Message Disbelieved

One-fifth of employees question their company's truthfulness.

While companies work hard to regain the public's trust in the midst of seemingly endless corporate scandals, distrust can be found much closer to home: among their own workers. A Towers Perrin survey suggests that for every message a company relays to its employees, roughly a fifth of them don't believe they are getting the straight truth. Just over half of the 1,000 workers polled said they believe their companies generally tell the truth in communications to their workers. Yet 55% believe their companies try too hard to put a positive "spin" on issues, and almost a fifth disagree that their company generally is truthful it its communications to workers. "Worrisome," is how Mark Schumann, Towers Perrin's global leader of the communications consulting practice, describes the findings. "Regardless of the topic, an organization will find it difficult to motivate, engage and retain their most talented employees if their messages are not believed." How beleaguered do employees feel? About 60% believe that their organizations speak more truthfully to shareholders and customers than to their own workers. How to improve this employer-employee dynamic? Schumann said a clue may lie in survey findings that show employees are most trustful of employer communications that relate to benefits and pay -- which tend to be concrete and easily understood. The answer in part may be to employ that same "concrete" message to communications about business strategy and what employee's get in return for meeting company's needs -- two areas in which they are least likely to believe employer communications. Also, he says, look at "the difference in how those [messages] are being communicated." Ultimately, "employees, like shareholders, lenders and potential investors, expect more transparency today from organizations in which they invest their time and talents." The survey was conducted in mid-2003.

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