Be a part of the solution: how to support your senior stakeholders

Last week was the first time that the annual CIPR Inside conference was held in our very own Birmingham, so of course the event was a must for us to attend. The day was an internal communications conference with a twist. Called ‘Changing the Conversation’, the intention was to inspire a move from talking about the problems we face as internal communicators, to talking about the solutions instead.

The best insights from the day outlined the ways to apply this to senior leadership teams within a business. Working in communications, one of the top ways to support your stakeholders is to bring fresh thinking to the table. In fact, creativity is one of the top skills that employers are looking for.

So, here are some creative solutions to the challenges that you may be facing in your organisation:

Keep it brief

Helen Schick, Head of Organisational Development and Engagement at Alzheimer’s Society, shared the most effective ways she’s found to become a trusted advisor to her stakeholders. To paraphrase:

Senior leadership teams want us to absorb all of the context of the organisation and then feed it back to them in two sentences. They don’t want to know your working out – they haven’t got time for that.

So, if you’re ever struggling to get a response from your senior leaders, repackaging your message into the briefest form possible is much more likely to produce the action or behaviour change you’re looking for.

Be aware of cognitive biases

ICology host Chuck Gose gave a great presentation about cognitive bias. Some of the lesser known types he talked about included the Ikea Bias; essentially people will always feel anything they’ve built themselves is better. Therefore, involving employees in designing organisational solutions will always help them to land more effectively.

Chuck also talked about the Ostrich Effect; the tendency to bury our heads in the sand when something is going wrong. However, for successful employee engagement, we know that when there are issues in a business it’s more important than ever to provide consistent, transparent information to employees. Keeping this in mind, as communication professionals it’s our responsibility to spot where there are gaps in internal employee communications and get senior leaders to raise their heads and fill the silence.

Develop an organisational conscience

Katherine Bradshaw from the Institute of Business Ethics is on a mission to give ethics an image makeover. Adding an element of storytelling can make a huge difference to how employees understand your company culture and values, whether you’re at a communication agency or in-house.

Have you ever faced an impossible deadline at work and been tempted to compromise the quality of the service you’re providing to meet it? Even though it was against your company values?

Pressure can affect our decision making process and raise the risk of an ethical dilemma where we compromise on our values. When you’re advising senior leaders on risk to business reputation, it may be a difficult conversation, but you need to raise this and flag any problems with workload or deadlines. Having empowered employees, who know that company values always come first, is the best way to maintain an ethical business.

To read more of our advice and reflections on delivering world class internal communications, check out the rest of our blogs here.

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