Monday, May 4th, 2009

Companies Should Engage Employees on Government Policies

It’s not a figment of our imagination: the decisions of government play an ever-increasing role in our lives. On a personal level, the annual April tax ritual (and May refund or lack thereof) is a sobering reminder of just how broad that role can be. Fulfilling a market need, of course, there’s an entire industry devoted to rendering personal financial advice. On the professional front, though, where do employees turn for reliable information about governmental policies that affect their companies’ — and, soon thereafter, their own — bottom lines?

The Business & Industry Political Action Committee – known as BIPAC – has commissioned extensive research on the issue, and the results are impressive (even for people who’ve seen enough polling data over the years to be hard to impress). Here’s what they found:

When employers included policy issue information in their company websites, more than 30% of employees accessed the information at least once per month. In terms of all-important credibility, employees rated the credibility of employer-provided information above all traditional media, as well as Internet sites, political parties and labor unions.

More significant – startling actually — is that more than half of all employees took action once they had the benefit of employer-provided policy/advocacy information. Some initiated communications with their elected officials, some donated to political causes and some did both.

Finally, employees overwhelmingly validated their employers’ involvement in advocating for policy decisions that were good for their companies. Specifically, over 40% said the activism their companies had shown was an important part of the employer role. An additional 40% said their employer should actually be doing more of it. Those who wanted less employer involvement: about 6%.

These numbers speak volumes, but the word has been slow to spread; what’s still low is the actual number of companies engaging employees about government policies.

One obstacle may be the availability of timely, concise information on the issues (check out the Public Policy section of SPI’s Web site to see how we do it). But a larger impediment can be professional boundaries. Some are legal, but some are just traditional.

In cases where the only obstacle to more communication is old habit, a company – and that means EVERYONE in a company — has too much at stake for an employer-employee dialogue to be off limits.

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