Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Are Social Media driving employee engagement?

On 23 October 2014, the ETH startup Beekeeper organized another one of its BeeSocial events with the title "The Art of Communication and Driving Engagement" at the SomexCloud location in Zurich. While Philipp Maderthaner, founder of the Campaigning Bureau in Vienna/Austria was presenting about opportunities for successful campaigning in Social Media, I was invited to give a speech on "Are Social Media driving employee engagement?". A handout of my presentation - available only in German - can be obtained from Communtia's download website.

The two presentations were followed by a panel discussion moderated by Matthias Ackeret, owner and publisher of the "Persönlich" magazine, including the two speakers as well as Cris Grossmann, CEO of Beekeeper, Dr. Andreas Jaeggi, Managing Director of Perikom, Society for Personnel Management and Internal Communication, and Sunnie J. Groeneveld, founder and CEO of Inspire 925

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Communication during CEO change: How to avoid cultural risks

Personnel changes at the very top of a company may imply a far-reaching turning-point for all. Business strategies, style of cooperation last but not least corporate culture can change dramatically with the arrival of a new CEO. Changes in top management are therefore often associated with fears and insecurities, especially among managers and employees, and even more when they acome as a result of pressure from external stakeholders such as investors or shareholders.

During such sensitive period, proper communication, which meets the expectations of internal and external stakeholders, is a key success factor. If acceptance and trust is quickly built up the CEO gets the necessary room for maneuver and can successfully carry out his duties. Insufficient communication during the change, however, can negatively affect the incoming CEO's authority right from the beginning and, in the worst case, destroy corporate culture and brand substantially. The consequence can be losing employees, internal stagnation, demotivation and less engagement.

CEO change communication activities should therefore start as early as possible at best before the new CEO's arrival. There is no second chance for an execellent first impression and first signals. And there is no "grace period" in which you could communicatively "escape". In addition to the right messages, the right timing is also important. Empty phrases on the first day are just as unhelpful as the loud announcement of far-reaching restructuring measures or cultural changes. A systematic approach would be far better: Analyze the current situation and expectations of the various stakeholders, shape the messages accordingly and set an appropriate timing. It is not only the CEO who is challenged but also the top managers within his reach which can have a significant influence on the communication during the CEO change. They have their own responsibility in building trust and setting the course for a successful execution of the new CEO's mandate.

Underestimated risks

There are some underestimated risks: Frequent CEO changes together with an inadequate communication may compromise the company's stability and brand consistency. During their professional career a lot of employees experience more CEO changes than own job moves. Company's with three or more CEO changes within five years are not that rare. This means unrest, readjustments and significant changes to everday's work. Moreover, the arrival of a new CEO often results in other departures on the C-level creating further uncertainties and unhappiness. Even without significant changes, managers and employees will adjust at this stage their positions against the new head, which may lead to significant shifts in the coordination system of the company. The performance of indivdiual employees might be valued differently, and the interaction and collaboration within the company could significantly change.

In any case, the return to workaday life will take its time: "How is my job changing with the new top management's priorities and objectives? Will everything change, and what is staying? Will I be affected by restructuring plans? Will my skills and services be estimated also in the future?" A rapid orientation is required. A credible and authentic communication will calm down the situation and everybody will eagerly await the first signals of the new CEO's future course.

(To be continued with Part 2: Do's and Don'ts during CEO change)