Courtesy of Perry Street Communications

Business

Four Ways to Reassess The Social Contract Between Corporate America and its Stakeholders

It’s time for executives to embrace vulnerability and humanity when communicating with employees, advises Jon Morgan of Perry Street Communications.

Measuring the impact of COVID-19 is a Sisyphean task, to be sure—an evolving target of unemployment claims, bankruptcies, and a lost decade of growth. It has turned every economic and social assumption on its head and considerably altered the social contract itself.

We are all feeling our way toward a new understanding of the right balance between personal freedom and sacrifices for the greater good. This journey also includes a reassessment of the social contract between corporate America and its stakeholders—employees, customers, investors, communities, and more.

The outpouring of grief and anger in response to ongoing police brutality incidents has lent additional urgency to how business leaders adapt, evolve, and communicate to ensure they meet the moment. Here are four recommendations for the way forward:

  1. Do The Right Thing—And Mean It. A global health pandemic, the fresh wound of racial injustice, and divisive political leadership have led to a wave of corporate engagement on social matters. This is no longer a corporate strategy reserved for “progressive” companies; it is a business imperative. Staying silent is no longer an option.
  2. Embrace Transparency and Authenticity. Increasingly, we’ve seen executives ditch business-speak and communicate plainly and earnestly about uncomfortable topics. CEOs who have done this well—and embraced the vulnerability and humanity that the moment calls for—will benefit from strengthened bonds with employees.
  3. Be Consistent and Empathetic. Even in the best of times, transparent, candid, and timely communication with employees is vital. It is especially true now. Employees expect to hear directly from the top concerning substantive, strategic business decisions that will guide the future. This should be a dynamic, two-way dialogue.
  4. Seize the Opportunity for Connection. The work-from-home revolution has accelerated years of digital advancement in the span of a few months and enabled new, novel means of fostering camaraderie—virtual happy hours, electronic town halls, and new collaboration tools. Commit these tools to your company’s muscle memory, use them moving forward, and harness the goodwill that comes from earnest, committed team members working through a crisis together.

Jon Morgan is the founder and president of Dallas-based Perry Street Communications.

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