“Walk the talk”: a call to action or just more jargon?

I really hate this term. It’s supposed to be shorthand for describing executives who genuinely act how they expect their employees to act. Every gender action plan has it. Every ESG policy has it. Every strategy document has it. But what does it mean and how can you tell whether it’s happening.

My thinking is that what we are really talking about is communication consonance. That is where the views and actions in a workplace are in harmony.

For instance, I happened across an organisation recently that had made some very public musings about their support of gender equality. They restructured, and 75% of the “casualties” were women out of a female cohort of around 35%. The following week they launched a company-wide menopause policy. I am not about to debate the merits of the retrenchments or the validity of the policy – my simple observation is that there is only communication dissonance emanating from this organisation. The “facts” before employees do not tally with the values expressed, so they are left wondering what is truly important and valued.

This can only leave employees confused and, as a result, they are often impotent to act, not really knowing which way the wind is blowing. In our work at Ombpoint, we sometimes hear of examples where CEOs have been very forthright in their views on a particular issue and then they have had experiences that represent an entirely different perspective. CEOs, People and Culture leaders and Communications leaders need to start looking at what is happening in the organisation and how that measures up against the suite of messaging and communications employees are receiving.

Through COVID many leaders and organisations claimed to have increased the “authenticity” in how they communicate with each other and the workforce – begging the question how they communicated before COVID. This is a step forward, provided it’s genuine and that leaders are recognising this communication dissonance and addressing it head on. “Spin” or, worse still, silence on an issue is simply counterproductive. In my experience, leaders who encourage open communications and ultimately “walk the talk” for their employees (if, in fact, you like that term) are those that get the best results.

Lindall West | Managing Director
+61 412 728 828
hello@ombpoint.com

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