When Stacey Tank got promoted from her communications role at Home Depot in 2018, she didn’t exactly inherit a thriving business. Of the three installation units for which she had profit and loss responsibility, performance at one of them was particularly challenged. Four product lines were loss- making and shrinking by double digits. So one of Tank’s first acts as a new business leader turned out to one of her most difficult: she decided to shutter the four lines of business.
“It was extremely challenging because you’re impacting people’s jobs,” says Tank. “But I credit my communications background with helping me support and take care of people during the transition.”
Tank says she worked with the human resources team personally on exit deals. She started a monthly live video town hall that enables employees to hear updates on the business and ask real-time, anonymous questions to leadership. “The trust was so low that we felt we owed them better communication than what they were receiving before,” says Tank. “In situations like that, it’s the soft skills that are most important.”
To be sure, internal communications, once the neglected stepchild of the function, is arguably the most important aspect of the role today. With organizations in an increasingly pitched battle for talent— and talent being the key differentiator in business performance— employee recruitment, retention, and engagement are more critical to success than ever before, says Korn Ferry’s McDermott.
“Employee communications is more important than ever because of the importance talent places on what an organization stands for,” says McDermott, pointing to the increase in employee activism as a new frontier in internal communications.
Taking a stand on societal issues, inclusion and diversity, environmental responsibility, and even where and who a company does business with is now part of the fundamental structure of communications as it relates to talent recruitment and engagement. But it extends even further. Consider how the coronavirus crisis impacts organizations in the form of layoffs, restructurings, and more. “A lot of organizations have been caught without the right communications in place when it comes to these issues,” says McDermott.
The role CCOs play in creating an environment where employees can speak freely and be heard is another factor helping them break through into operational and CEO roles. Understanding risks associated with ethics, compliance, and operations all play into an organization’s ability to recruit and retain talent, which in turn directly impacts its culture. And, as McDermott notes, to the extent that CCOs help shape an organization’s culture, they help drive its business results and shape its success.
For more information, contact Peter McDermott at: email@example.com.