Trust: difficult to build, easy to destroy

Building trust in brands and within organisations: what role for communicators? Book your space for our next event now.

Trust matters to all of us. For communicators and leaders, it is the ultimate outcome. It drives success and reputations depend upon it. It’s difficult to build and easy to destroy.

On February 5th 2020 IABC UK & Ireland is exploring trust:

We are going to use input from the latest research on trust and, using the Ideas Exchange format, get everyone involved in exploring the topic around the most trusted brands and best places to work.

  • Learn how to increase trust where you work
  • Explore what’s different about trust between people who work together and trust in a company or brand
  • Identify what increases and destroys trust, and how can communicators influence it

Feedback from the Ideas Exchange events we have run in the last two years has been fantastic so book a place now – there’s a limited number available.

When: Wednesday 5th February 2020, 6pm to 8pm

Where: Lansons Communications, 24a St John Street, Barbican, London EC1M 4AY

Tickets: Free for IABC members. £20 for non-members

Who’s listening? A report on how organisations listen to employees

“Who’s Listening?” features the results of the research that we conducted into the state of organisational listening across EMENA with the International Association of Business Communicators (IABC) and PR Academy.

The report’s insights include:

  1. Effective listening to employees is seen to deliver a more competitive organisation, a greater sense of employee engagement and advocacy (reducing reputational risk), more trust in leadership, greater innovation and openness to change, resilience, learning and well-being
  2. “Fear” is a major barrier to listening for both employees and leaders. It is not just speaking truth to power that can inhibit employees. Some leaders and managers avoid creating important listening opportunities because they fear exposure to uncertainty and questions that they feel they cannot but should be able to answer
  3. Listening that focuses on strategic and operational goals will enhance traction for listening initiatives. In other words, to gain support for listening activities they need to focus on drivers of growth and performance, or on factors that could reduce risk (e.g. how to increase compliance). This helps build leaders’ confidence in the importance and value of listening.
  4. At the same time leaders that create face to face sessions to meet and talk without set agendas build employees’ confidence in leadership and trust in the business
  5. Surveys need visible and transparent feedback and response mechanisms that demonstrate the impact that they are having. Surveys have become common place and in some cases a scorecard rather than a positive tool to increase effectiveness

Download your copy of the report here.

Pink headphones on a pink and blue background.
Photo by Icons8 Team on Unsplash

The work-life balancing act

by Georgia Eather, IABC UK&I Board Member

Is the work-life balance a myth? Is it possible that we can have it all – a thriving social life, multiple hobbies, time with family, a healthy lifestyle, consistent sleep patterns and a successful career? If we try to do it all, what effect does this have on both our health and wellbeing and the culture within our workplaces? 

The lack of work-life balance means employees are not only unproductive; their physical and mental wellbeing is suffering. A recent Harvard Business Review study found the work-life conflict is a potent cause of stress, leading to poor health, low productivity and the pause in gender equality in the workplace. This behavioural science research found organisations involved in the study listed a healthy work-life balance as one of their core values, yet they struggle to integrate this value in day-to-day workings. 

This study also identified being early in the office, not taking breaks, leaving late and then emailing on the way home, puts employees in a hectic mind frame, constantly reacting to ‘urgent’ requests that probably could have waited until the next working day. In this mind frame, employees tend to ‘tunnel’, focusing on easily achievable tasks. This means they move away from the strategic nature of their jobs, are less engaged and feel pressured and discouraged. 

United Nations research shows that employee engagement influences a range of factors and the business case for employee work-life balance is well made. The introduction of flexible working is proven to improve staff productivity and financial performance. This is a direct result of greater staff engagement and commitment. Having a healthy work-life balance is clearly better for individuals, and the advantages for organisations are numerous, including increased employee health and wellbeing, staff engagement, increased productivity and happier employees. 

Improving work-life balance seems to be a largely organisational and social initiative, with different companies having different solutions. One New Zealand company, Perpetual Guardian, trialled a four-day working week with great success, with 78% of employees feeling they could successfully manage their work-life balance, an increase of 24 percentage points compared to before the trial. American start-up Getaway sends employee reminders to take holidays and days off. CEO Jon Staff also tries to promote taking holidays and sends in pictures of him on his holidays. 

So that leads to the question: How can we as corporate communications professionals help employees and organisations balance the work-life scales? 

While most organisational decisions come from management and HR, we can help in two ways: 

  • Firstly, we can promote the benefits for employees and highlight to leadership that happy and healthy staff are key to a productive and engaged workforce. Leadership may not be aware their staff are ineffective and disengaged, and will benefit from a healthy work-life balance themselves. 
  • The second stage is to contribute positively to the social model; invite peers to step outside the office for lunch, ask them if they have time available for that extra meeting and encourage colleagues to leave on time. 

