Steve Crescenzo’s article in Ragan’s Grapevine, reprinted from Ragan’s Corporate Writer and Editor, discusses a trend in employee communication: online two-way communication between employees and management.
According to Crescenzo, “upward communication” from employees to management was difficult to attain before because two-way communication was usually limited to the suggestion box. Interactive electronic technology changed the situation, though, with continuing two-way communication between executives and employees taking place in the intranet.
Crescenzo says this is powerful for three reasons:
1. Executives can answer employees’ questions immediately, before the rumor mill takes over.
2. All employees can participate and ask questions.
3. Frontline supervisors don’t have to find the answers for their employees’ questions themselves.
Crescenzo presents as an example Motorola’s Division President Adrian Nemcek who has an intranet feature called “Ask Adrian” where employees can ask questions with their names signed or anonymously.
The communication team headed by Monique Hebert collects the questions and works with Nemcek to craft his responses. All the questions and answers, averaging 30-35 weekly, are grouped by topic and posted on the site every Friday. On the same day, Nemcek sends out his weekly e-mail to employees with a list of the week’s questions and a link to the site.
Crescenzo quotes Hebert: “Clearly, maintaining this forum is a tremendous time commitment on everyone’s part. So why do we do it? Because employees appreciate being able to raise their concerns to the business president, and they like hearing directly from the top. Non-anonymous forums have been launched in other parts of Motorola, but none have reached the high volume of ‘Ask Adrian,’ or opened up such a diverse and broad dialogue. We also publish the rants, even if they are unflattering to management-not specific individuals, but leadership as a whole. But the majority of questions are very good, very strategic and business-focused.”
Crescenzo says a recent survey shows that majority of employees read the “Ask Adrian” forum all the time or usually and believe it is a valuable forum.
He says Hebert reports that Nemcek was reluctant to do it at first but soon recognized its potential to uncover problems and provide solutions, as well as track the pulse of what’s happening in the company.
Executives should polish their communication skills if they are to take advantage of this trend.