Bosses should learn to listen

Few senior executives these days would deny that communication has a vital role to play in introducing initiatives, whether they be different methods of working or mergers and acquisitions, writes Roger Trapp. Yet it appears many are paying lip service to the notion.

According to what is claimed to be the most comprehensive qualitative survey of attitudes on internal marketing and communication undertaken in private- and public-sector organisations, British business leaders have an over-reliance on "outmoded `top-down' employee communication techniques".

That is why, to put it simply, there are plenty of organisations spending small fortunes on employee newsletters, which push positive messages about how well the organisation is doing in the lean and mean business environment, but little internal marketing or collecting and disseminating of information that is not directly related to the management's preoccupations.

Kevin Thomson, the chairman of the Marketing and Communication Agency (MCA), which commissioned the research by Salford University's BNFL Corporate Communication Unit, said: "For the last two decades, British business has been stuck in a time warp, struggling to make do with an outdated approach called employee communication that many managers see as a way of transmitting information rather than a means of getting their people's commitment.

"Vital corporate change initiatives, such as business process re-engineering, are not achieving success because British business leaders are failing to achieve the necessary employee `buy-in' to change proposals."

The findings, published last month, come weeks before a conference on the subject organised by the Centre for Communication Development - the management education arm of Smythe Dorward Lambert, a firm of communication consultants.

The event, to be held at the Ashdown Park Hotel, East Sussex, on 25 and 26 June, comes with its own research suggesting that many businesses are at least aware of the problem revealed by the MCA. More than two-thirds of them, it says, are making line managers' communication skills a high priority.

John Smythe, chairman of Smythe Dorward Lambert, who will be addressing the conference along with leading academics and other business people, sees encouraging signs in the type of people employed by organisations to carry out the communications role. Increasingly, they are trained in behaviour skills rather than being "just external public relations managers becoming internal PRs".

Moreover, the use of Mr Smythe's consultancy in central London in six recent mergers - including Glaxo-Wellcome and Lloyds-TSB - suggests that executives see an important part to be played by communication in key developments for their organisations.

Mr Smythe, who agrees with the organisations that believe involving line managers is vital, also sees another emerging idea: the move from concentrating on groups to looking at the individual in organisations. This is because individual members of staff have the power, through their attitudes, to make initiatives successful or not - even though it is essential to share information with groups.

Moreover, if organisations are to benefit properly from real communication by having information, and views, passed up as well as down the line, each individual must be involved. They all must be made to feel they can make a difference.

However, the MCA research suggests that this may yet be some way off. Only a minority of the respondents describe employee communication as interactive or two-way. Most senior managers still view it as a way of transmitting information from the top and providing staff with the information they need to perform their job properly rather than as a tool to involve staff in the aims of the organisation.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
peoplePair enliven the Emirates bore-draw
Arts and Entertainment
tvPoldark episode 8, review
Britain's opposition Labour Party leader Ed Miliband (R) and Boris Johnson, mayor of London, talk on the Andrew Marr show in London April 26
General electionAndrew Marr forced to intervene as Boris and Miliband clash on TV
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Services - City, London

£50000 - £55000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Business Analyst - Financial Service...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£18000 - £23000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: At SThree, we like to be differe...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant

£20000 - £25000 per annum + competitive: SThree: Did you know? SThree is the o...

Day In a Page

General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions