5 Tips for Effective Communication in the Workplace

by on September 5, 2012

I’ve long been of the belief that we as leaders don’t communicate enough.  We sit in meetings and have a good grasp of what is going on, and we intend to take that information back to the people on the ground, but in the course of our busy schedules we lose sight of the importance of sharing information with employees and communicating in the workplace.

Most employees come to work with the intention of doing a good job and take pride in what they do.  This makes them interested in what the organization is doing and what it has planned for the future.  There is not much that is more discouraging for an employee than to find out about a big new initiative, either through someone outside the organization, or by watching the six o’clock news.  I’ve had both of these examples happen to me.

That does not make leadership bad, it just means that they (we) often need help thinking about communicating and putting systems and processes in place to do a better job of it.

According to a recent SHRM article, a March 2012 AMA Enterprise survey revealed that only 9 percent of employees surveyed said they know what is going on most of the time and the majority, 55% of the 289 respondents, said employees feel  informed some of the time.

“Too often, employees do not feel trusted or involved in any way in decision-making,” said Sandi Edwards, senior vice president for AMA Enterprise, in a media statement—especially when it comes to an organization’s business strategy or plans for the future.

5 Tips for Effective Communication in the Workplace

1.   Develop a Communication Strategy

The first steps is to get a group in a room and strategize the how the organization will communicate  with employees. This team should think through and define a process and purpose for better business communication management. This will require considering who needs to know what information, when they need to know it and how it will be delivered to them. This strategy will help to create a standard for organizational communication.  For example, should new company endeavors be communicated when the idea is in the planning phase, when it is funded or when it is ready to launch?  Any of the three stages can be appropriate there just needs to be consistency so employees know when to expect different levels of information.

2.  Create a Communication Process

As with most things in business having a defined process – that is owned by someone – is the best way to ensure consistent communication.  This can be as simple as the secretary who takes meeting notes, sending a copy of the notes to a central communication person and that person is responsible for sharing it with all employees.  I know that is overly simplified but can be a practical step in the process.

3.  Multiply the Message

Over communicate the message and use every available forum – email, newsletter, bulletin boards, business website, intranet, social media, staff meetings, town hall meetings, text messaging or video delivery.  The more often the message is communicated the better chance that employees will absorb it and remember it.

4.  Explain the Why

Often leaders come up with a great idea, plan it, implement it and may even communicate it but may not think to explain the why a particular initiative makes sense for any given time. This requires communicating from the 50,000 foot level and making sure employees understand how something supports business goals and organizational strategy.

5.  Create Feedback Process

One way communication rarely works well so it is important that employees have a forum to offer feedback and ask questions. This helps to ensure that the message was received as it was intended and can be done in staff meetings or an online employee forum.  Regardless of the structure or process, employees need to feel like their thoughts and opinions are heard.  This process also helps the organization identify areas that can be improved upon.

Employees spend a great deal of their lives on the job and helping them stay connected to the mission and vision of the organization is one of the ways to foster employee engagement.  The more we can do to keep employees in the loop the better we can manage the rumor mill and the hurt feelings that come with employees feeling like they are not in the loop.

What are some ways you communicate with your employees?

photo by:  P Shanks

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