Employee Confidence in Senior Leadership, Culture, and Engagement Soars When Leaders Communicate Effectively About the Middle East Conflict

Confidence in senior leadership, alignment with company culture, and overall employee engagement increases 4 to 6 times for organizations that delivered effective communication on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, according to new research conducted by The Harris Poll for The Grossman Group.

Yet a survey of U.S. employees found only a small number of employees received any communication regarding the conflict. Just 1-in-5 employees reported that their employer had shared an official internal statement, and only about 1-in-6 employees reported that their manager had directly communicated with them.

Notably, a large group of employees reported being affected by the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. A majority of employees surveyed – 51 percent – said the issue in the Middle East had personally impacted them. Moreover, half of that group had no friends, colleagues, or other direct ties to the region.

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“We often hear from CEOs and other top-level leaders that they don’t want to speak out on an issue such as the Middle East because it’s a political issue,” said David Grossman, founder and CEO of The Grossman Group, a Chicago-based leadership and communications consultancy. “That has led many organizations to be tone-deaf to the needs of all employees and concern for their well-being at a time when they’re looking to their leaders to respond in some way.”

Grossman said the better screen for employers to use when deciding whether to communicate is understanding the likelihood that employees are affected beyond company operations.

“In the case of this Israeli-Palestinian conflict, more than half of employees surveyed reported being affected. That’s almost ten times what you might expect from population numbers and five to six times what you might expect from those who said they were directly impacted.”

“By not communicating at all, leaders are sending a message as well. Listening and showing that you care is not political. Companies that communicated effectively prioritized employee well-being, which led to significantly higher trust in leadership, confidence and engagement, critical elements for overall business success.”

The overall impact of communication versus no communication 

The survey found that the more communication employees received, the better they felt about their employer and the company culture. The impact was the strongest when an internal statement was coupled with a manager reaching out to communicate directly with employees.

In fact, three outcomes that top leaders strive to foster among their teams – confidence in leadership, a strong culture, and engagement – increased four to six times when employers communicated about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, and managers followed up with employees.

Highlights of the findings from those who strongly agree their company communicated effectively include:

  • Employees who said their company did not make a statement reported the following:
    • 10 percent confidence in company leadership
    • 10 percent alignment with the company culture
    • 10 percent overall engagement
  • In contrast, when employers demonstrated best practices in issue communication – with both a company statement and manager outreach – key results increased four to six times for employees:
    • 59 percent had higher confidence in company leadership
    • 54 percent felt better aligned with the company culture
    • 45 percent said overall engagement increased
  • Some form of communication was also far better than no communication. When employees received either manager outreach or an internal company statement, the result was the following, respectively:
    • 32 and 30 percent had higher confidence in company leadership
    • 32 and 29 percent felt better aligned with the company culture
    • 37 and 23 percent said their overall engagement increased

The power of manager outreach

The survey also found that when employees reported having a meeting with their manager, the results of those meetings among those who strongly agreed were very meaningful:

  • 43 percent said the conversation made them feel more engaged
  • 42 percent said their manager was empathetic
  • 39 percent felt their manager cared about them personally
  • 39 percent felt more aligned with the company culture

When given a list of key elements of best practice communications when issues arise, employees rated their organizations highest when they received communication from their manager. Simply issuing a company statement had a much smaller impact.

Key findings include:

  • When leadership issued solely an internal statement, on average, less than a third of employees gave high scores to leaders and strongly agreed that the communication was highly effective
  • With the addition of manager outreach, more than half of employees, on average, strongly agreed that the communication was highly effective
  • Managers do a particularly good job of reinforcing four elements:
    • Showing empathy
    • Clearly explaining the company position
    • Providing additional opportunities for dialogue
    • Following-up on recurrent updates

“When managers communicate, they make a big difference, yet few reached out,” Grossman said. “That’s a missed opportunity to communicate with employees at an exceedingly difficult time for them and the world.”

The key components of successful communication 

The research also included a quantitative survey of 118 communication leaders to determine key components of best practice communications and a content analysis of 68 internal company statements.

Communicators identified 12 essential components and rated a sense of concern, empathy and authenticity as the most important components.

When the actual internal statements were assessed for those top components, about one-third of the statements didn’t include concern and authenticity, two of the top elements.

“Moreover, employee perception of their company’s internal statement suggests that most fell short on all the essential components – with none of the 12 scoring above 39 percent for those who strongly agree,” Grossman said. “Some elements, such as concern and reassurance, scored about 30 percent.  This suggests that – even if those components appeared on paper – employees didn’t give credit for their inclusion.”

Survey Methodology

The research included three components:

  • A survey of 2,154 U.S. employees was conducted online over two waves in late October and early November 2023 and included a sample of both part-time and full-time employees. Data was weighted to the U.S. Census.
  • At the same time, 118 internal communication and senior communication professionals representing a broad spectrum of industries, sizes, and types of organizations were surveyed to determine the ideal elements of internal communication.
  • Finally, 68 internal statements were assessed in a content analysis to determine whether ideal elements were present

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