Back to Basics: Employee Communications - Novacrea Research
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Back to Basics: Employee Communications

Image by Fellowship of the Rich via FlickrThis is an article I wrote two years ago, it’s still relevant today!

Times are tough these days. But there are a few things you can do to engage your employees and prepare your company for future growth when the economy recovers. A key factor in maintaining or improving your employee engagement is through effective employee communication.

Our employee research shows that employees want to feel valued by their company. Employees want to be involved in their work and want to understand their company’s direction, mission, and vision. In addition, employees want to have the necessary information to do their work, such as operational processes and product information, in a timely manner. For example, customer care employees need to know the launch of a new product before their customers learn about it from promotion materials.

You can increase employee engagement at your organization through these action steps:

Listen to employees and take action on employee feedback.
Conducting regular employee surveys is like taking the pulse of the health of your organization. Through anonymous employee surveys, employees can provide valuable suggestions for ways to improve communications and operations. Management can gain insights from employee feedback and make changes that help the company grow. A great majority of the companies that are on “The 100 Best Companies to Work For” list conduct annual employee surveys, these companies enjoy better employee engagement scores and higher profitability.

Provide positive feedback in addition to constructive criticism.
Managers and supervisors play a key role in improving employee engagement through their interactions with employees. Research by Gallup and the Corporate Leadership Council found that employees who received positive feedback from their supervisors were more engaged and had better future performance than employees who received feedback for “room for improvement.” These studies show that focusing on employees’ strengths, rather than their weaknesses, can improve employee performance and engagement.

Be consistent in your message and communicate with employees regularly.
For companies that are going through significant changes, their employees often tell us that they are confused either because they receive inconsistent information from their direct managers and senior management, or that they don’t receive enough information about the company’s new direction. Howard Behar, former president of Starbucks and author of It’s Not About the Coffee, advises senior leaders to be consistent when communicating with their employees about their company’s mission, vision, and values. Behar said, “It’s so important to not get bored with your own message. For thirty years, Behar had given the same speech about its company’s values and what it means to work at Starbucks to its employees, but he would do it in thousands different ways using different stories. While a company’s business strategy and company direction can change to meet changing business demands, it is imperative that management continues to rally their employees behind a common vision and mission during times of change.

Include employees who work offsite or on shifts.
Employees who work offsite or who work evening, night, or weekend shifts often are frustrated with a feeling of “disconnect” or being under-valued. These employees usually do not get to attend meetings with senior management, which typically are held during “normal” office hours. In addition, some second or third shift employees are frustrated with a lack of proper documentation of process changes that happened during an earlier shift. This leaves employees hunting for the critical information and essentially decreases their productivity. Creating a documentation process, knowledge database, or wiki where critical information is deposited and can be accessed by all employees can help improve communications with these employees.

What’s Next
Here are a few questions to help you navigate through these demanding times to continue to keep your employees engaged:

  • Do you know your company’s overall employee engagement score?
  • Do you know your department’s employee engagement score?
  • Do you foster a company culture that encourages positive feedback and rewards employee performance?
  • What programs or practices do you have in place to encourage communications between departments or divisions?
  • How do you keep employees who work offsite or non-traditional hours equally informed as the rest of the company?
  • Do evening and night shifts employees have a chance to meet any of the senior leaders during their shifts?
  • Do you conduct regular employee surveys, use a company intranet, newsletter, or wiki to promote two-way communications between employees and management?
  • Do your leaders follow up on employee suggestions?

Now is a great time to review your company’s communication practice and take action to address employees’ concerns. Most importantly, senior leaders will need to commit to following up with employees’ suggestions after soliciting their input. Otherwise, employee trust will erode and employee engagement will plunge.

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