It can’t have escaped anyone’s attention over the last year that there has been a great deal of media and political attention given to the issues of misinformation and ‘fake news’. This got Mark thinking about the impact of this on businesses.
There’s a lot at stake here. The rumour mill in most organisations I’ve worked with is often rife and the senior management team is often simply unaware of what people are actually talking about on the shop floor. Time spent by employees speculating costs the company too. Let’s take a business with 3,000 employees where the ‘average worker’ for example, earns £10 an hour. If each of these workers spent just one hour of their working day speculating about rumours, that equates to a cost to the business in lost productivity of around £150,000 in just one week.
So how do we best counter this? The best companies I’ve worked with do two (on paper at least) simple things. Firstly, they tap directly into the rumour mill. They know exactly what people are talking about and take time to separate fact from fiction and understanding from misunderstanding. Secondly, and more importantly, they respond directly to employees, with speed and with one honest version of the truth from the top. Employee Facebook posts can be a great way to do this as are Chief Executive blogs, employee newsletters and impromptu employee ‘town halls’. If the rumour mill is allowed to fester and half-truths multiply, this can have a huge impact on employee morale, motivation and ultimately trust in the senior team.
Author Terry Pratchett summed up perfectly the requirement for businesses to respond to rumours and speculation with speed: “A lie can run round the world before the truth has got its boots on.” Maybe then it’s time we all got our boots on a little quicker…