Discovery Session: How to better communicate vision & values with employees

Highly interactive session

15 senior leaders joined last weeks discovery session arranged by ENPEO. The topic was how to better communicate company vision and values to employees and focused especially on how to support line managers to be more effective in embedding vision & values into daily work of their teams.

discovery session

Martin Aldergard of ENPEO, spoke about the basic process of clarifying a communicable vision & values, cascading and translation in the line and embedding into daily work of employees. Line managers play a crucial role in the process. However, knowing that line managers have many other priorities and shifting leadership- and communication skills, it is important to equip them with practical tools and processes that can help them be more effective communicators.

engaging learning process

Theera Tananchai then facilitated two examples of the hands-on dialogue tools that managers used to involve their teams in the company’s vision and values. Both examples demonstrated ways of encouraging discussions and invite thinking and reflection between members of a team.

The event ended with an open discussion on the challenges that corporation face when communicating vision and values. A summary of the most common challenges follows.

The common challenges and how to address

How to meet needs of diverse employee groups

One challenge is how to meet needs of front-line employees effectively, designing communication and training to fit their context and way of learning. This must be balanced with the need for standardization of content and communication process to ensure economy-of-scale and effective reach of many employees.

This can be addressed in the design phase of a communication program, by identifying the key audience groups and understanding their specific communication needs. For each key audience the KNOW+FEEL=DO equation can be used as the format to understand needs and design solutions. The basic approach of interactive and manager-led communication should work for most employee groups.

How to make vision and values feel relevant (meaningful) for employees

Employees might struggle to connect “abstract” corporate vision and value statements with the reality they see and the work they perform.

To address this challenge, firstly we focus on the managers on every level in the organization to play an important role in translating the vision/values one level down to the perspective of their own teams. If this is done in a dialogue format, team members get the chance to think and define how they contribute to the vision and live values. The dialogue (2-way communication) is the ‘sense making’ process where employees discuss, reflect, think and create meaning/relevance. The 1-way communication provided in typical cascading is not very effective in this matter.

Secondly, it is important during design phase to see communication needs not only top-down but also from an audience perspective. What does employees really want to know, what mindsets and attitudes do they have towards the company vision and values, and how do they perceive these being implemented or making a difference in their context. By clearly understanding this, we can design communication that addresses vision & values from a perspective that is relevant to the audience.

Confusing communication with information

Managers might think that communication is talking or emailing, basically 1-way information sharing. This is not the case.

We must help managers realize that talking is not communicating. It is informing. Informing can increase awareness levels and to some extent understanding among employees. But it is not very effective in order to help employees internalize and embed vision & values into their own work. This requires 2-way communication (dialogue) and giving employees the chance to test different thoughts, ask questions, discuss with team members and coming to joint conclusions in the team.

Information occur from mouth of the speaker to the ear of the listener. Communication happens between the ears of the listener.

Managers needs to be equipped with the tools and processes that helps them facilitate dialogue and encourages them to listen more, ask more questions and talk less. Managers must also be helped to understand that they do not need to provide all the answers in this process. Compare the saying that “a manager bust have the right answers; a leader should have the right questions”. This process needs managers to think like leaders.

discover company vision

Managers and employees see no benefit of discussing vision & values

This challenge is closely linked to making communication relevant, and help managers and employees see how vision & values are relevant to their goals.

This challenge can be addressed through a mix of all the above. By designing communication that is built on the needs of the audience, is less prescriptive and provides simple process for creating ones own answers in every team.