Employee Communications:  Say something with meaning or don’t bother

So we begin another year and our leaders of business and commerce are busily sending out their New Year memos to their teams to remind them of why they are critical members of the team. I say this in jest, of course, as a good employer communications can be a powerful, unifying tool to ensure employees feel valued, are motivated and engaged. But, handled poorly the effect can be very negative indeed.

Punit Renjen, CEO of Deloitte, recently sent a company-wide memo that has been mocked on Twitter. The memo – titled “Let’s swap resolutions: Living our purpose #12” – was leaked to the Financial Times UK and an article was published lampooning the content.

It starts with: “We have said ‘Hello, 2016!’ and now it is time for resolutions.”

Renjen’s own resolution is: “to deliver an exceptional, and consistent, global talent experience across the Deloitte network.”

He then outlines how this could be possible: “This promise is articulated through four key pillars:

  1. “To help you make an impact
  2. “Inspire you as professionals
  3. “Accelerate your ambitions
  4. “Connect and celebrate your unique strengths (more on these pillars soon)

In return for delivering these pillars, he asks that they repay him by resolving; “to live Deloitte’s purpose and join our journey to undisputed leadership”.

Now without trying to pick on Deloitte too much because

  1. A quick Google search will tell you that’s been done quite effectively already and
  2. I’m pretty sure they would have a very effective legal team.

My big question in this is – why?

Who on earth thought this was an effective method to motivate a highly intelligent (and let’s face it if you are working at Deloitte you aren’t silly), and I’m guessing already pretty motivated workforce with a bunch of words that look like they have plucked together at random?  Besides the fact that the words are pretty silly, what was the objective of the communiqué? To motivate, or perhaps to inspire? How would that work?

I have been fortunate to work with some very clever employee communications and engagement experts in my career and one key lesson that has stuck with me is – If you aren’t saying anything meaningful then don’t say it at all.

People are pretty sophisticated when it comes to communications and employees (this may be a shocking revelation) – are people too!  So here are a few things to think about for better employee communications:

  1. Don’t talk jargon, use English: People see through corporate speak and it achieves little.
  2. Know your purpose: What do you want your communication to do? Be clear on this, don’t just do it because you think you have to.
  3. Engage don’t just communicate: Seek feedback and learn from it. Ask your team what they want.
  4. Say less, show more: Demonstrate what you mean, talk about it less.