People and Purpose – IoD’s Mid-Term Message Highlighted the Need for First-Class Communication
This week’s IoD mid-term event not only brought Guernsey’s business community together for the first time since January, but it also shone a spotlight on the importance of relationships, communication and purpose.
From the chatter in the room, it was clear that business leaders have missed the opportunity to talk, network and share ideas and experiences. Communication is at the very heart of business; whether it’s a contract negotiation, boardroom debate, watercooler chat or a conversation with a potential client, business is grounded in how people interact and share ideas and information. That was a theme that we returned to throughout the mid-term event, through the panel discussions and the board insights that Jonathan Knight of Board Intelligence shared.
Jonathan opened by sharing his observations about how boards adapted to the pandemic. He noted that many boards were now having shorter meetings focused on operational matters, and discussing strategy and the long-term view in separate meetings. The ease of meeting online made those shorter meetings possible and allowed boards to come together in a more agile and responsive way.
Jonathan also shared insights around poor-quality board packs which hinder directors, especially non-executives, and that information overload was a disadvantage during the pandemic, which saw the need for fast decision making.
Talking of leadership, Jonathan said: ‘Any leader who has been able to lead and inspire, and to also be really supportive and foster a culture where the people around them feel supported, has done a lot better in this crisis, and I think will continue to do so after the crisis. The people who have had the toughest time, but who have then been supported, are the ones who are now most enthused and most enthusiastic about the leadership, about the company, and about those around them.’
We understand the importance of internal communications and since the start of the Covid crisis, we have shared our expertise in this area which is critical for creating followership. As both Johnathan and the panel noted, when you support people, trust them and let them get on with their job with a sense of autonomy, they generally respond with increased productivity and accountability. That can only happen when staff understand the mission and, importantly, how their role, however small, fits into the bigger picture.
People and corporate responsibility, along with sustainability issues, have risen up the board agenda in the last 12 months. Jonathan Knight revealed that recent research by Board Intelligence showed that fewer than 20% of boards look at community topics more than once a year, and it’s a similar number for people. He conceded that this had changed during the pandemic, and we hope it stays that way.
Martin Talbot, CEO of Healthspan, made a very powerful point when he said: ‘Financial performance is an outcome that we spend considerable time discussing. We don’t focus enough on the work, and the work is done by people. The pandemic enabled people to act with more autonomy, they were more engaged, more responsible and more accountable.’ At the heart of that enablement is transparent and honest communication.
The importance of frequent and transparent communications in the workplace was highlighted as one of the biggest lessons learnt during the pandemic. It’s often been said that you can’t over-communicate in a crisis, and that sentiment was reflected in the conversations of the panellists.
Of course, it shouldn’t take a pandemic to shine the spotlight on human interaction in the workplace, or to reveal the importance of good internal communications to create a workforce that is aligned with your organisational purpose and has congruency with your values. But it has, and yes, internal communications is having its moment in the sun. However, for us this work isn’t new. For many years, we have highlighted the need to align your external communications with your internal messaging. We’ve woven that advice into many client campaigns and proposals because we believe the two must go hand in hand.
The last 12 months have been a rollercoaster ride for anyone working in the PR and communications industries. We’ve shown our value to organisations of all shapes and sizes, we’ve helped to share complex messages and kept communities together. From advising boards on their corporate responsibility programmes to helping leaders shape their messages for staff and colleagues, we make an impact at every level of business and in all corners of society.
Clear communication is fundamental to interaction, transaction, relationship-building and problem-solving. We believe that tailored and authentic messages can build relationships, drive action and create change. And we’re ready to help you make an impact. Get in touch if you would like to improve your internal or external communications or corporate responsibility programmes.