Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Branding Update
November 5, 2013

Internal Communications that Build Trust

In previous Branding Updates we have discussed how communicating standards and motivations is essential for providing meaningful transparency. Transparency not only applies to communicating with customers and the community. It is just as important, if not more important, for internal communications.

Use Standards to Build Trust with Employees - One of the most effective ways to build trust with employees comes into play when announcing important decisions. The announcement is meaningful and builds trust when the logic and motivations behind the decision are clear. And the most powerful motivations are the utility's standards. For example, if the utility announces that it is building an additional water pipeline to a given community, it is important to mention that the reason is to comply with the standard of having redundant water-delivery paths. The standard provides the logic and actually enhances the perceived value of the investment. Being clear about the standard also heads off questions like "why do they need an extra pipeline and who is paying the bill?" Remember, there may be several standards that apply to a given decision.

Standards Affect All Levels of the Organization - Every decision communicated by management to employees should include the motivations or relevant standards. Without this accompanying logic, employees will come to their own conclusions (often erroneous) or just brand the decision as another edict from management. Also, when employees understand the standards, they make better decisions while performing their duties.

Failing to Communicate an Important Decision - This is a trust buster. And every decision that directly affects an employee will be considered important by that employee. Failing to inform the employee of the decision tells them they are not important.

Standards Should Be Accessible - Notwithstanding the need to be transparent with the community, building internal trust is another reason why utility managers need to compile a list of standards that are driving their decisions and investments. Standards are usually sprinkled throughout the strategic plan, board or city council policies, and other management documents. Since they are essential for making the case for investment and providing meaningful communications, they should reside in a single document and be very accessible to management and staff. This document can also be used for periodically reviewing the standards and approving changes.

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