Financial Crisis: US Company Leaders Not Communicating With Employees

Working Americans are not hearing from senior leaders in their companies about the implications of the global financial crisis, according to new research released today by global public relations firm Weber Shandwick.

The survey of 514 employed Americans shows that 70% expect the current economic and financial problems in the U.S. will have a negative impact on the company they work for over the course of the next year. Of those, 26% believe their company will have to lay off employees and 62% said their company would have trouble meeting its goals.

The research highlights a clear deficit in the workplace between employee appetite for more communication on the impact of the economic crisis and the levels at which company leadership is providing information. The research shows that 71% of people felt that their company’s leadership should be communicating more about current economic problems, and 54% have not heard from company leaders at all on the impact of the financial crisis on their company. By comparison, 74% said that they had heard colleagues and co-workers talking about the issue.

Of those who had discussed the financial crisis at work, 86% say that senior executives or management were seen as “believable” and “trustworthy” sources on the topic.

“At a time when working Americans are concerned about their personal finances, their jobs and the overall economy, employees are looking for credible, candid information, and right now too few business leaders are filling the information void that exists,” said Harris Diamond, CEO of Weber Shandwick. “Employers have a great opportunity to communicate with their workforce about the impact of the economic situation on their companies as well as on employees.”

“By stepping up and communicating more with their employees, company leaders will enhance their company’s standing, consolidate their position of trust in challenging times and head off any inaccurate rumors or fears that are all too common in fast-moving crises such as these,” added Diamond.

“In an age of greater transparency where employees play a vitally important role in shaping a company’s reputation both in good times and in bad, their views have an impact that goes far beyond the office or shop floor,” said Micho Spring, chairperson of Weber Shandwick’s U.S. corporate practice. “Many companies have highlighted the need to invest in employee communications, and the questions raised by the financial crisis confirm how now, more than ever, employees need to be equipped with information from senior voices in their companies.”

The national representative survey of adults, ages 18 and older, was commissioned by Weber Shandwick and conducted by KRC Research, between October 3rd and October 6th. The margin of error for the overall sample (n=1006) is +/- 3.1 percentage points at the 95% confidence level. The margin of error for the employed sample (n=514) is +/- 4.4 percentage points at the 95% confidence level.

Weber Shandwick is a leading global public relations agency with offices in over 79 markets around the world. The firm’s reputation is built on its deep commitment to client service, creativity, collaboration and harnessing the power of Advocates – engaging stakeholders in new and creative ways to build brands and reputation. Weber Shandwick provides strategy and execution across world-class practices such as consumer marketing, healthcare, technology, public affairs, corporate/financial and crisis management. Its specialized services include digital/social media, advertising, market research, and corporate responsibility. Weber Shandwick received the highest client-satisfaction honors in the 2007 Agency Excellence Survey by PRWeek U.S. and in 2008, was named Large PR Firm of the Year (PR News U.S.), European Consultancy of the Year (The Holmes Report) and Network of the Year (Asia Pacific PR Awards). The firm also won the United Nations Grand Award for Outstanding Achievement in Public Relations for the past three years. Weber Shandwick is part of the Interpublic Group (NYSE: IPG).

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