It should come as no surprise that hearing from the boss is a key driver of satisfaction for employees. Time and time again, engagement surveys show employees want to connect with their leaders. When leaders communicate, employees feel respected and more engaged in the company's direction.

But "communication" is a vague term--a big bucket with a lot of components. What do employees really expect  leaders to do when it comes to communication?

My firm does dozens of surveys a year, and we hear the same five requests over and over.

Employees want leaders to:


Show up.

  • "I would like to hear more from my SLT leader and ELT leader. It would be good to get more face time with both on a quarterly basis."


Be candid.

  • "Be honest. People can read between the lines."
  • "The most useful part of today's session was the CEO's candidness--he engaged the audience and gave useful answers to difficult questions."


Explain the plan.

  • "The CEO's new blog is extremely valuable. It's the first time in more than a decade that I have any clue about the direction of our company."
  • "I would like to hear more about our plans for this year, so I can understand how my role plays into our key priorities."


Share progress.

  • "Leaders talk a lot about the start of an initiative--but then we don't hear what happened after the launch."
  • "How do our results compare with objectives? And how did my function/group do, compared to targets?"


Talk less, interact more.

  • "More interaction with leadership team in small groups."
  • "More open dialogue with top management."
  • "I obviously want to hear from leaders, but it's also important that leaders listen to us."