Bimbo Banter

A Failure to Communicate

  • Crisis
  • May 25, 2016
  • by Merrie Spaeth


Paul Newman’s immortal words in the 1967 movie “Cool Hand Luke” are also the headline of an article in HRMagazine about the latest survey from the International Foundation of Employee Benefit Plans.


Their findings aligned perfectly with what we’ve been teaching for years:  participants don’t open or read materials; they don’t understand the information they do take the time to read; and they don’t see the value in them.


Most organizations still communicate in traditional ways, producing and distributing lots of material, what the report calls TMI (too much information). We want to hire a sky-writing plane to say, “You’re killing your employees with TMI!”


We’ve been urging our clients to design benefit communication plans based on how employees actually access and share information as opposed to what we call the “illusion of communication.”


Quoted in the article is Pepper Krach, communication practice leader at Arthur J. Gallagher. who says to use all the new avenues and make sure it’s “done in a fun way.” Amen! Finally, someone who’s learned the lesson of Herb Kelleher, legendary founder and CEO of Southwest Airlines who built fun into the company’s business culture and therefore its business model.


Fun means taking risks, engaging employees and enlisting them as internal ambassadors. Oftentimes, these functions are either cut out or discouraged at companies. It also requires engaged leadership leading the conversation and not shoving it down to the HR department.


What’s the cost of “failure to communicate?” Well, in the movie, the line comes from the prison warden who then punishes rebellious prisoner Luke/Newman. At the end of the movie, escaped but captured and cornered, Luke repeats the phrase sarcastically – and is shot in the head and killed.


Please don’t let that happen to your company!

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