Fortune’s just-published list of America’s Top 100 Companies to Work For reflects either a gross oversight of the role employee communications plays in shaping a great workplace or, maybe, just maybe, indicates that CCOs are overlooking a robust and interactive dialogue with employees. Either way, I have some proven suggestions to enhance the strategic role of communications in building a great corporate culture.

First, though, click on the Fortune link, and study the criteria the publication chose to select Google as its single best workplace in America. Conducted in partnership with The Great Places to Work Institute (TGPTWI), Fortune weighted two-thirds of the final score under the heading of trust (which was defined as management credibility, job satisfaction and camaraderie. A rather peculiar definition of trust, no?). Only one-third of the final result was based on: pay benefits, hiring practices, ‘method of internal communications’, training, recognition and diversity. Note the passing references to communications and diversity. So much for the role of the CCO and CDO, respectively.

To me, the Fortune rankings should be a wake-up call to those Page members who, while rightfully obsessed on corporate trust and authenticity, may be overlooking the key role that employee communications can, and should, play in forging a truly outstanding culture.

I decided to click on the Google link, and see exactly why they were named number one. Read it and weep:

  • 100,000 hours of massages for employees
  • Shuffleboard courts
  • Roller-skating rinks
  • Gyms, etc.

There was no mention whatsoever of open and transparent communications. Or engaging in a two-way dialogue with senior management. It seems like Google is focused more on training aspirants for the 2016 U.S. Olympic team than they are in creating an authentic, transparent culture (but, hey, maybe I’m just dizzy from watching all the roller skaters).

I think I know why communications is seen as an after-thought by Fortune and TGPTWI. I’ll bet they believe many corporations still embrace top-down, inside-out employee communications. So, the CEO and C-Suite peers decide what’s to be communicated, by whom and through what channels.

The most transparent companies do the exact opposite. Forward-looking CCO’s listen first and always to what employees need to hear. They then encourage the employees themselves to become roving reporters or brand ambassadors (if you prefer). Southwest Airlines is just one example of a company that’s doing just that (and, is controlled enough to allow loss of control in its internal communications).

I believe I bring some credibility to this discussion since Crain’s New York Business just named my firm the Big Apple’s best workplace. As you’ll read, internal communications was instrumental in our besting 950 other New York companies, including Microsoft and MetLife (note: only 259 corporations participated in Fortune’s Top 100 survey. That’s almost a one-in-two chance of making the list! Hardly credible in this blogger’s mind).

At Crain’s, an independent panel of judges decided it was our use of stand-up comedy training that broke down barriers, enhanced presentation techniques and, yes, Virginia, dramatically enhanced employee communications. And, how did we arrive at using stand-up comedy as our cultural catalyst? We listened to our employees’ needs. We job swapped with them for a full day. We sat alongside them as they logged onto their computers and asked them what influenced their decision-making process. And, we literally experienced the Peppercomm brand from the outside in, as a prospective employee would.

I encourage each, and every, Page CCO to study the Fortune list and figure out how they, and their teams, can be more involved in helping to shape a great workplace. Maybe, it’s simply an organizational structure issue (i.e. employee communications reports to human resources). Or, maybe it’s because you feel so much pressure from the C-Suite to move the stock price northward that employee communications is an afterthought. Or, maybe I’m just plain wrong.

In the meantime, the powers that be at Page should lobby Fortune and TGPTWI to re-evaluate the role of employee communications in next year’s rankings.

I believe employees want the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth in their organizational communications. It might be cool to blow off steam on the shuffleboard court, but I can tell you as the City’s reigning workplace heavyweight champion, sports had little to do with our winning the award. Instead, it was all about listening to employees’ wants and needs, and then implementing an open, honest communications program at the heart of which is Stand-Up Comedy training.

Tennis anyone?

Steve Cody
Managing Partner
Peppercomm, Inc.