According to recent data from Globant, more than half (55%) of employees say it’s difficult to get to know their company’s CEO — which isn’t shocking considering the demands on today’s top executives, including balancing relations with the board, investors, media, government and community organizations. Yet, senior management is a crucial attribute for building company cultures and values.
That’s why we’ve turned to business leaders to learn what CEOs can do to forge a better bond between themselves and their employees, and why they should.
CEOs, It’s Time to Stop Operating From the Shadows
“Successful businesses foster a company culture that prioritizes the customer first, company second and the individual third,” said James Glover, president & co-founder of Coherent Path. That’s why it’s critical for the CEO to make all individual contributors feel valued and make sure they know they’re part of a team.
“An accessible CEO means that everyone’s voice is heard,” said Adam Hempenstall, founder & CEO at Better Proposals. It projects an image of a CEO that doesn’t hide behind their managers, but is an actual human that’s open to opinions and feedback from employees. “If you’re accessible to your employees,” Hempenstall continued, “it means that you value their opinions and that you empathize with them, both of which are great for your employer brand.”
Fostering employee relationships is beneficial for stakeholders outside the organization as well. “Not only is it good for a workforce to have visible leadership,” added James Lloyd-Townshend, chairman & CEO of Jefferson Frank, “but it’s also an excellent marketing opportunity for your customers to see that you are present and accountable.”
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How Business Leaders Can Be More Accessible
“The digital age has made it easier than ever to have a presence within your organization,” suggested Lloyd-Townshend. There are a wide range of activities CEOs can do to be more accessible to employees without taking too much time out of their busy workdays. Here is what our experts shared.
Active Social Media
While many public figures are now active on social media, CEOs and other business leaders have largely avoided the trend. “If you can Tweet your favorite pop star or follow a footballer on Instagram, or see what a politician had for breakfast on Twitter, then why should a CEO be some shadowy, mysterious figure?” Lloyd-Townshend questioned.
That doesn’t mean you need to sign up for all of the latest platforms and build a large following, but the occasional social media post can go a long way towards becoming more approachable. It’s a great opportunity to celebrate some of the small wins that take place at the company.
Encouraging employees to email the CEO for anything they want to discuss is one of the easiest ways to improve approachability. “If they're more comfortable discussing something with you electronically,” stated Brock Murray, COO of seoplus+, “they won't miss a beat.”
But that doesn’t mean employees will abuse your approachability by email. "Having a workforce that knows you’ll reply to an email is unlikely to result in your inbox being flooded with questions and complaints,” explained Lloyd-Townshend, “but it’s reassuring that you are there, and is another way to help establish trust in the company’s leadership."
One-on-one meetings can go a long way towards fostering better communication with employees, but Hempenstall realizes this is too time-consuming and impractical at larger organizations. “So,” he suggested, “you can tell your employees to email you and if you think the subject makes sense, set aside 15 minutes for a call or a meeting.”
Murray agreed that having an open-door policy is a good way to encourage building relationships with employees. “Doing so not only shows them that you're always ready to listen and to discuss whatever topic they're desiring, but that you encourage them to come forward.”
“Moreover, I suggest having an internal company blog where you share your thoughts,” said Hempenstall. Through blogging, the CEO can tell employees how the company is performing, what’s happening in each department, and give them a general sense of where the company is headed.
“I do this several times per year,” explained Hempenstall, “and my employees generally appreciate it because they can stay in the loop regarding the whole company and they see that I care enough to keep everyone involved.” He said Basecamp is a great internal blogging platform to get started with.
Finally, Murray believes the company CEO should be inspiring employees and steering the company towards success. “If your CEO is continuously present and available for your employees,” he concluded, “they will strive that much more.”