CEOs - Come Out of Your Ivory Towers and Meet Your Employees

“The most valuable asset in our company is our employees!”


How nice it is when executives say this in company town hall meetings, or send it out via email to all staff. It makes employees feel valued and important—as if they contribute something of importance to the company… kind of.


Certainly, I have heard executives say this. They passionately thank their employees, via email, webinar, or recorded video, for the way they dig in and work hard, achieving (maybe overachieving) company objectives and driving the company to record profits. It’s great to hear how well employees are doing from executives who really seem to care about them.


And then this happens…


I worked in a company where layoffs were carried out. A few days later communications from the CEO highlighted that, in spite of a slight lull in revenue achievement, the company was headed for a strong and profitable year. Imagine—you are an employee who is part of a tight team of workers. Layoffs are announced, and some of your co-workers, who have become friends, are let go. When this happens, it hits people hard. Of course, those without a job are now having to find a new path and somehow pay bills in the interim. Those who are still working are left with survivor guilt and are genuinely concerned about their former colleagues. They're also concerned about their own futures with the company. How would you receive this message?


In this example, I’m certain the CEO thought he was doing the right thing by presenting a rosy picture. He sought to reassure remaining employees their jobs were fine. However, the speech came across as callous and money-grabbing. The message received was the company was making plenty of money. Why, then, were layoffs necessary?


A little consideration and forethought would have led to much better results for that speech. Had the CEO (or his speech writer) put themselves in the shoes of employees, the message could have been one more of needing to make difficult decisions in order to work through challenging times. It could have presented a feeling of caring for those who were let go and reassuring those who remained behind. Instead of switching topics quickly to the strong sales pipeline and the profitability of the company, it could have paid homage to the work of the people who were gone and shown a positive path ahead. Finally, it would have demonstrated great care and concern for employees had the CEO been present to answer questions, instead of ending the communication quickly and distancing himself further from employees.


A 2017 study carried out by APPrise Mobile stated that almost one quarter of US employees, in medium to large companies, did not know the name of their CEO and had no idea what they looked like. When I read this I wasn’t all that surprised. After all, there are a great many companies that do little or no on-boarding of new employees. They don’t talk about the history or structure of the orga