We may not have all the answers yet, and there isn’t a one size fits all solution, but we can encourage and work towards a culture change within our organisations. It’s important that employees want to be at work and contribute to their organisation, but a work-life balance needs to be a vital part of a workplace’s culture; leading to healthier, happier and more engaged employees who are more likely to be committed. 

Learning from the Best at our Crisis Comms Event

Our recent event, hosted in Leeds, was centred around crisis communications and what to do when your brand is facing a crisis. We had the pleasure of listening to two amazing talks from experts in communications who spoke in depth about their experiences dealing with a brand crisis.
The first talk was given by Rachael Pearson. As a former Morrisons Internal Communications employee turned freelance writer, Rachael has seen her fair share of PR crises. Her presentation embodied the five core rules that should be applied to any crisis.

  1. Channels – In any form of crisis you need to get in touch with the right people to rectify the situation. However, it is vital you use the right channels. She provided first-hand experience of the Morrisons data breach crisis. To handle this event, they created an entirely new channel in the form of an employee Facebook page, where management could coordinate with team members quickly and efficiently.
  2. Research & Review – When a business is facing a crisis, the comms team needs to create a solution. To do so, they need to review the entire situation and assess all the details.
  3. IC & PR – Both the PR and Internal Communications teams must work together throughout a crisis. They must ensure that a clear unified message is being given to both employers and external stakeholders.
  4. Message – Once a company has established a defined message that they would like to relay, they must ensure to release it as soon as possible as silence can be deadly.
  5. Use Your Values – When a business is establishing a PR crisis plan, they must ensure the response is in line with their brand. She presented a great example of KFC’s response to their chicken shortage, producing a funny but sincere apology to their customers in a channel that research showed their key customers used most frequently.

Our next presentation was given by Toby Higgins, Senior Communications Manager for Network Rail.
Running the comms for the Network Rail is no small feat! Toby explained how any unsafe scenarios that places either a passenger or driver at risk, is considered a crisis to their company. Interestingly, the UK has the safest railway in Europe, so anything that could harm this reputation needs to be dealt with immediately.
He presented the Flying Scotsman crisis which was one the largest crises the Network Rail has faced over the last 10 years. This was a charity project to restore the iconic train for a nationwide tour. However, on the first departure from King Cross, it was brought to a grinding halt as bystanders had begun walking on the tracks to get a better view on the train. The halt of that train alone costs £80,000 in paybacks due to the delays in other journeys.
Many other companies may have ended the project there and then, however, the Network Rail comms team decided that would be even more damaging to the brand. They ran a crisis comms campaign for a year and a half preceding the original departure to ensure no incidents occurred during the nationwide trip. Alongside this, he explained the comms strategy that they have in place for predictable eventualities, e.g. bridges collapsing. The team trains and practices this strategy ever year to ensure when a crisis occurs, they are prepared.

The session was finished with an engaging Q&A session chaired by IABC board member and founder of Halston Marketing, Georgia Halston. There was a clear level of intrigue as both speakers were quizzed on their talks and our delegates probed a little deeper into the processes carried out in both instances.
Drinks and canapes, as well as a little networking bookended the evening.

If you’re interested in joining our events in the future, follow us on Twitter and LinkedIn.

Leaders think people are their most important asset. Really?

“Employees are a company’s greatest asset” said former Xerox CEO Anne Mulcahy.  She is one amongst many, including such figureheads as Richard Branson – chairman of Virgin Group.  

You would think that if this was the case, then leaders would value what their employees had to say.  But recent evidence suggests this may not be the case – or at least not according to communications professionals who say that leaders may say this but their behaviour does not back it up.  IABC UK found that 33% think leaders are not willing to listen to what employees have to say and only 16% strongly agree they do.  In hard numbers that means between one or two in ten communications professionals think that leaders are strongly committed to listening to their employees.

This conclusion comes from research conducted during 2019 by IABC UK&I, PR Academy and Couravel.  Howard Krais, Dr. Kevin Ruck and Mike Pounsford have been exploring attitudes to “Listening” in organisations.  This has included a survey of IABC members across EMENA, conversations at two workshops in Bahrain and London and a series of telephone interviews.

We are launching our report on December 2. Other important findings include the role we think listening has to play in creating psychological safety, social justice and organisational performance.  We are also going to introduce the idea of “human listening” to differentiate really effective listening from the kind of passive listening that can characterise much of the formal listening channels used today.

We will be launching the report in a free webinar at noon on December 2, 2019. Click here for your tickets.

There is an IABC hosted Rapido event to introduce the key topics face to face that evening. This is free to members and all others are welcome for a nominal fee. Tickets here.