You can tell a lot about a company by how it talks to itself.
In-house associate communication is essential in today’s rapidly changing business environment. It’s the best way I know of to effectively deal with change, an inescapable companion that can be a company’s greatest ally if properly managed, or a mortal enemy if mishandled or ignored.
Communication is so important to Metatec that it is written into its “company constitution” of core values. Because we espouse the belief that associates take ownership in what they do and have a stake in the outcome, it follows that everyone must have ready access to information of sufficient quantity and quality to make effective decisions.
To that end, Metatec uses everything from the latest Internet technology and closed-circuit TV to the cork bulletin board and printed newsletter to keep employees informed. In addition, it’s constantly experimenting, upgrading and adding channels to its system to make it more useful and accessible.
MetaVision, Metatec’s in-house TV network, offers a mix of news, industry, company information and more. Monitors are located in common areas and corridors where associates can catch bits of information as they go about daily routines. MetaVision is highly accessible and rises above the din of the daily information flood. All Metatec press announcements appear on MetaVision at the same time they appear on the news wires.
MetaVision is the first place associates look when the company announces quarterly earnings and new product introductions. When violent storms are in the area, it keeps associates abreast of weather developments in case the company needs to take manufacturing lines down to avoid electrical spikes from power fluctuations.
And in recent weeks, MetaVision kept associates abreast of stock market fluctuations as they occurred.
The Metatec Associate Resource System, or MARS, is the interactive intranet system that includes the associate handbook, human resources paperless forms, company store ordering, help desk messages and company information. If, for example, I’m traveling to another Metatec site to meet an associate I don’t know, I can call up his or her profile on MARS to see what the person looks like and read background information. That allows me to recognize the person and establish immediate rapport.
I have also begun to experiment with using our telephone system to record two-minute “fireside chats” about the company. A recent chat dealt with “Strategy 2000,” the operating plan for the year. Associates dialed up to hear to the specifics of the plan told in my own words. Soon I’ll share new e-business initiatives with associates through this same system. I hope these chats provide a personal touch and lend new meaning to issues that might otherwise seem irrelevant or even threatening.
We also rely on old standbys, including a monthly associate news tabloid, which the company mails to the homes of associates so families feel like part of the company and understand more about what a spouse, mom or dad does at work.
Any communication, no matter how carefully crafted, however, is only talk unless it’s followed up with action. People are more apt to respond to behavioral cues and examples than they are to mission statements and slogans. That’s why nothing has yet been invented to replace the roll-up-the-shirtsleeves meeting, which is one more thing I do regularly in the never-ending pursuit of effective communication.
Jeffrey M. Wilkins (firstname.lastname@example.org) is chairman, CEO and president of Metatec International, based in Dublin.