Data and feedback are essential to understand how your organization and its communications are performing, but that data can be — and likely is — flawed if you haven’t established a strong culture of trust and transparency.
Why it matters: “If you are not spending time cultivating trust, creating an environment where hard conversations can happen without retribution,” your employee poll, survey, and feedback “data is irrelevant. It didn’t start from a place where people believe when they say something, it matters,” says Annalisa Esposito Bluhm, VP of CEO and Leadership Communications at Northrop Grumman.
Cultivating that culture of trust and vulnerability starts with its leaders being radically transparent, according to Gallup, but there’s a lot of room for organizations to improve. Only 23% of U.S. employees strongly agree they trust their company leaders.
To change that story and build a stronger culture of trust, Annalisa suggests…
Communicating openly. Not only should you be communicating the same messages inside and outside your organization, but cascade key objectives, goals, and updates down through the company to ensure that not only does everyone feels like a valuable part of the team, but that there is transparency and accountability in the org.
Creating a safe space. Ensure employees feel secure sharing their real feedback is the first step to being able to see how your company culture is actually doing. Make sure they know there will be no retribution and that you welcome different perspectives.
Acting on feedback. “Building trust in your leadership team is critically important,” Annalisa added. If employees can’t trust leaders to both listen and make changes based on feedback, then they won’t bother sharing their true opinions.
Living your values. “Our values are very simple. It's we do what we say we will, and that's easy.” But if even a single senior leader is not doing what they say they will, it broadcasts mixed messages and creates confusion and doubt.
The bottom line: You can spend a lot of time on the tactics to collect data, but “it's those moments of trust that make your poll surveys, your verbatims, your town hall Q&As” open, honest, and free-flowing with data you — as a leader — can also trust.
Go deeper: 7 ways to measure the success of internal communications