools for leaders that we are seeing work very well for our clients is video.

Video is the most consumed form of digital media and ticks all the right boxes. It’s authentic and transparent and it’s measurable, which gives companies lots of data to work with. You know whether it’s being viewed, shared or liked.

Our Internal Communications team is also focusing on optimising email comms, with more thought being given to design and content presentation. When done well, email is still a very effective platform.

More people in South Africa have email than Facebook and it’s an open and easily accessible platform. There has been a lot of talk about the death of email and concern about emails getting lost in clogged up inboxes, but stats are showing that there is a huge resurgence in email’s effectiveness. BUT, and this is a big but; only if they’re done right, which means they need to provide compelling and relevant content and be used tactically. An unattractive, word-heavy email landing in an inbox will not get read.

Whilst many organisations have intranets, New Media advise against duplicating content on your company intranet. Psychographically, it’s not a place that people go to look for health and wellness content, or inspirational thought or leadership content – it’s used for practical actions like booking leave, downloading an HR form or to check in.

We are also seeing the rise of social media channels within the organisations we provide internal comms stategy and content for, like Facebook’s Workplace and the workforce communications platform Social Chorus to deliver up-to-date content that enables social behaviours such as sharing, commenting and liking posts from top leaders.

Social media is properly entrenching itself as part of workplace communication channels. This is a major trend, and many organizations will be continuing on this route in the future

The bottom line is that engaging and relevant content is a highly effective tool for visible leadership but as with everything in business, they best make sure they do it the right way and with the myriad of platforms and technologies available now, there really is no excuse not to.

By Brendan Cooper, Head of internal communications at New Media

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