Effective communication can help organizations solve problems, share information and
embrace change. It can help employees work well together and make them feel more
connected to the organization at large and their role in reaching overall business
objectives. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints employees have about
employers is a lack of communication.
Communicating effectively with employees not only creates stronger relationships - it
may even help improve the bottom line. The 2005/2006 Communications ROI Study
conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that between 2000 and 2004, companies
with the most effective employee communication programs returned 57 percent more to
their shareholders than companies with the least effective communications programs.
According to the study, effective communication is a key driver of superior performance
- Employees feel connected to the business and understand how their actions can
- New employees exhibit solid connections to the company culture - starting from
their initial days on the job.
- Communication quickly connects employees to changing business challenges,
facilitating faster adjustments to fluctuating market conditions.
- Management effectively connects with employees through strong leadership
during organizational change.
The fallout of ineffective communication
But research indicates that many employees feel left in the dark.
In a recent survey, Best Practices in Employee Communication: A Study of Global
Challenges and Approaches, 48 percent of organizations said their company's
management has not effectively communicated business strategy to employees or
engaged them in living it in their daily jobs. The study was conducted by Right
Management Consultants and the International Association of Business Communicators
Research Foundation in 2005.
When employees feel they don't know what they need to know, the company can suffer.
Misinformation can spread as employees fill in the blanks and erosion of trust and
conflict between employees and management can result. Impacts can include lack of
shared vision, low employee morale and higher employee turnover.
Communicating as an organization
It's essential to keep employees "in the loop" on important business matters. Your
organization should take time to clearly explain its vision and mission so employees
understand how they contribute to the big picture.
There are many ways to keep employees informed and a coordinated communications
effort with multiple channels works best. An example would be regular all-employee
meetings to share company updates and give employees the opportunity to ask
questions. Also, keep employees informed and create a sense of community with email
messages, memos, an intranet site, internal blogs and an employee newsletter.
Communicating as a manager
If you're a manager, you play an important role in communicating company information
to your employees. Touch base with your employees regularly to help your team feel
connected and avoid miscommunication.
Develop your communication skills
When delivering important organizational news to employees, make sure
you provide them with the information they need. Here are some tips:
- Be clear. Make it easy for everyone to understand the key points
of your message. Keep your language simple and free of jargon.
Be specific and get to the point. Let employees know how
information affects them and how it will specifically apply to their
- Be concise. Keep your message short. Stick to relevant
information. Don't provide details that aren't necessary to get the
point across. The extra, irrelevant details may cause confusion or
- Be correct. Make sure the information you relay is accurate. If
you don't know all the answers, be honest with your employees
and tell them you don't know. Then try to get the answers for
- Be complete. Give employees all of the information they need to
understand a situation. Don't withhold key facts if you're able to
provide them. If you're not sure if it's appropriate to share certain
information, check with your manager first.
- Be positive. Avoid gossip, complaining and negativity. Your team
looks to you to set an example. If you can't keep an open mind
and attempt to stay positive even when the news isn't favourable,
you can't expect your employees to "take the high road" either.
Create an atmosphere of open communication
Let your employees know that you're not too busy to be interrupted for
concerns or unexpected issues that arise. Have an "open door policy."
Open communication between you and your direct reports will build
stronger relationships and establish trust within your team. If you're busy
when they try to talk with you, make an appointment with the person to
Encourage employees to be open and candid in conversations with you.
It's easier to get to the bottom of an issue if everyone is comfortable
expressing their views. As a manager, you need to set aside judgments
and keep an open mind.
Learn to listen
Being an effective communicator isn't just about providing information to
employees. It's important to also be a good listener. This means paying
close attention to others so you can really "hear" and understand what's
Poor listening is a common cause of errors, delays and
misunderstandings at work so don't let your mind wander when someone
is talking to you. Active listening means staying focused on what the other
person is saying.
Show your employees that you care about them as people. To be an
effective listener, you should:
- Give the other person your full attention.
- Allow enough time for the conversation.
- Keep an open mind.
- Avoid interrupting.
- Repeat or sum up what you've heard to make sure you
Become a better communicator
If you're unsure about your communication skills, take the time to watch and learn from
good communicators. Be aware of how you come across to others. Ask your employees
and co-workers how you might improve. You may find that others perceive your
communication style differently than you intended. If they think your style is a little rough
around the edges, you may need to work to soften it.
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