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Information or engagement — Is there a choice?

Information or engagement: do we have to we choose? Probably not. And yet… more and more communicators are choosing the latter over the former. Is this the effect of scarce resources, leading to subtraction rather than addition? In some ways. But above all, a paradigm shift: the Great Transformation is encouraging us to move quickly and to favour action and engagement over what preceded it naturally: providing knowledge and understanding.

So what matters is making people act! And if there are no budgets for anything else, so be it. Especially since when time is short and information is abundant, it takes a considerable budget to invent new protocols that will touch hearts and minds. It’s depressing!

And yet, the DUTY TO INFORM is all the more necessary as the company enters the age of responsibility and employees appear as an essential stakeholder, or a  CONSTITUTIVE stakeholder, as the Notat-Senard report puts it.

How is it possible to undertake to manage its impact “making information available, accessible and understandable to those who are or can be affected in various ways by the organisation”? More so, without “presenting updated information, based on facts and presented clearly and objectively, to enable stakeholders to accurately evaluate the impact of the organisation’s decisions and activities on their interests” ?

The B Corp label, which is sure to become a requirement for companies seeking peaceful relations with society, demands the same level of clarity towards stakeholders.

And yet, a big effort is made, data and stories are compiled for meetings with analysts, the integrated report, the registration document, the annual report and so on. But the drawback is that this often very “expert” documentation is not produced in a form suitable for understanding by as many people as possible, which really does not seem smart.

To avoid this subject, ou plutôt se dédouaner de faire peu, here are three “magic recipes”.

Magic recipe 1: porosity between internal and external communications

Employees will always find information on external social media and in the press. But 1) external social media tend to simplify (or to polarise, which amounts to the same thing), while the world “resists” and remains complex; 2) people sometimes have less trust in the media than in their own company, and in any case, the probability of their company making the headlines is close to zero.

Magic recipe 2: internal social media

But 1) they are only consulted by a quarter of managers and doubtless an even lower proportion of other employees;  2) no one is sure if accumulating very different types of information in a feed is compatible with maintaining attention; 3) and most importantly, social media tend to encourage silos, while the Great Transformation impacts every employee and every unit. Why, What and How are impacted by common challenges: digital technology and platforms, relocation, automation and artificial intelligence, the growing weight of public opinion, new work practices, etc. There are very few problems that are not shared by the bulk of people.

The existence of silos does not completely preclude sharing, but a “central” community manager powerful enough to encourage communities to include common topics in their conversations is needed, which is no easy task.

Magic recipe 3: managerial communication

There is the “silo bias” mentioned above, to which is added the “manager heterogeneity bias”, which renders any hope of equal treatment futile.

So information remains indispensable. Especially since there are far more people who will say “I’m willing to listen to you” than “I’m willing to help you.” And there’s no reason to leave them in ignorance.