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Put the Suggestion Box Away

Engage in Real Communication

Over the last couple of months we have discussed employee engagement activities and ideas to boost workforce productivity and business success. The importance of engaged employees cannot be underestimated and has a direct effect on every organization’s bottom line.

We want to go more in depth, discussing the pillars that improve engagement and create an organization that is primed to succeed, beginning with communication. Communication is, and will always be, the cornerstone of success.

Communication, according to the Oxford dictionary is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium.

The key component to healthy workplace communication is the exchange of information. No longer are managers and CEOs shouting through a megaphone barking orders. Information is at our fingertips through a myriad of ways. But the key to keeping open communication in the workforce depends on the climate of respect. Here are some tips to managing communication in your organization and, in turn, creating a healthier workplace with open doors to increased employee engagement.

  1. Be responsive to workplace conflicts. Every organization is bound to have internal problems, most of which can probably be handled quickly if addressed right away. Make sure your employees know that your door is open but your mouth is shut. Confidentiality and responsiveness are key to letting employees know they have someone to trust and someone who will respond when needed.

  2. Texting and e-mails are modern-day memos. Talk to your employees. Cultivate real relationships outside of our digital world. A little conversation goes a long, long way.

  3. Be in tune to your employees’ needs. Research shows that most employees want material compensation, a sense of belonging, clear work goals and company goals, and recognition for accomplishments. All of these things depend on open communication. If your company can’t afford higher salaries, perhaps most employees are interested in Yoga classes in the morning. This kind of compensation creates a sense of community as well as adding a bonus of “free yoga classes.” Find creative ways to meet your employees’ needs. This begins with knowing what they are.

  4. Be respectful of cultural differences. Cultivate a workplace of respect. Respect employees’ different religious practices and holidays. Offer kosher or vegetarian food at the cafeteria. Provide “culture classes” for all employees to help them learn about their co-workers.

  5. Give feedback often. Many employees wait until the end of the year reports to get feedback. Make sure employees are receiving critical feedback more often. Be detailed. Do not give vague “the budget is a mess,” feedback. Be specific and helpful. “I’ve noticed you have been behind on your budget. Let’s work something out to keep you on schedule.” Also be specific about the positive. Do not say, “Great job last week.” Say, “The report you prepared was incredibly polished and well researched. The client was impressed, as was I.” The difference is in the details.

  6. Be specific and get to the point: Karen Friedman’s latest book titled Shut Up and Say Something: Business Communication Strategies to Overcome Challenges and Influence Listeners discusses the biggest obstacles to effective, concise information in the workplace. This Forbes article highlights Friedman’s main ideas in pictures. It’s a great summary of the book with solid information.

  7. Refrain from micro-managing. Your team was hired based on their abilities. Give them space to do their jobs. Set clear goals. Communicate the company goals. Provide your employees with what they need to get the job done, and let them get to work. Giving your employees a sense of control creates an environment of trust and respect.

  8. Create a community. When employees feel like they are part of something, like they are working toward a common goal, they feel a sense of pertinence and ownership in the organization’s process. Keep them in the loop. Make sure they know what the company goals are and know that everything they are doing is working to make those goals happen. They need to know they’re a vital piece of the puzzle.

  9. Do not take things personally. Sometimes it might feel like the office is a tea-kettle ready to explode. Your job, as the captain of the ship, is to keep things cool. The way you respond in sticky situations sends a strong message and is a model for employees. So, when things get overheated, sit back, count, take a walk, then respond. Don’t frame your criticism in a personal way, either. For instance, “You didn’t do a good job,” is pretty confrontational. Try, “The presentation wasn’t to the standard I expected. Let’s talk about how to make it better.” Take the “you” and the “I” out of the equation.

  10. Listen, listen, listen. There is a big difference between listening and being a sounding board. Both are necessary at times, but listening is the key to effective communication. Your employees need a place where they feel like they are truly being “heard.” You are that place. It is so easy to be busy with a thousand things. The key is to take a couple minutes and focus your attention on your employee at the time.




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