Cutting Through the Noise and Improving Employee Communication

Businessman leader rising in a hot air balloon - Leadership concIf communication isn’t a priority in your organization, then your company simply isn’t living up to its true potential. A first-class HR department makes it their mission to facilitate communication upward, downward and horizontally. Expectations and objectives need to be delivered and understood, frustrations need to be dealt with and concerns have to be heard. Only positive results emerge from such efforts – heightened morale, engagement, and productivity.

Encouraging open communication may at first sound like an obvious concept, and one that is easily put into place. However, the reality is that fostering an atmosphere of fluid and productive communication takes time, effort, and persistence. We might be talking all day, but real communication requires far more than opening our mouths and making noise. The organizational communication we desire is about the value and worth of the words expressed. This is the true key to success in the workplace.

Below are a few of the many ways organizations can help to promote healthy, productive and effective workplace communication upward, downward and horizontally.

Prioritize team building
Employees are human beings, and we all have an innate need to “belong” and to connect. It is an aspect of humanity that professionalism can’t overcome. Psychologists Roy Baumeister and Mark Leary suggest that people have a “basic psychological need to feel closely connected to others.” As such, it is vital that connections, feelings of trust and team-building are built and maintained for a long-lasting organization.

No matter how busy the business might be on a given day, take the time to prioritize teamwork. Research appropriate team-building exercises and get communication flowing between employees. This will have a noticeable impact on engagement and will boost productivity, easily paying back the time invested on team-building activities.

Be open-minded about workplace chatter
Water-fountain gossip sessions might be a bone of contention for many managers, but workplace chatter can seriously boost meaningful interaction. Casual office place discussions can help to promote horizontal communication and generate a feeling of teamwork that can work wonders for the success of any organization. Discussions at this casual level give employees the opportunity to exchange ideas and information as well as fostering a positive attitude, the results of which will be evident in short order. One study by Dr. Pentland even went as far as to suggest that workplace chatter increases productivity. Where possible, it is also important to support after-hours socialization, which is essential to modern-day business networking.

Provide an anonymous feedback tool
Communication isn’t solely about talking; it’s also about showing that you are listening. Managers need to show that they are receptive to feedback and constructive criticism when it comes to the running of the office. Not all employees are as confident as others, but this doesn’t mean that they don’t have valuable ideas. This is where the anonymous feedback tool comes into play. Anonymous surveys or even something as simple as a ‘suggestion box’ gives employees the opportunity to share their viewpoints without fear of reprisal.

Anonymous feedback tools will also show your employees that you are open to suggestions and change, which may improve the likelihood of them approaching you directly in the future.

Ensure your employee’s objectives are SMART
Within any organization, effective communication is vital when it comes to relaying goals and objectives.  Businesses need to ensure that their goals are understood and internalized by employees. If an individual is unclear how they contribute to the overall success of the organization, they won’t be motivated to succeed, which represents an organizational failure over an individual fault. One infographic demonstrates that where employees don’t understand their overall role in a business, only 23% of them will work for success, whereas 91% will work for success if they thoroughly understand their role and how it impacts the business.

In order to ensure that each employee knows what to focus on and how their role impacts the success of the organization, encourage SMART objectives that are Specific (and Stretching), Measurable, Achievable, Relevant (to the overall business goals) and Time-bound. It’s a simple and effective way of creating objectives that deliver genuine business value.

Utilize modern software

Performance management tools serve to improve company processes in a multitude of ways, but one particular advantage is that every single individual within the organization benefits from improved communication and interaction. With modern, real-time feedback and idea exchange, employees are given the opportunity to feel more involved in the organization, managers are able to discuss ongoing tasks more effectively and communication breakdown is far less likely to take place.

Relay instructions in writing
If you want to ensure that instructions are followed, it is advisable to write them down rather than simply voicing them. Realistically, people are far more likely to remember instructions if they are written down. Emails can be marked, apps can be used to remind us to act and important days can be marked in a calendar. Importantly, the instructions are also trackable, so employees can’t insist that they were never notified.

Have regular, face-to-face interaction and feedback
HR professionals everywhere are coming to grips with the idea that the annual performance review is going extinct. There simply isn’t room for them in the modern world of continuous performance management as we have come to realize and recognize the value of regular one-on-one meetings. Such check-ins do wonders for communication and relieve the stress and pressures that are inherent in yearly performance appraisals. Regular check-ins allow employees to keep managers in the loop regarding progress and problems, and they also give managers an important opportunity to recognise and reward employees for their work.

Introduce an open-door policy
This tip is vital for upward and downward communication. It demonstrates to the employee that managers genuinely care about their input and concerns, and that their input is valued. This is where SMBs often have the upper-hand, as managers normally work from the same office as the majority of the workforce. This ensures a great deal of free-flowing and productive communication.