On a scale of one to ten, how would you rate your internal communication with your employees? Or, consider the question from the opposite perspective: on a scale of one to ten, how would your employees rate internal communication with management?
Chances are that the two numbers you’ve imagined are not the same, and that could be a problem. Employee communication on issues within the workplace is one of the key factors affecting employee morale and motivation. It has been reported that one-third of employees believe poor communication leads to low employee morale. Even more interesting, nearly 40% of these employees believe simply improving communication will reverse this negativity.
An easy solution, right? Maybe not. If you find yourself struggling to communicate meaningfully in the workplace, here are five ways you can work on improving employee communication.
1. It Starts at the Top
If the senior management—including the top officer in the organization—is not on board with open communication, your efforts will stall out of the gate. This is about more than just lip service; it’s about encouraging a culture of transparency.
Transparency has become a business buzzword in recent years, but that doesn’t make it any less important. As the name suggests, transparent communication is predicated on the belief that the more open an organization is with its employees, the more trust is built, which increases employee satisfaction. This applies to sharing both good news and bad news, so don’t hold back.
Some organizational leaders bristle at the notion of sharing poor sales reports or customer satisfaction surveys with their employees, which would be okay, if they still shared the good news. But typically, leaders don’t even share the good news. Employees deserve to know what’s happening within the company not only because it’s good business practice, but because it helps them understand why their work matters.
Consider how many of your employees would be able to name your organization’s long-term goals. What about short-term goals? If employees don’t know what they’re striving to achieve, they are simply working in a vacuum.
2. Make Communication Consistent
When starting any new initiative it’s easy to hit the ground running and then slow to a leisurely pace. In the case of communication, you need to build on initial momentum and push through any slowdowns—inevitable or otherwise—once you’ve held your first meeting.
Consistency is the key to showing employees that you are committed to change, and also to forming new habits and breaking old ones. If your organization has been one of non-communication, it will take some time and effort to distance your organization from being perceived as stodgy to being seen as open.
3. Vary Your Communication Methods
While annual town hall meetings are a good way to speak generally about the company, its successes and challenges, it’s not the only way to get the job done. You want to use a variety of communication methods that encourage:
- Employee feedback: Many employees may be too intimidated to ask questions in front of a room full of co-workers. Small group or one-on-one meetings provide a forum for these employees to voice their concerns.
- Ongoing conversations: Planning an annual or quarterly meeting for a growing or larger organization can be a logistical nightmare. It can also be expensive. By holding smaller, more intimate meetings, you can still communicate without complicating the agenda with logistical concerns.
- Communication across different channels: By giving employees the chance to learn and respond via different channels, such as email, newsletters and meetings, you’re allowing them to find their most comfortable form of communication. Everyone learns and absorbs information differently. What works for one employee may not work for another, so it’s important to offer different ways of collecting employee feedback.
4. Don’t Forget Your Middle Managers
It might be easy to group your employees together and hold meetings across different levels of the organization, and there is definitely a time and place for that. But don’t forget that your management team can be your greatest champions or your greatest detractors. Demonstrate your respect for them and their day-to-day influence over their employees by giving them separate channels or one-on-one meetings to discuss issues or concerns.
5. If You Ask for It, Do Something About It
This adage could be applied to many things, but in this context it refers to employee suggestions and ideas. If in the course of holding meetings or soliciting feedback via email you are receiving employee suggestions to address company-wide or department level concerns, do not dismiss them. Similar to showing respect for your managers’ expertise, listening to your employees demonstrates the respect you hold for their knowledge and how integral they are to running your organization.
It won’t be feasible to implement every employee suggestion, but if you find a few options that work, see how far you can take them. Even better, ask the employee who made the recommendation to serve on the committee or even lead the group of employees designated with implementing the idea. If you have a valid reason to follow up on a suggestion, consider acknowledging the suggestion. Doing so shows that you’re listening and being attentive to your employees.
It’s easy to overlook meaningful communication with your employees in the day-to-day grind of the workplace. But remember that the benefit of developing a culture that fosters transparent employee communication is immeasurable.