Imagine you love 10-pin bowling and are good at it. One day you see an ad in the newspaper: “Experienced Bowler Wanted: Generous compensation and benefits package. All equipment supplied.”
You apply and are granted an interview. You learn that the company has bowler-of-the-month and even bowler-of-the-year awards. The interview goes well and you are hired.
You report for duty, and a nice person in Human Resources outfits you and introduces you to your supervisor. He/she takes you over to the bowling alley and says, “Here’s your lane.”
You are all set to go when you notice something very unusual: a third of the way along, there is a screen across your lane with just enough room at the bottom for the bowling ball to pass under. You can’t see the pins.
You point this out to the supervisor: “Excuse me, but how will I know where to aim? How will I know how I am doing?” He/she says, “Don’t worry. Every now and then I’ll check on your performance. If your scores are low, you can be sure I’ll tell you.”
After the first week, you complain to your supervisor, but he/she says, “Get used to it. I have a screen across my lane too.”
How long would you stay in the job? And if you do decide to stick it out, how long before you stop caring? How long before you have to drag your butt to work every day?
Sadly, many jobs like this still exist: jobs where employees can’t see the target. Put another way, they have no line of sight to organisational goals – desired outcomes – because this knowledge is reserved for those higher up the food chain. As a result, they cannot connect their workplace with the marketplace.
Corporate communicators, perhaps more than any other group of professionals, have a duty to press for change. We must have the courage to push (Yes, push!) senior management to share the Big Picture – to help all employees understand issues in the marketplace and how the company must respond. (This knowledge is powerless if it’s trapped in the board room.) And we must also push for the sharing of information that enables employees to “see” how their performance affects outcomes.
In essence, it’s our job to say, “Mr CEO: tear down those screens.” Because so long as they stay up, our companies won’t achieve the employee engagement, improved productivity and quality service they keep asking for.