Staff retention is one of greatest challenges we face in business today. Ineffective communication is a primary cause of employee turnover. Developing clear lines of communication throughout a business will improve employee engagement, leading to an increase in overall productivity, retention, creativity, and more effective client and supplier interactions.
So, how do we, as leaders, successfully connect with our teams and keep them informed about our business activities through clear and purposeful communication?
In our post-pandemic world, with so many people still working from home, it is crucial that all businesses understand how to effectively manage employee communication. Although every workplace has its unique challenges, there are important factors to consider that will help you improve communication with your team members.
An Informed Employee is an Engaged Employee
When a team member understands what is going on, what is expected of them, and why, they become more:
- Closely involved with business updates
- Closely aligned with the overall strategy.
Informed employees better understand their role within the business and are more able to execute their assigned tasks because they have access to the information they need, no matter where they are.
Challenges to Workplace Communication
There are many challenges to the creation and maintenance of effective written and verbal communication.
- Inconsistency in communication
- Reliance on technology (no face-to-face communication)
- Assuming the audience understands the jargon
- Not listening to your team
- Not making communication a leadership function
Consider your business – how do these five factors play out in your work environment?
Don’t Assume that Everyone is Skillful in Communication
Assuming that everyone in your workplace can communicate effectively is a damaging notion.
Some leaders lack the capability to communicate well and are unable to help others express themselves. On the flipside, employees may feel awkward when they are asked to express opinions, especially in front of more senior staff. Also, some leaders simply may not have the skills to sensitively facilitate staff involvement.
While all communication channels have their merits, there is no one-size-fits-all solution.
You will need to consider the challenges of your particular business environment and explore what works best. It may take some trial and error – so be open to feedback and review what is, and isn’t, working, then make any necessary adjustments.
Success in communication comes from knowing how to pass on different types of information to the members of your team.
- Reduce the number of communication channels: Making information available in one place (if possible) makes the process more manageable for everyone. The more places your team must look, the more frustrating it can be, and the more likely they are to miss something.
- Consider who you are talking to and the outcome you need to achieve: If you are communicating a quick update that is relevant to everyone, a mass email or intranet post may be fine. If you are announcing a major change, you may need to use a more targeted, hands-on approach.
Again, determining what best suits the needs of your business, staff, and relevant timeframes will help you work out the most effective way to share all necessary information with your team.
Building Connection – Team Meetings
Every business has its own team rhythm and ways of working. A well-organised plan of daily, weekly, monthly, quarterly, and annual meetings helps to keep everyone aligned and accountable.
- Annual Planning Meeting (Owner and Senior Leaders): The purpose of the annual planning meeting is to align the team’s priorities for the year ahead to move the business closer to achieving their 3-5-year plan.
- Quarterly Meeting (Leaders): This is to determine how you will accomplish the annual plan and move the business forward. Generally held as a one-day meeting, the goal is to set up a road map for the next quarter that supports, focuses and motivates the team.
- Monthly Meeting (Leaders): A well-managed monthly management meeting should focus on learning, sharing and problem-solving. This provides a great opportunity to share the load and develop your upcoming business leaders in line with your succession plan.
- Weekly Meeting (Team): The weekly meeting keeps your team focused and accountable in execution of the priorities set out in your quarterly plan.
- Daily Huddle (Everyone): The daily huddle is a 5–15 minute catch up! This enables your entire team to be informed and aligned on the work that needs to be done.
Communication through Difficult Conversations
Difficult conversations are a normal part of life and need to be addressed in an open and constructive way.
Many people put off uncomfortable conversations in the hope that the problem either fixes itself or disappears. This approach can have a damaging effect, particularly regarding how employees feel within their workplace. People want to feel heard, especially when they face uncertain circumstances such as created by the recent Covid-19 pandemic. Many employees have felt unsure about the direction of their workplace and worried about whether their roles will continue to exist.
Preparation is the Key for Leaders and Managers
Go into the meeting with a very clear understanding of the problem you are trying to solve. Before starting a difficult conversation, ask yourself these questions:
- Am I prepared?
- What information do I need from the employee?
- How do I think the employee will react?
- Do I have a clear understanding of the problem and outcome I want to achieve from this conversation?
- What solutions can I propose to resolve the matter?
- What would I like the employee to feel and do?
Taking the time to prepare fully for your meeting will help you define any underlying issues and ensure your communication is clear and concise.
It’s important to have the right communication mechanisms in place to build relationships and impart knowledge of common goals, listen and engage with team members, and to manage any issues and emerging risks. Poorly executed communication can cause employees to endure an unsatisfactory work experience, leading to a whole host of problems with morale, productivity and, in some cases, customer satisfaction. By focusing on providing the best possible communication to employees, you will ensure your team stays well informed with everything they need to perform their jobs at the highest level.
Do you have the necessary communication strategies in place to drive and maintain team accountability and performance? Grab a copy of the checklist on ‘Team Communication’ in my HR Resources library here.