CEOs, CFOs and other executives often struggle with communicating earnings, growth strategies, and other messages – such as layoffs – because employees lack business and financial acumen. In other words, employees don’t understand enough about your organization, industry, customers or finances in general to know what’s happening to the company.
Communicators eschew jargon, trying to make the message clear and easy to understand. But if employees don’t understand the context, the information won’t make sense.
1. Understand your business and the changing world.
The first place to start is with yourself. Do you understand what’s happening in your industry? Do you know your customers? Do you know how the changing world impacts your company? Do you have general business, industry and customer insight?
Knowing the landscape is helpful when trying to give employees context.
For example, with a new president in the White House there’s shifting policy that probably impacts your company – business regulations, global trade, healthcare and more. Do you know how?
How can you stay on top of it all?
- Read. It’s something internal communicators love to do. Having a broad world view helps understand what’s happening and the impact it will have to your organization. From LinkedIn to The Wall Street Journal, there are great resources out there to educate you.
- Listen. Executives generally love the big picture – how the world is impacting your company. If you have time with executives, ask some questions about it. They’ll be glad you asked. If you don’t have access to an executive, find leaders in the company who have a broader understanding and talk with them.
- Talk with your team. Exchange ideas and information. It doesn’t have to be formal like a book club, although it could be. Just discussing information helps wrestle with what it means to your organization.
2. Provide business news to employees.
Your newsletter is probably chalked full of good information: new vacation policies, reminders to use benefits and more. But does it have general information about the changing world and the impact to your business? If it doesn’t, it’s time to introduce it.
Although employees are probably hearing the same information you are, they may each reach different conclusions or may not understand the impact of new regulations or policies. Also, don’t shy away from giving the company’s point-of-view or stance through your executives. Chances are good that with some policies executives will have an opinion and employees will want to read it.
If leaders do give their opinion, offer back two-way communication or feedback loops where employees can ask questions to try and understand the perspective or even give their own thoughts. Make it interactive, soliciting and giving information, which will increase understanding.
Encourage department heads and leaders to discuss this information in larger team meetings. Prepare managers by giving them access to these executives to hear the information for themselves.
For urgent news that impacts your business, consider many communication channels beyond email. For example, if you’re in healthcare or insurance, your organization probably cares about what’s happening with the Affordable Care Act (ACA or Obamacare). If and when there’s a change to the law, it bears announcing as well as your company’s position and understanding of it.
3. Make business and financial acumen part of performance reviews, starting with leaders.
It’s a no-brainer, but adding it to performance reviews with your HR partners ensures people are accountable. There’s no better group to start with than leaders in your company. Leaders may be executives, officers and managers, depending on your company’s culture. They’ll begin sharing business information and news to employees. Human Resources, organizational development and leaders themselves can help provide guidance on measurement.
If your company has expertise as a shared value (on your website, as collateral on your walls), consider rolling it into everyone’s performance review and determine how to measure it.One easy way to plan, manage, publish and measure business and financial acumen is through ElevatePoint News. It’s a SharePoint application that promotes news – even outside your company. Internal communications can even target audiences.