In some ways companies are like family units. When communication falters between family or coworkers, the dysfunction can have a variety of impacts—not too many being positive.
When communication breaks down between company leadership and employees, it negatively impacts all concerned on some level. Perhaps the quality of work decreases, or the turnover rate increases. Employees can become disgruntled by not knowing the value of their work, and management can become frustrated trying to motivate their staff. Without good employee communication, expectations can become convoluted or unrealistic and the us/them dichotomy can widen.
Employee communication is vital for a company to thrive, not just by the numbers, but holistically as well. Otherwise a constant dissatisfaction can lead to instability and slower corporate progression.
The trend in business is going towards more of a power-sharing model with decentralized authority, so effective employee communication is a must. And whether the impetus to address employee communication is a proactive one or an attempt to quell existing communication problems, there are a few key areas that should be considered.
Linda Keefe, contributor to The Online CPA Journal for corporate professionals, outlines four ways to go about building better employee communication:
1. Communicate needs
Communication between employees and management must be reciprocal. Both parties need to be responsible for keeping communication lines open.
Employees are just as responsible for setting tone, expectations and requirements as management is. When employees and management understand each other’s needs, they begin to have realistic expectations of how and why things need to get done.
2. Share skills and knowledge
When employees and management share their skills and knowledge with each other, it gives both sides a greater understanding of daily operations. Through this process, problem areas can be better addressed and issues like cost, time and resources can be properly managed.
3. Create a motivation cycle
When management opens discussions up for employees to offer feedback, it creates a motivation cycle in which employees can see their impact on the company’s direction.
It is beneficial for companies to set time aside for round table discussion. This empowers employees and gives them a greater sense of responsibility to the company.
4. Establish empowerment expectations
Documenting common understanding does two things for both employees and management. First, it clarifies what exactly is or is not understood across the company. Those things that are not understood can be properly addressed. Second, it solidifies the overarching goals of the company, thus allowing employees and management to focus on achieving said goals.
Testing Employee Communication
Sally Kur, a corporate communications specialist and contributor to the website Phoenix Business Journal, reiterates the impact of properly informed employees. She says companies can no longer inform their employees of closures or down-sizing through secondary modes such as newspapers or TV broadcasts.
Both employees and management are increasingly tied to one another as traditionally distinct roles are blurring. Said simply: employees need to know what is going on within the corporation: be it good or bad.
As such, Kur offers five questions company leadership ought to ask themselves in order to test their employee communication:
- How best can you inform your employees?
- Are you communicating with your employees on a regular basis?
- Do employees know how their job connects with that of the overall company’s vision and direction?
- Do they have all the information they need to talk confidently to friends and family about the jobs they have?
- Are they among the first to know about a change in company policy or major acquisition or management change?
Using both Keefe and Kur’s approach, employee communication can be improved, and it can be effective. Companies need not continue on with dysfunctional communication.