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Davos: Wipro CEO spotlights staff comms challenge

23 January 2023

For all the hype that surrounds the just-ended World Economic Forum Annual Meeting in Davos, nothing meaningful comes out from the "the world's finest meeting place" for the powerful and wealthiest people, who pay at least $120,000 for each delegate to have access to the Davos Congress Centre. It is one of the few global conferences attended by the King of Wall Street, BlackRock CEO and Chair Larry Fink, and the kind of people who are too rich to appear on Forbes or Sunday Times Rich Lists. It is also the only place in the world where delegates would be caught dead staying at a Hilton Garden Inn because finding decent accommodation and transportation at Davos is a herculean challenge.

The event is so dry for news outlets other than Bloomberg and CNBC, that the most interesting angle the UK’s Daily Mail could find was stories about the Davos Belle du Jours who make upwards of $2,500-a-day and attend the conference with their clients (divorce lawyers take note). Apparently, the Swiss authorities expect them to pay tax on their earnings because their activities are legal.

The best gossip to come out of Davos was back in 2011 when an unknown mogul was overheard slaying the former European Central Bank President Jean-Claude Trichet, with my favourite Davos quote to date: "Dis guy is an abzolute idiot... De verst bunker in de verld." Trichet stepped down later that year.

Last week, Wipro Chief Executive Officer and Managing Director, Thierry Delaporte, made comments at Davos that went viral about the challenges of communicating with Gen Z employees. In an interview with the UK’s Daily Telegraph, Delaporte revealed that he communicates with his staff using LinkedIn or Instagram because the younger generation do not read email! In fact, nearly 8% of Wipro’s 260,000 employees do not open any email.

Delaporte’s comments triggered a discussion about effective ways to communicate with multi-generational employees. Email works for Baby Boomers, Gen X and Millennials but is considered outdated by the social media natives, Gen Z.

Wipro may also want to analyse the email open rates at their offices in Nigeria, South Africa and Kenya because email has never been an effective way to communicate in Africa. The best way to communicate in Africa is by making a phone call. This is closely followed by using WhatsApp messaging. I used to organise bilateral meetings at the African Development Bank (AfDB) Annual Meeting with government officials using WhatsApp.

The third best option is Facebook Messenger. I had to turn off my messenger requests from strangers because many Africans view that as an acceptable mode of communication between strangers. And it is not uncommon for a random person to send a Facebook friend request. Facebook remains the most popular social media platform in Africa, where users can source news and gossip from Facebook pages. Many companies will not have a website because they find the Facebook pages more cost effective and easily discoverable.

Given these multi-generational and cultural dynamics, how should business leaders communicate with employees and is email going to become redundant? The answer is no. Email is still the best way to send internal communications while social media is better suited to external communications.

Companies just need to be more creative about when they send email (first thing in the morning and ideally auto-pinned at the top), what they send (short emails and videos or animation to captivate the audience) and how often (the fewer the better). RSS feeds folder for company email should become the default.

Relevance is also key. Frankly, not every employee cares about the company’s strategy or financial results. They do care about their salaries, bonuses and anything that impacts job security. Any mandatory emails should be marked as such and anything important should sent around payday or with bonus announcements when people are on the lookout for company news.

So how do you communicate with your employees? Or if you are an employee, what works best for you? Please let us know in the comments below.



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