The Financial Times columnist Stefan Stern wrote an article about a CEO who went undercover for two weeks before he was announced as the new chief executive. He pretended to be an office worker who was sent around to several locations. During these two weeks, he was being filmed for what his co-workers thought was a documentary on how office types cope with hard labor assignments. In truth, the film they were producing was part of a new series called Undercover Boss to be shown in the U.K. It is coming to the US next fall. What was fascinating about the undercover CEO’s two weeks was that he overheard the real conversations that employees exchanged about their company and its reputation. When asked what his greatest learning was, the undercover CEO said, “Our key messages were not just getting through to people. People working a shift on a large site do not have time to read newsletters or log on to websites. You have to communicate with people on their terms, and it is different for every location. One size does not fit all.” The critical lesson learned was that all the finely crafted messages from the top are often not received or are totally misunderstood. The new CEO realized that when he was officially instated as CEO, he had to over-communicate, especially in bad times like these. Reputations cannot be built internally without reaching employees on the front lines or end lines.
Some advice was given in the article about what works best besides over-communications when it comes to getting messages heard. They are quite clear…keep it simple, break it down into easy pieces what you are asking employees to do and show empathy. Good reputation-builders.