Improving Employee Communication: Why Bother?
Employee communication is a key aspect of creating an open and friendly work environment.
Employee communication is essential to encourage employees to perform consistently at their best, and to ensure a productive and healthy workplace atmosphere. Communicating effectively with employees is part of the role of HR in an organisation, and is vital for developing transparency. Clear and consistent communication is especially important during times of change, whether internal (e.g. a management change) or external (e.g. during a time of economic downturn).
Good communication between employer and employee is not always easy, especially if the communication is virtual rather than fact-to-face. However, by communicating clearly and regularly, employers can help mitigate stress and relieve tension, as well as encourage an open work environment. It is important to keep employees informed of any developments in the organisation that may affect them, and to foster a culture where individuals feel able to give feedback with confidence. It is also a good idea to provide information on any support that is on offer to employees or any benefits that they are entitled to. Good employee communication enables teams to feel connected to their workplace, the organisation, and each other, and to identify their position clearly in the business’s purpose, strategy, and culture.
However, every level in an organisation will face challenges to effective communication. Senior leaders may struggle to communicate clearly the organisation’s plans for the future and the impact on individual teams, or managers may lack the skills, confidence, or time to communicate well and regularly with their teams. A long-term effective approach to employer-employee communication will require a cohesive strategy and foster an organisation-wide feeling of confidence and security. There are a number of key aspects to successful communication which should be considered:
- Successful communication should build on a collective sense of importance to the organisation and its purposes, which is supported by an interest from senior leaders.
- It should encourage genuine responses from employees.
- It should draw on a range of communication strategies through different channels and tools.
- It should be regularly reviewed and assessed with a view to making communication more effective.
The Role of Senior Leadership and HR
Employees should feel that senior leadership are interested in the dialogue between individuals and the organisation, as they can function as an effective communication channel between teams and departments. However, it is important that this channel is two-way, rather than ‘top-down’, and leaders may need some training in authentic, clear, and inclusive communication methods and manners. Failing to encourage openness within an organisation can lead to more serious issues, such as lower employee performance, wellbeing or motivation. To read further about why employee performance matters and the value of performance reviews, read our articles, ‘What is Performance Management’ and ‘Performance Reviews and their Value’.
The principle of responsive communication is crucial – it encourages employee engagement and enables employees to feel valued. However, the rise of social media has meant that dialogue is often no longer simply two-way, but also multi-directional. Enterprise social media networks can have some benefits, such as encouraging employee interaction and interdepartmental collaboration, help gaining insight into issues affecting employees and their productivity, and to quickly resolve operational issues across a workforce. Although it is vital to ensure how social media is being used positively and is accessible to all individuals, it can be a useful channel through which to interact with employees. Through social media employees can share their views with their colleagues, enabling senior leadership to monitor the general atmosphere in the organisation and act in an appropriate manner to respond to the feelings of the workforce.
Evaluating communication effectiveness comprises two main areas: firstly, monitoring the overall feeling in the organisation, looking at questions such as whether employees feel informed and listened to, and whether leaders are trusted to give regular and accurate information. Secondly, communication effectiveness can be measured against specific objectives, such as the success of any communications campaigns with clear aims.
To ensure that communication is felt to be open and effective, comprehensive plans should be drawn up, covering aspects such as content, timing, style, and communication channel. A good place to start is to consider the desired outcome, as this will help indicate the appropriate messages and channels. For example, when employers wish to spark a dialogue, the method should encourage two-way discussion whilst taking into account the privacy required by the content of the message itself. It is also important to consider individual needs – such as remembering to include remote or part-time workers, or making sure that employees who are not active on social media would not be left out of a discussion or information briefing. Organisation size is also another factor to consider – communication is necessarily more complex in a global organisation, where different languages or cultures may be involved.
In larger organisations communication departments play a key role in developing the organisation’s culture. Senior leaders also set the tone for good communication, whilst managers are the direct link between the workforce and senior leadership. It is important that managers have the right skills and training, are willing to have conversations with their staff, and are prepared to address potentially difficult situations. It is also important that all employees feel that they have a key role to play in an organisation, including in ensuring effective communication. By sharing their learning and collaborating with other employees, individuals can set the tone of their workplace with important consequences, such as improving wellbeing and team productivity.
In-House HR helps businesses with the necessary HR procedures by taking the strain of people management out of your organisation. Our service not only allows you to centralise your personnel records in one secure place, but also saves you time by providing documents and policies necessary for your business, and customised for your ease. Clocked-In, our absence management system, does more than manage absence. It also provides you with employee performance reviews, a built-in organisation chart, and an emergency roll call, among other features. To learn more about In-House HR and Clocked-In, visit the features pages on our website, or email us at email@example.com. We look forward to hearing from you.