A critical element to fostering good relationships and a sense of belonging, effective employee communication leads to more engaged, thereby productive teams. But why is it so important and how to improve it?
We are social creatures by nature, and communicating with others is something natural. But on some occasions, things get more complex.
Within an organisation, people sometimes feel isolated and overwhelmed with a fuzzy departmental structure; therefore, they find it hard to fit in and know who to reach out to when in doubt or bringing up a suggestion. In such situations, we tend to let it go and be silent. That’s a big deal for companies, since an engaged, motivated workforce is the lifeblood of any organisation.
In this article, we share several helpful tips you can use to boost effective employee communication and, hence, confidence and productivity.
Giving a voice to all
Effective employee communication is way beyond keep teams up to date on goals and tasks. It involves a friendly environment where everybody has a voice and is encouraged to share ideas, feelings, and new ways to get things done.
When employees know their voice is heard, they feel more motivated and empowered, which leads to improved talent retention, to mention one single benefit. Moreover, it boosts creativity, proactivity, and personal growth. There are many ways of giving your employees a voice. Let’s see some of them.
Top-down vs. two-way communication
In the past, people were used to only receiving information and keeping their thoughts to themselves, but not any more, since mass media communication is no longer the only way of getting information. Nowadays, everybody can share, comment, and create content, and we are used not to be merely receivers but also senders. So why in the workplace it should be any different?
If you want to engage your staff, the first thing is to develop an open communication policy and put it into practice. For example, if you have a reticent feedback culture, it’s time to spread that you are willing to listen to what your teams have to say and get everybody involved.
That being said, top-down communication also plays a role in employee communication, as managers get information from the high-end and know who needs to know what. That is an important flow of information that helps teams keep up to date without getting overwhelmed with unnecessary information.
But since top-down communication is much more straightforward, let’s focus on how to boost two-way communication. There are many ways of doing that, such as surveys, providing the proper tools, using templates for visual communication, self-performance reviews and feedback, and you should implement as many as you can.
Creating employee surveys is a more traditional yet highly efficient approach to give voice to all and get valuable information on the organisation’s core aspects.
Unlike performance reviews and self-performance reviews, which are related to everyday subjects, employee surveys give the chance to think about and express their feelings on comprehensive matters. Also, surveys are a comfortable venue to provide feedback on core aspects within an organisation.
And if you want to ensure honest feedback and add an extra dose of encouragement, consider making answers stay anonymous, as some people might be shy or afraid of writing down certain opinions. Ask what their department is instead, so you can identify which sector needs improvements, for example.
An employee survey is somehow like customer research, but directed to the internal public. So the first step when deciding what questions you will ask is bearing in mind that satisfied employees lead to happy customers.
Doing this will create a feedback culture, and people will become familiar with sharing their thoughts with managers and colleagues because it shows you care about what they have to say.
Ask better questions, get better answers
To achieve better answers, keep your employee survey as brief as possible. Asking too many questions might upset your employees, and answers will certainly not be as good as if you limit your survey to around 10 questions. So consider conducting smaller surveys regularly instead of one extensive survey once a year.
Questions should be focused on spotting problems, finding points for improvement, and allowing employees to say what they think your company could make better in terms of people management, workplace environment, wellbeing, and more.
When creating an employee survey, a good practice is to divide it into four sections, such as personal growth, work environment, management efficiency, and general inquiries about the company. Doing this will help you to organise your survey and create an organised mind map to brainstorm questions.
Performance reviews and self-performance reviews
Conducting positive performance reviews is the best approach to put things together and suggest areas for improvement. Solution-focused performance reviews make employees confident, as constructive feedback highlights achievements by softening criticism with compliments.
Constructive feedback not only motivates employees but also encourages them to provide feedback on aspects such as policies, culture, goals and expectations.
By providing friendly feedback, you create a comfortable environment in which employees are encouraged to express themselves, which is the role performance reviews play in effective employee communication. If, in addition, you provide them with performance reviews templates, you can get insights to solve problems you didn’t even know to exist.
