It has been said the strongest relationships are built on a foundation of communication. As such, it should come as no surprise HR Solutions’ Research Institute has found a strong positive correlation between communication and employee engagement.
When managers establish a culture of open and honest dialogue among their team members, the percentage of ‘actively engaged‘ individuals rises. Since engagement is overwhelmingly linked to positive business outcomes, it is important to utilize various best practices for communication success.
Discourse between supervisors and their direct reports allows for greater understanding of not only issues employees are struggling with, but also the positive aspects of employees’ jobs.
When supervisors are aware of what tasks individuals feel are most enjoyable, they are more likely to assign projects based on workers’ preferences. In doing so, team members will probably be more engaged in these projects, thus increasing the likelihood they perform their duties to the best of their abilities.
Communication allows managers to easily present changes that have been made as a result of dialogue among staff. Awareness of the modifications reflecting team members’ opinions will contribute to employees’ perceptions that leadership cares about them.
Everyone wants to feel as though they matter, so when employees recognize their opinions make a difference, they will likely be more actively engaged in the culture.
Additionally, communication can help in employee branding, or the overall perception (thinking and feeling) the employee has about his or her experience working within the organization. Further, employee branding reflects how well the organization’s vision and strategy are “branded” into the psyche of the employee.
Great employees want to know what’s going on. They want to know where the organization is going and how their individual contribution can help it get there. Making the mission of the organization clear to team members and highlighting their contribution to that mission will contribute to more positive branding among employees.
HR Solutions’ National Normative Database, which represents over 3.3 million respondents and 2,400 organizations, indicates there is a disconnect between the method by which employees receive information and the way they would like to receive information.
Currently, only 35 percent of respondents receive information about the organization directly from their managers or supervisors, whereas 52 percent choose this option when asked how they would prefer to receive information.
It is important to recognize this disconnect and work to bridge the communication gap.
4 leadership best practices for increasing engagement through communications
1. Encourage Employees to Be Vocal
One best practice managers can utilize to enhance communication involves encouraging employees to be vocal. Leaders should make themselves available to employees. When dialogue occurs between supervisors and their team members, active listening should be the norm.
Encourage employees to ask questions and get clarification for anything they do not understand. When employees realize managers want to talk to them and answer questions, they will be more willing to ask. Misunderstandings will decrease, and Engagement will rise.
Managers should consider how to present each of their messages in the most clear, informative, and interesting way, thus encouraging employees to listen. Information and updates will be more valuable when presented frequently and concisely, such as after staff meetings.
With constant communication, employees will not be overwhelmed by a sudden influx of new information, and will be better able to understand the messages presented. Regular meetings and check-ins should be established as well to keep the dialogue flowing.
2. Promote Honesty & Accountability
Another best practice to enhance Communication includes being honest and accountable. Managers and leadership should make sure they are always truthful when speaking with employees. They should hold themselves responsible for promises made. Do not make promises that cannot be kept.
If an issue arises preventing execution, inform employees as soon as possible, and present an alternative to resolve this issue. Otherwise, employees’ trust in management will suffer, causing a dip in engagement levels.
3. Utilize Performance Reviews
Performance reviews can also be utilized as a best practice in communication. HR Solutions’ Research Institute estimates only 5 percent of performance reviews in North America include active conversations about engagement.
With all the discussion about engagement and its positive effects on organizations, reviews are exceptional opportunities to evaluate each individual’s unique engagement level.
During performance meetings, managers and employees can determine each team member’s particular drivers and detractors of engagement. Leaders can then leave the meetings with an idea of how to improve engagement levels among employees, creating a more actively engaged organization as a whole.
4. Convey Mission & Strategy
Finally, it is vital to clearly convey the strategy and mission to employees, as these are the fourth most impactful drivers of engagement. Managers often simply state the values of an organization, either in an employees’ initial training or on postings throughout the office, rather than precisely articulating and explaining the strategy and mission.
As such, employees frequently overlook the organization’s true meaning and values. Misunderstandings and incomplete knowledge about an organization may result, making it hard for team members to establish an emotional connection with the organization. Furthermore, managers regularly fail to communicate exactly how each employee and his or her job contributes to the big picture.
Articulating the value each employee brings to the organization will keep employees engaged. Everyone wants to feel as though they have a purpose. When employees recognize they are contributing to an organization’s success, they will likely exert more effort toward achieving goals within the organization.
If managers clearly communicate to each and every individual exactly what role he or she plays in the outcome of the organization, employee engagement will increase.
Open, honest, and effective communication should become the “new normal.” Implementing the aforementioned best practices will keep employees connected to and engaged in an organization, contributing to the most successful business outcomes.
Kevin Sheridan is Chief Executive Officer and Chief Consultant of HR Solutions, Inc. and directs all survey work conducted by the firm. He has extensive experience in the field, having co-founded three successful survey-related organizations. Mr. Sheridan received a Masters in Business Administration from the Harvard Business School in June 1988, concentrating his degree in Managerial Decision-making and Strategy, Human Resources Management, and Organizational Behavior.