DO AS I SAY …

The global economy remains unwell, suffering the mother and father of all hangovers after the party got a bit, well, wild. “I’ll never drink those bloody bubbles again,” it whispers from time to time.  Symptoms include weight loss in the bank account, aching in the pension fund and chronic pain in the job and housing markets.  The heart is trying to pump money around the system, but the arteries are dry. The patient also presents signs of depression.

Businesses, important organs in the global economy, are self-medicating to rebuild strength and heal wounds.  Thousands of employees have been given the opportunity to make a personal sacrifice with their jobs. Those retained work harder, to give more and maximise the cash coming in and minimise what goes out.  Still, we’re sailing together aboard HMS Abstinence.  Except it turns out we’re not.

Research by Income Data Services highlights that personal remuneration for the most senior directors in FTSE 100 companies, the leading cheerleaders for employee austerity in recent years, rose by 49 per cent in the last financial year to an average of £2.7 million.  To rub salt into the wounds left by the surgeon’s scalpel, this follows a 55 per cent rise in 2009/10 when profits recovered after the initial phase of recession.

News like this saps fragile employee morale and make many stop to reassess their corporate commitment. And who can blame them after enduring close to zero pay rises in the last few years while inflation galloped ahead.  Meanwhile they’ve had to cull jobs and experience increased workloads all around them.

They’ve responded to their CFO’s call for austerity and speeches from the CEO about how, after taking the difficult decisions now, they’ll re-emerge as a stronger, fitter and more competitive business.

One of the biggest challenges for any major internal communications campaign is the inherent and enduring cynicism that employees have towards the most senior managers. With the right internal communications and engagement, good employees can be counted on to give more if they know everyone’s sailing in the same vessel.

Too many CEOs forget that their compensation represents the aggregated efforts of the entire workforce during the year.  IDS’s report suggest that today’s CEOs are gambling that the next time the workforce needs to be called upon to make sacrifices for the good of the business, they themselves will be long gone, enjoying the rewards amassed when times were tough.   The job of the internal comms teams in FTSE 100 companies just got a little bit harder.

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