Why chats in the office kitchen are good for business

Journalist Colette Sexton on why CEOs should chat to all of their employees.

Running a business is a busy job. Chief executives, founders, and managing directors often have the weight of the world on their shoulders. They need to make tough decisions that keep the bills paid and make their stakeholders, including investors, customers and employees, happy. It is not easy. But a major part of being a leader is being proactive and preempting problems before they occur. A great way to do this is to talk to employees, who, learning from their daily work, can predict problems ahead of time and come up with effective solutions quickly.

Yet a new survey has found nearly half (45 per cent) of Irish employees say their chief executive is not visible to staff and even discourages them from dropping into their office. Almost half of employees have had fewer than five interactions with their CEO in the last 12 months while a third of employees say that their CEO doesn’t even know their name, according to the annual PR360 CEO communications report.

Communication

Regular communication between leaders and their staff is not only good for morale and productivity — the majority of Irish employees (70 per cent) say that communication with their chief executive makes them feel valued, while nearly a third (29 per cent) say that effective CEO communications result in improved financial performance.

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Why, then, are CEOs keeping their office doors closed and their heads down when passing people in the hallway? Of course, they might have a hundred things on their mind but having a good relationship with staff will pay off for the business in the long term.

Clear communication paths make everyone’s lives easier. It allows the CEO an opportunity to explain certain business decisions that the staff might be unhappy with. It gives staff a way of bringing up issues in the workplace that the CEO can quickly resolve. It is impossible to solve problems you do not know exist. These issues might be a minor thing for you, but they might be affecting staff so badly that they leave the company and leave you with a bigger headache of recruitment.

And it is not all about problems. Some 40 per cent of employees said that they do not feel comfortable approaching their CEO with a new business idea. That is money going down the drain because you won’t make small talk in the office kitchen.

Your staff were hired because you, or one of the managers on your team, believed they were the best, smartest people for the job. Use that to your advantage, and take their ideas and opinions on board. It can be a very lonely place at the top. An open workplace that allows communication through all levels from CEO to intern will reap the benefits.

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