There is an old story about the building of a cathedral. The patron who has largely funded construction has asked for a tour of the building site, and the architect and foreman gladly oblige her.

On the appointed day, she arrives to be greeted by the pair, who take her to the work site. During the tour, they encounter three brick masons, and the patron is greatly struck by the differences in their attitudes and quality of work.

The first mason is scowling as he slaps down mortar and stacks bricks haphazardly. When the patron asks what he is doing, he says, “I am laying bricks.”

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The second mason is neutral and her work is passable. Then the lunch whistle blows, and she puts down her trowel mid-task and starts eating. The patron asks what she is working on, and between bites of her sandwich, the mason answers, “I am building a wall.”

The third brick mason smiles as she carefully places bricks and mortars the joints. The quality of her section is far above the work of the other masons. When the patron asks what she is doing, she answers:

“I am building a beautiful cathedral that will stand in the center of our fair city for centuries. I hope that one day my great-grandchildren might see it and aspire to contribute to something equally as important in their lives!”

Strategic employee communications can make the difference for your workforce

The right communications strategy can help employees become cathedral builders. Cathedral builders understand how their work connects to a significant purpose. They know the importance of their work and where to focus their attention despite competing priorities.

The best communicators connect the bricks and walls so that people can see the future cathedral under construction. The trust, collaboration and shared purpose that underlie employee engagement reside in that vision and assured progress towards its fulfillment.

During normal times, you may already appear to have all of these things. Times of significant change, though, will highlight any weaknesses. Don’t wait for a burning platform. Build an employee communications strategy into your organization now.

How can you tell if you already have these types of communications in place? Is it fair to expect communicators to affect your core business? Ask yourself:

  • Is all the information you communicate to employees relevant and actionable?
  • Can your communicators predict what their priorities will be in three months? In six?
  • Do they regularly connect people and projects to synthesize messages for employees in simple and inspiring ways?
  • Do they work with you to set goals and agree upon desired outcomes before they start communicating? Are those goals tied to essential business needs?
  • Does your organization have grand narratives that simply and clearly define purpose? Can your employees relate those stories without cue cards? Can you?

If you answered “No” to any of these questions, you may need more cathedral builders. It may be time to re-evaluate your employee communications capabilities, especially if you anticipate significant changes ahead.