Business leaders and managers know the importance of having an open and honest communication strategy with employees. But in today’s workplace, and in many cases remote working environments, open communication is mission-critical. And it goes beyond having a dedicated Human Resources department for grievance management or annual employee reviews. Today, we’ll highlight a few new tips to help you develop your strongest workplace communication strategy.
1. Leadership Support & Encouragement
There are things company leaders can do to reward, incentivize, and encourage open communication. Some of these steps may not be new to you. However, in today’s ever-changing workplace, these best practices can easily be overlooked. Make sure you’re leveraging every tool and resource that encourages your teams to bring awareness to whatever they need.
Employees Should Know Where to Go
Employees won’t tell you about a problem or a concern if they don’t know who to connect with or where to go. Make sure your company has a clear and precise process for your teams. They should be able to know exactly who to turn to regarding work-related questions, a company direction concern, or a co-worker issue. Grievances and accolades both qualify, too. Ensure your communication channels for both are public and available for everyone.
Management Needs to Be Present
Leaders within your organization need to be present with staff. Whether those meetings are virtual or in-person, managers need to be continuously pulse-checking their teams to ensure support is available when needed. An “open-door” policy won’t help if no one ever comes in to chat. Leaders should be mindful of eye contact, limiting distractions, and simply acknowledging new ideas or perceived issues.
Ongoing Support Reminders
Despite your very best efforts, some employees may still be reluctant to raise a hand with a concern. To encourage open communication, be diligent about offering tools, resources, and support on the job. Don’t wait for an employee to come to you asking for job-related help. Instead, be generous with offering help and remind your teams often of your continued efforts to improve how you support them and their work.
2. Improving Communication Methods & Channels
There are workplace communication strategy steps you can incorporate today to improve open and honest conversations. Employees might keep their sentiments to themselves out of embarrassment, fear of retaliation, or a general belief that their opinions won’t result in positive change. Add these steps into your process to remove these common obstacles and encourage the flow of ideas.
Get the most honest feedback from your teams regarding company culture, product offerings, workplace support, and more with surveys. Provide sliding scales to really gauge how serious some problems might be. And be sure to include sections that ask for elaboration to uncover motives and issues. Keeping things anonymous will eliminate any unnecessary fear of retaliation. It will also demonstrate to your staff that you’re prioritizing their sentiments and ready to offer solutions.
More Communication Channels
Don’t just assume one communication channel or policy is enough. Offer other methods that encourage open communication in every setting. For example, maybe have a general email address dedicated to company policy suggestions from employees. But also consider texting ideas as a supported method. Phone conversations can sometimes be the best way to connect, too. Have department managers or other leaders make their digital calendars available for employees to schedule times for a call. Make it easier for your teams to communicate honestly by offering more than one way to connect with a company authority.
One of the best ways to uncover what your employees really think is to spend time with them one-on-one. Job shadow with someone for an afternoon and ask questions about how they feel the workload is. Act like an “undercover boss” and get in the trenches. You can quickly uncover concerns and your employees will feel valued as you invest your time into understanding their roles.
3. Setting the Workplace Communication Example
As you continue developing your best practices for open communication among the ranks, remember your improvements can be ongoing as well. Be an open communicator yourself to set the example. Keep these ideas in mind to ensure your company communications flow freely and honestly, regardless of the workplace changes that arise over time.
Become Masters of the Non-Verbal
Remember, nearly 75% of all communication efforts are non-verbal. And non-verbal statements can come across in both virtual and in-person scenarios. Become a master of how you communicate and set the expectation with your teams to do the same. Be a dynamic listener by not folding your arms or averting eye contact, and make your employees feel genuinely heard in every conversation. Head nod in agreement to support a new idea, whether it’s good or bad. Smile when you offer an employee compliment.
Don’t Be All Business, All the Time
Take time to connect with your teams about things other than work-related topics. Ask them about their weekend plans and be genuinely interested in how well their kids are doing. Remember the birthdays and decorate their offices. Have fun with employee costume contests during Halloween, or have a bring your pet to work day. And while social gatherings with work colleagues may not be feasible for every part of the country right now, even virtual get-togethers for socializing can be helpful.
The Feedback Exercise
Consider incorporating what some call the “one up, one down” communication exercise. After every meeting or project, ask each member of the team to offer one aspect they appreciated along with one area of improvement. It’s a great way to get constructive criticism from the teams, and it encourages open communication ongoing with every step of your company’s growth.
Now more than ever, workplace communication matters. Employees who don’t feel heard or valued will likely not stick around with your company long-term. Be authentic with your efforts to connect and offer support for everyone.
Don’t forget to connect with W3ll as your resource for ICHRA management and as an individual guide to the ACA Marketplace. Connect with our experts to learn more about how we can help you support your employees.