Academic journal article The Public Manager

Six Communication Secrets of Top-Performing Organizations: Through Better Communication, Government Executives and Human Capital Professionals Engage Employees to Improve Organizational Performance

Academic journal article The Public Manager

Six Communication Secrets of Top-Performing Organizations: Through Better Communication, Government Executives and Human Capital Professionals Engage Employees to Improve Organizational Performance

Article excerpt

[ILLUSTRATION OMITTED]

What communication best practices set top-performing organizations apart from lower-performing ones? Given the continuing focus in government on improving employee productivity and accelerating federal agency transformation, findings from Watson Wyatt s 2007/2008 Communication ROI study offer some tantalizing clues as to how government executives and human capital (HC) professionals can foster stronger employee engagement and drive improved organizational performance. Although the findings from Secrets of Top Performers: How Companies with Highly Effective Communication Differentiate Themselves are based on private-sector research, they hold tremendous relevance for government agencies that want to improve employee alignment and enhance operating effectiveness.

Study Findings

The study shows a strong correlation between effective employee communication and superior organizational performance. Organizations with the highest scores in effective employee communication (and the strongest organizational results) do many things differently from organizations with lower communication effectiveness scores. In particular, they do the following:

* Keep the customer front and center in all employee communication programs.

* Design communication programs that engage employees in "running the business."

* Work to continuously enhance the communication effectiveness of managers.

* Leverage the talents of internal communicators to manage change effectively.

* Measure the impact of employee communication on key business metrics.

* Maximize the employee experience "brand."

This article looks at each of these practices in detail and explores how government executives can apply them in a federal agency context.

Secret 1: Focus on the Customer Private-Sector Findings

In highly effective companies, "putting the customer first" isn't just a slogan. Instead, top-performing companies ensure that employees understand how their actions actually affect the customer. They are fifteen times more likely than low-performing companies to keep managers and employees with direct customer contact focused on customer needs.

A strong customer focus can boost an employees sense of pride and job security Vatson Wyatts GlobalWork Attitudes surveys reveal, for example, that both customer focus and communication are key drivers of employee engagement, and customer focus is stronger when employees understand how the work they do affects the customer. The Communication ROI study, meanwhile, found that companies that use communication to facilitate this understanding are rewarded with improved business performance.

Public-Sector Applications

People who seek employment in the public sector are, in many cases, motivated by factors other than money. They are, according to Professor James Perry of Indiana University, more likely to be motivated by "altruism, a desire to do good, or to give back to one's community and country." It follows that whatever agencies can do to help public employees take pride in their work, see it as something special, and focus on their end customer--such as the US. taxpayer or a key stakeholder group in the U.S. population--is likely to increase individual employee motivation and engagement in serving the needs of the American public.

These efforts should start even before individuals become federal employees. Agencies should target recruiting at young men and women who want to improve people's lives and emphasize that public-service careers afford young people an opportunity to personally affect public governance and government decision making. John Palguta, vice president of policy at the Partnership for Public Service (PPS), often makes this argument when speaking to various federal agencies and to young college graduates, adding, "Some opportunities to act on public issues are only available through pursuing public-service careers. …

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