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StrategyJan 13, 2016

Fireside Chats – A Key Element of Employee Communication & Engagement

Justin Bell

The term Fireside Chat is often used to describe a series of radio addresses given by Franklin D. Roosevelt in the 1930s and 1940s.  These chats were historically noteworthy because they represented the first time in history that the President communicated directly with a large number of citizens.  Roosevelt was able to talk the American public through the challenges of those times (e.g., banking crisis, recession, World War II, etc.) and the strategy and plan for overcoming them.

Through these radio sessions, he was able to explain his policies in detail, dispel rumors and instill confidence in the future of the nation.  Leaders of today’s companies can learn from this approach to ensure open lines of communication with their employees.

At Credera, we have been doing monthly “fireside chats” for the past 11 years.  In each of these meetings, our CEO (Rob Borrego) and other key leaders provide an update on all of our key operational and financial metrics.  This includes a detailed view of the previous month’s results, our forecast for the next several months, an update on any key internal initiatives, an introduction of any new employees and a quick discussion of any departures.  It is also important that we not only share the data, but we provide our perspective (how we think and feel) about that data as well.  We take questions, unfiltered and unscreened, in an open forum.

The key to the long-term success of these is that they can’t just be “Rah-Rah” sessions, that only tell the good parts of the story and hide anything that could be perceived as negative.  Instead, you have to tell the whole story every time.  Consistency matters and helps to develop trust over time.

We also have some fun with these.  We have project teams share their success stories about helping our clients to allow us to celebrate their efforts and results.  We celebrate big company milestones and goals accomplished.

And we occasionally (more often than not these days) have unexpected visitors from “farkle losers”.  In recent months, these have included a practice leader dressed as a sumo wrestler, people in chicken suits and someone (me) having to present powerpoint karaoke.  It pays to be a winner.

Last week, we were notified that we were named #15 on the Dallas Morning News list of Best Places to Work in DFW.  We were also named the best overall at “Best at Communicating”.  We believe these fireside chats have a lot to do with that and generally support our “open door” policy, that encourages our employees to share their ideas / concerns and ask any question that’s on their mind.

Are you doing truly authentic and transparent “fireside chats”?