London – November 23rd 2016, Question and Retain (Q&R), the online Pulse Check™ company, in partnership with Ellwood Atfield and Working Communication, hosted its fourth IC Fight Club looking at the role of the CEO in all things Internal Communications. To inform the discussion, Q&R ran a four question pulse asking for views on how good (or not) CEOs are at communicating with their staff.

The Pulse Check™ asked c300 IC leaders the following four questions:

  • Is your CEO a natural when it comes to IC?
  • When communicating internally, how authentic and compelling is your CEO’s voice?
  • How good is your CEO at communicating across the generations of staff you have e.g. X,Y, Z?
  • If there is one thing your CEO is brilliant at, what is it?

31% said their CEO was a natural when came to internal communications but 34% were less positive.  When asked how compelling their CEO’s voice was 46% claimed it was either ‘middle of the road’ or ‘not authentic or compelling enough’ suggesting there is work to be done on helping CEOs find their comfort zone when talking to their employees.

The Pulse results indicated that CEOs need to be seen ‘walking the floors’ or ‘simply working unscripted’ to gain the trust of their staff.  However, some respondents claimed their CEOs find it hard to bridge the gap between communicating with their leadership team (which feels natural to them) and their frontline staff where the authenticity of what they say is under the microscope.  

Interestingly, 55% of those pulsed said their CEO was ‘quite good’ at communicating across the generations of staff they lead. One respondent observed that good IC behaviour begins with making a connection with people, “He makes a personal connection with people not just at events but around the office at the lunch counter etc. He doesn’t just stick with those of his kind (age, status, interests etc).”

When asked to call out what their CEO was brilliant at, the list was impressive.  Comments ranged from “My CEO is brilliant at helping colleagues understand the context of the market and what that means for our organisational strategy. His extensive market knowledge commands instant respect with colleagues at all levels and inspires confidence when he and his executive management team make strategic decisions on the organisation’s direction,” to “Being himself, staying true to his beliefs and values in every single interaction he has.”

Annabel Dunstan, Co-Founder, Question & Retain summed up, “The results paint a clear picture that there is a balance to be struck between ability and delivery.  Some CEOs may find it easy to communicate but they have to match that ability with sensitive delivery.  Giving a straight answer to a straight question is essential.  Employees are always smarter than we think and can see through the corporate speak very quickly.  A CEO who speaks from the heart and is open and realistic will earn more respect than one who shies away from telling it how it is. “

IC Fight Club IV ran on 17th November 2016.  Speaking at the event were Angela Smith, Head of Comms and Modernisation, London Market Modernisation, Justine Stevenson, IC at SAB Miller and Oliver Uitenbroek, Head of Communications, CLS group.

The discussion covered a lot of ground with the following conclusions:

  • CEOs are great ‘technical’ people but need to have an innate ability to understand people to be successful in IC
  • The value of face to face interaction should never be underestimated
  • Line managers are the most ‘trusted’ to deliver the message to employees
  • IC Leaders should see their role as ‘curators of conversations’

About Q&R:

Question and Retain Ltd helps companies use real-time data to make better business decisions.  To find out more, please go to