Roger D’Aprix is an internationally known communication consultant, lecturer, and author who has assisted scores of Fortune 500 companies in developing their communication strategies and redesigning their communication training. He is generally regarded as one of the leading-edge thinkers in the formulation of communication strategy and practice for contemporary organizations. Roger has written six books on employee communication, including his best-selling Communicating for Change: Connecting the Workplace with the Marketplace, published by Jossey-Bass. His most recent book, published by Jossey-Bass, is The Credible Company: Communicating with Today’s Skeptical Workforce.

An online seminar based on his latest book is now available through Ithaca College’s online professional certificate program in Performance Improvement Management. The seminar, The Credible Company: Communicating with Today’s Skeptical Workforce, can be taken as stand-alone course over three weeks, or part of a larger certificate program, where Roger is a regular instructor. The Credible Company is designed to improve participants’ understanding of the unprecedented, even revolutionary, changes affecting the contemporary workplace and what those changes mean for communicating with an increasingly skeptical and insecure employee audience.

We took a few minutes to touch base with Roger about his book, this seminar, and his work at Ithaca College.

What are the characteristics of a skeptical workforce? How would a manager know if he or she has this problem?

RD: The best means of diagnosing the degree of skepticism in an organization is actual research–surveys, focus groups, or any sort of listening session to gauge audience reaction to company messages. Often a solid clue lies in the trust questions that usually appear in employee surveys. If the company leadership gets low marks for trust in any of these items, it’s clear there are going to be credibility problems with any of their messages. Unfortunately, recent company downsizings, message spinning, and outright leader duplicity have dramatically increased the likelihood of employee skepticism.

Why is it important for a company to appeal to its workforce as “credible”? What does “credible” mean in your book?

RD: Again the issue is trust in the leadership and its intentions. Today, especially, the workforce is on edge regarding job security in a tight economy. Employees have an innate desire to believe in their leadership and its good intentions. When that belief is undermined in any way, there tends to be erosion in trust and a tendency not to believe anything the leadership says.

That’s what I meant by credible leadership in my book. A credible company is one whose leadership actions and words match. People tend to read the implicit messages in actions much more than in words. If company leaders want to be believed and respected, it’s critical for them to align their words with their actions–ironically, even in the case of negatively perceived actions. One of my favorite quotes is from Ralph Waldo Emerson: “Do not say things. What you are stands over you the while, and thunders so that I cannot hear what you say to the contrary.”

What inspired you to write The Credible Company?

RD: My belief that we have lost sight of the value of truth in institutional settings of all kinds. Greed has led overpaid senior leaders to take for granted the people who do the work and their need for accurate information in a very confusing workplace. Many of my peers in this profession have come to the belief that internal communication is merely the rapid movement of information over company intranets that people will simply access, process, and accept. My argument is that what people really want is an understanding of what that information means to them and how it affects their lives. That, in turn, makes communication a complex process of creating understanding and trust rather than merely moving information and news efficiently. The Credible Company makes the argument for a very different approach.

What is the best example from your consulting you can provide of a company that was doing a poor job of engaging their employees, and what did the managers do to turn it around?

RD: I have in mind a Silicon Valley company that was growing so rapidly that it forgot to pay attention to keeping its workforce apprised of how the marketplace and company strategy were changing. It was a young workforce with limited corporate experience and high expectations of how it should be led and treated. When the business experienced adversity and was forced into its first layoff, an unprepared employee group reacted with anger, disappointment, and disengagement. The company leadership finally accepted the need to inform and educate the workforce and adopted an open communication culture and strategy that they carefully inculcated in all phases of the business. The payoff was greater understanding, sophistication, and, ultimately, a return to steady profitability. The communication process was not the sole cause, but it was a vital factor in the turnaround.

What has been your experience as a seminar facilitator for Ithaca College?

RD:  For years I’ve believed that this kind of instruction and interchange was desperately needed by practicing professionals. As anyone who has ever worked in corporate or other organizational communication knows, this work is often poorly understood even by the organizational leaders that finance it, let alone by the practitioners. In my experience, the peer group wrestles with their respective views of how best to manage the strategic communication process and finds both areas of agreement and conflict. As a consultant, practitioner, and author, I have presumably been one of the leaders of the strategic communication movement and likewise a critic of simple information delivery of news or even the current, almost total dependence on intranets and the like. The peer discussions have given me a renewed appreciation of both the challenges and victories of today’s practitioners in trying to figure out their new roles in the midst of an information revolution. The difficulty of that task is the best reason I’ve seen for participating in this practical and valuable program.

Would you say a bit about the online seminar you are developing? What will participants learn?

RD: The seminar will highlight the main messages of my book and give participants an opportunity to challenge those messages based on their real-life experiences and views. It will turn the book into an interactive dialogue instead of a monologue and provide the participants and me an opportunity to explore what credible internal communication means in a workplace changing in revolutionary fashion. What is our proper role in a global marketplace in which companies must take sometimes extreme actions to compete? How do we influence those circumstances with a brand of communication that is as sophisticated as the issues it must address? It should be an interesting ride for all.

Register now for this seminar. ISPI members receive a 10% discount. Space is limited. For more information, contact Ithaca College at 607.274.3143 or gps@ithaca.edu.