Power Players' Lounge: Open internal stakeholder communications are essential

Today, the 2009 SNEWS Power Players' Lounge opens in SNEWS. Each week, through the end of October 2009, a new column will be posted to the Power Players' Lounge. It's intended to be a place where our industry friends can gather to read and hopefully discuss ideas for improving business -- especially important during these challenging economic times. We encourage you to interact with others while hanging out in the Power Players' Lounge and it's our hope their columns will inspire imagination and debate. Inaugural Power Players' Lounge columnists include: Bill Gamber, Joe Hyer, Jennifer Mull, Brad Werntz, Kristin Carpenter-Ogden, John Sterling, Josh Guyot, Mike Wallenfels, Beaver Theodosakis, and Sally Grimes.
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In January 2009, SNEWS® named the industry's first class of outdoor industry Power Players (click here to read).

"Insight and inspiration provide an edge that everybody can use in these economic times," SNEWS reported when it announced the Power Players. "Both can be found by listening to people who have become business leaders. And that is the driving force behind the launch of the SNEWS Power Players -- an honor that will acknowledge outdoor industry leaders for varied accomplishments in different industry sectors."

To acknowledge the honor of being chosen as the first class of Power Players, the group wanted to collectively give back to the outdoor industry by sharing ideas and encouraging debate and discussion. Today, the 2009 SNEWS Power Players' Lounge opens in SNEWS.

Each week, through the end of October 2009, a new column will be posted to the Power Players' Lounge. It's intended to be a place where our industry friends can gather to read and hopefully discuss ideas for improving business -- especially important during these challenging economic times.

We encourage you to interact with others while hanging out in the Power Players' Lounge and it's our hope their columns will inspire imagination and debate. Use the comments button at the top and bottom of each article to post your own remarks and observations, and to engage in discussion.

Power Players' Lounge columnists include: Bill Gamber, Joe Hyer, Jennifer Mull, Brad Werntz, Kristin Carpenter-Ogden, John Sterling, Josh Guyot, Mike Wallenfels, Beaver Theodosakis, and Sally Grimes.

This column was written by Kristin Carpenter-Ogden, president/founder of Verde PR & Consulting (kco@verdepr.com).

We hear it a lot: "Recessions are times for opportunity." In the case of internal employee communications, this couldn't be truer.

Reports of lay-offs, furloughs and firings along with dismal company earnings, and in the worst cases, company closures, permeate our consciousness on a daily basis. 

People are being asked to do more at work than ever before, and in many cases, they are receiving less information than ever before from their companies. Internal employee communications during a recession does not subscribe to the old adage: "If you don't have anything nice to say, don't say anything at all." Filtering or selectively feeding your employees information to ensure, you hope, they remain positive and productive at work most often has the opposite effect.

Sure, it's obvious that there's a lot of bad news out there and its negatively affecting our industry and the companies that comprise it. Delivered with empathy and honesty, regular updates regarding your company and its core markets, even if it is challenging news, will mean the world to your workforce. Doing so can ease their fear and even resentment, while building trust and loyalty. Undoubtedly, your workforce is grateful for being employed, but is that enough?

Offering more access to information -- such as through subscription trade news and information services and trade association reports -- and more transparency about your business shows your workforce that you care enough about them to share the responsibility of success with them. Engaging your staff will build loyalty and a sense of responsibility for your business. This is critical to survival in the recession, but more importantly, to growth beyond the recession. Building a trust-based company culture is critical to success on so many levels, especially your company's external reputation. Think about it this way: Employee loyalty is the single best way to ensure your internal stakeholders are communicating positively to external stakeholders. Employees can literally sabotage a company by passing on rumors and misinformation, simply because they were left out of the loop about accurate company and industry news and information.

It's true that recession worries affect management right along with the workforce. And, we also know that many company leaders in this industry care deeply about staff -- often so deeply, they blindly try to protect them from difficult news. We also get that for management, this economy makes it feel as if you are trying to lead while standing in a canoe in choppy water -- there's a lot of unknown and uncertain territory and it's tough to be positive sometimes. Positive or negative aside, keep in mind that what will win loyalty is consistency and openness in communications. Simple avenues are just fine: daily email updates, weekly staff meetings, a monthly state-of report.

The following are some insights to encourage you find ways to honestly and transparently communicate with your workforce -- now, during this recession, and into the future as we inevitably exit into better times.

  • The Harvard Business Review's June 2009 issue has a great article titled, "What's Needed Next: A Culture of Candor." In sum, the article illustrates that businesses won't be successful communicating with external stakeholders if it's not honest internally. It encourages management to be honest with workforce members instead of hoarding information, or choosing to tell them what you think they want to hear. Doing so regularly will build a reputation of trust within your company. Ideally, your employees will return the favor with more honest feedback to managers and care take information that they may choose to share with the public. The article encourages managers to carefully present hurtful or fear-inducing information, to practice delivery first to ensure that empathy is part of the message, to admit mistakes and, most important, to err on the side of sharing instead of hoarding information.
  • Interestingly, social media apps like Facebook and Twitter help the goal of improved communications. A recently published Gartner research report stated that web-based social networking sites like Facebook and Twitter should be allowed by companies. These sites, the report said, actually improve collaboration and instant communication among a company's workforce. Gartner analysts argued that social apps should be allowed in enterprises with a caveat that businesses craft a "trust model" concerning reasonable use of Facebook, YouTube and other communications and programs.

Are you keeping your key internal stakeholders in the communication loop effectively? If not, when will you? In what ways? Don't wait. Your company's future success may depend on it.

We have made this article public access, to ensure all may be able to read it. If you like what you are reading, and want to be able to fully participate in the discussions and view articles and expert network columns in our archives, you’ll need your own SNEWS® member access, which we’ve made really easy with the SNEWS Freebie. Click here to activate your own SNEWS access today and become part of the strongest and most interactive outdoor and fitness industry community on the web today.

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