SIMPLE TRUTH #5: People want regular and relevant communication

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Are we there yet??  Information and how effectively it is communicated through an organization directly correlates to its overall productivity and the engagement of its people.  That said, I have found that many leaders spend little time planning how or what information they will communicate throughout their organization. SIMPLE TRUTH #5: People want regular and relevant communication.

Employees need – and expect – specific types of communication at regular intervals. From executive leaders, they want to know and understand the goal.  They need to hear your vision, the business strategy, broad direction with milestones, and appreciation. Those sound like: “We are still going in this direction…” and “Here is how we’re doing in relation to that strategy…” and “Thank you all for helping us get to where we are.”  Then, when the business needs to course correct its direction or strategy – which it will – you want them to know that things will change and why and how it affects what you’ve previously communicated.

From direct managers, employees want more granular information from what executives provide. Managers need to convey more specific direction regarding department activities and the individual’s job tasks.  Employees expect real-time communication with their managers in order to do good work and not waste time and money redoing things.  They regularly need a chance to get clarification about aspects of their job, progress against goals, expectations of behaviors, consequences, as well as, recognition and appreciation.

We condition people early in life through our education system to receive regular report cards; yet, when they get into the workforce, managers drop the ball on applying that concept.  Part of a manager’s role is effectively providing a report card to their employees on an ongoing basis.  It’s called performance coaching.  While the term “feedback” gets a negative wrap, if you are transparent in your communication and share the positive and negative behaviors or outcomes you see – on an ongoing basis – it becomes part of normal dialogue.  And, your employees expect it.  From this type of communication, you gain trust and respect from your employees along with their engagement. If you are a manager and you don’t regularly sit down with (or video chat with) each person who reports to you – you are not doing an important part of your responsibilities.  Please read SIMPLE TRUTH #4 and schedule 1:1s with your people. 😉

Regular communication is important regardless of which levels of the organization it comes from.  If you don’t communicate frequently enough, your people fill in the gaps between what you last said and what they think is going on. It’s human nature. People will make up information in the absence of real data – which often creates a culture of uneasiness, worry and gossip. Having misinformation circulating is never in your organization’s best interest from an employee morale standpoint. If you aren’t sure of how often your people need communication from you – ask them.  Don’t assume you know.

All communication is a key organizational “system” that holds as much importance as your IT infrastructure and other business information systems in the overall effectiveness of our company. If you think about communication as THE most important tool your employees need to accomplish their jobs effectively, you’ll make it a priority.  If you do, you’ll see a positive return in the areas of productivity, operational improvement and morale.

From my interviews with all levels employees & leadership, the term “relevant” came up as much as the word “regular” when it came to communication.  Relevant communication is about audience focus.  Tell them what they need and want to know.  That means – what’s important to THEM – not what’s important to you necessarily.

If you hold corporate meetings and regularly talk about stock value or bonus calculations and a majority of your workforce don’t own stock options or they have bonus amounts that, after taxes, can barely pay for a tank of gas, consider communicating that information to a smaller subset of your employees.  I’ve seen this too many times.  While you think you are sharing positive “news” when the stock value is up and/or pending performance bonuses are significant, your financially unaffected employees leave the meeting feeling angry and unmotivated.  All they heard were executives they describe as ‘bragging about money they are going to get’ when they are living paycheck-to-paycheck and are struggling to feed their families.

Understanding your communication should consider the audience and what information is relevant to them, is paramount.  If you aren’t sure exactly what kind of information your employees consider “relevant” and what they need from you – ask them.

At your next company meeting, if you provide information that is audience focused, your employees will appreciate it.  If a strategic project has been cancelled, say so because it’s the truth.  If you can only tell part of something due to confidentiality, say what you can say – if that topic is important to them.  If you’ve got no new information to share about topics you regularly cover, you can always spend time recognizing people for their contributions and saying “THANK YOU.”  Hearing that is important to them, too.  People Matter in Business.

Cindy Goyette, SPHR – Maximizing Human Capital, Inc. 2014

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