Tools for effective employee communication
The time companies spent almost-fully remote has taught a lot about remote communication, and it is wise to use this hard-earned knowledge when getting back to the on-site work model.
Also, remote work is here to stay. Many workers are looking for a hybrid work model, you may want to hire foreign employees, or it might be the case your teams need to collaborate with teams from different branches and different cities.
So relying on communication tools is necessary, and there is a tool for every need in the workplace. From virtual meetings, messages, project management to visual communication, communication tools help us make the most of our time and energy.
Relying on visuals is a great way to communicate in a clear, engaging way. And if you use HR infographic templates for that, even better, since you will provide your employees with standardised and yet customisable content, so they can use it to share ideas and tips, provided feedback, self-assessment, and more.
Also, managers can use visuals to inform, share policies and procedures around tasks, as nobody likes reading big blocs of texts when an image could provide the same information in a clear, memorable way. So if you make documents visual and engaging by using infographics, pie charts, and mind maps you will save time and energy.
Visuals can boost internal newsletters, presentations, virtual events and webinars, to quote a few benefits. Using a flow chart infographic, for instance, makes it is easy to communicate task-related instructions.
Flow charts are also a handy tool to standardise processes and help your employees adapt to changes because it provides easy-to-understand visual step by step and decision-making guides.
Meeting virtually and face-to-face
Virtual meetings have many advantages over face-to-face meetings, such as being less costly and time-consuming.
But meeting virtually has its downsides, too, like technical glitches and lack of attention, so it is worth developing a strategy to make the most of virtual meetings. You can start by providing managers and employees with a visual guide on running more productive meetings, sharing tips such as:
- Test and prepare, so nobody will be caught off guard by technical issues;
- Enable videos, since the lack of connection and attention are the most significant virtual meetings’ drawbacks;
- Set objectives. This is the most critical point for all meetings, but even more when it comes to a virtual setup;
- Write an agenda and share it with attendees, as this gives time for feedback and topic suggestions;
- Make it straight to the point and as short as you can. Our attention span is limited, so divide your agenda into smaller bites if you have too many topics to approach. Also, having regular meetings keep people in touch constantly and more familiar with each other;
- Share reports, data visualisation, or any documents a few days in advance, so everybody can go through and come prepared with ideas and discussion points. It will make your meeting more productive and short.
Face-to-face meetings, on the other hand, are better for deeper information sharing and promoting friendship. So if you are back to the on-site or hybrid work model, you should also run face-to-face meetings once in a while, leaving virtual meetings for more everyday subjects.
Holding a monthly meeting and replacing your weekly or daily face-to-face meetings with a good balance of virtual meetings is a good starting point.
Clearly outline expectations and goals
Having clear goals and deadlines helps to keep teams free from misunderstandings. More transparent expectations decrease miscommunication as things are well stated and, ideally, put into the paper. As a result, employees become more focused on their tasks, less stressed, and don’t feel pushed when facing a performance review.
Setting goals is even more helpful when managers and employees discuss and agree upon defined expectations. People tend to be motivated when they are responsible for creating their roadmaps. It also ensures you are setting realistic milestones and make employees accountable for their goals.
A good practice is keeping a list of critical goals to help teams organise their workflow. To provide a list of priorities, consider creating daily and weekly checklists, as they are great reminders and easy-to-follow tools.
Effective employee communication leads to improved productivity and workplace harmony. What’s more, when you achieve a smooth flow of communication, employees won’t feel disregarded, which, among other things, boosts team morale and talent retention.
So, if you want to see the positive results that effective employee communication brings, start by creating a feedback culture and a two-way communication policy. After, it is time to put things into practice, and you have plenty of tools for doing that, such as visuals, meetings, surveys, performance reviews, and self-performance reviews.
About the Author
Alessandro Oliveri is a content creator at Venngage. He enjoys writing on visuals, marketing, and Human Resources. His aim is to help people to simplify the communication process and take visuals to the next level.