Guest post by Adam Fuss

In a previous post I warned against using content such as “empty pontificating by C-suite windbags”, which occurs all to often when executives use lots of nice-sounding language to talk about things that ultimately matter very little to a company and its employees.

Direct executive communication that is relevant, however, is invaluable. When employee surveys give low marks to senior executives, it’s often because the latter are seen as being out of touch or lacking in vision. Employees, especially those who don’t get to interact with executives on a daily basis, are always curious to hear from company leaders. A commitment by the CEO or another senior executive to writing a column for each issue of the newsletter can go along way toward securing the trust and respect of employees.

Some of the topics that executives should regularly cover when communicating to employees:

Strategy – Employees everywhere want to know what the company is planning to do to reverse poor performance or continue strong growth. Short-term, medium-term and long-term strategy should be communicated as early and openly as possible.

Financial and operational results – Employees want and need to know how their company is doing. While publicly traded companies have have regular reporting requirements, executives should always take time to communicate what a company’s performance means for employees at all levels across the organization. Executives should proudly talk about what the company did well, but at the same time they should never shy from addressing areas where it fell short. Furthermore, executives should place their companies’ performance in the context of general industry trends and should not shy away from talking about competitors’ performance, good and bad.

Change – If a company is going through a major change, such as an office closing, a round of layoffs, a major relocation, or a merger or acquisition that may lead to any of the above, employees need to hear directly from the C-suite about the reasons and the implications. Engaged and informed employees, even during difficult times, can be a company’s best asset.

Life outside work – If senior executives want their organizations’ employees to see them as trustworthy leaders, they must first come off as real people. These leaders of highly successful companies are hardly the norm, but they nevertheless set a good example. Sharing hobbies, interests and off-work experience with employees will make them all the more eager to hear from the C-suite more often.

Next up in this series: Visually appealing photography AND illustrations

Adam Fuss has been a corporate communications consultant, writer, editor, and Russian-English translator for the last seven years. As principal at ABF Communications he works with clients across industries and cultures to improve organizational messaging and strengthen employee engagement. Adam is based in Chicago.