Keeping People Informed
In any number of surveys conducted over the years on what demotivates professionals in the workplace, “not feeling in on things” always ranks at or near the top. By “demotivation,” we are referring to what it is that makes people unwilling to work.
I don’t believe that you will ever have enough time in the day to motivate someone who isn’t motivated. However, I do believe that you can easily take a turned-on person and turn them off by not keeping them informed on what’s going on in the company.
So why do so few A/E/P and environmental firms take measures to ensure people know what is going on in their own firms? Sometimes the lack of information is as significant as satellite office personnel having no idea of whether they’re unit is making a profit or individuals working on jobs with no idea of the budget for their activities. In other cases, it’s as minor as someone finding out three weeks after the fact that an acquaintance in another office is no longer with the firm.
Most firms that get beyond a certain size will start an internal employee newsletter, thinking that will solve the problem of communications. However, while many firms in our industry do have one, the way internal newsletters are implemented is often a problem in itself. Here’s what we commonly see:
The newsletters are not timely. Whether because of the number of people involved in the writing of the newsletter, or the unnecessary complexity of elaborate graphic design and printing requirements, the newsletter doesn’t come out when the news is fresh. If everyone already knows what’s in the newsletter, why read it? Firms should strip down their graphic design and printing so the thing can be typed, copied and distributed quickly.
The information in the newsletter is not news. While news must be new, it must also be relevant. While there’s a place in an internal newsletter for who had a baby and who got their P.E. license, I think it’s even more important that management share critical details on the financial aspects of the firm. What is the firm billing? What is the effective multiplier, company-wide? What is being sold and who is selling it? How much backlog does the firm have? What’s happening cash-wise and with accounts receivable? All of this should be compared to management’s targets.
Top management doesn’t put any spin on the information. Giving people information is one thing, but in a typical A/E or environmental consulting firm the rank and file really do not have any formal education on what the numbers actually mean. The firm’s chief executive (or managing partner, etc.) should explain honestly whether things are going worse, better or as expected, in each category reported on (i.e., sales, billings, backlog, collections, etc.).
There’s no inspirational message. Again, this has to be delivered by the firm’s top manager. It should be something that is heartfelt— words of praise for someone who has gone above and beyond the call of duty, a call for everyone to make sacrifices, exciting news about a new client, or whatever else the CEO feels is important. Here is where the CEO can help reinforce the positive aspects of the firm’s culture, paint the picture for a brighter future, and beat his or her drum or whatever seems important at the time.
I’m convinced there are real benefits to a “quick and dirty” monthly management missive for any firm, especially those with multiple offices. Everyone likes to be kept informed. Take a look at what your company is doing and make it better. The payoff will come in the form of increased morale, more team spirit, more accountability, a better connection of individuals to the firm as a whole, and eventually, a more successful company.
Originally published 3/15/1993