Business surveys consistently show us that poor workplace communication is a major source of employee dissatisfaction. The repercussions of this include not just low employee morale. Employee productivity suffers, along with a range of other business performance indicators.
Business Impact of Poor Communication
Have you stopped to think about how much unsatisfactory communication practices are costing your business? Some of these costs include:
- increased employee turnover
- increased absenteeism
- dissatisfied customers from poor customer service
- higher product defect rates
- lack of focus on business objectives
- stifled innovation
How many of these costs can you recognize in your business? You can turn the situation around. Employees will put in that extra “discretionary effort” when they are kept informed openly and honestly on aspects of their job and the business and they feel that they are being listened to with empathy.
Employee Communication Needs
What and how should you communicate with your employees? Communication in your organization should satisfy the three key employee needs before they can be engaged and highly productive. Each and every employee needs to:
1. Know that …
-included here are facts about your organization and their specific job – what business you are in, who your customers are, specific details about your product or service, where forms are located, who to see when there is a problem …
2. Master that …
-included here are the practical skills required to do their job well – repairing a machine, filling out an invoice, designing a building, writing a software program …
3. Feel that …
-included here are the interactions that give them a sense of belonging and self-worth – being listened to, respected, trusted, valued …
Managers predominantly concentrate on the first need – know that – and pay less attention to the second need to master skills. The third need – feel that – is what makes employees distinctly human and what drives them to outstanding achievement in work and outside of work. And yet it is in this dimension that employee communications are most lacking.
Look closely at the communication happening in your business. Is it satisfying what employees need to be fully engaged and working productively? Consider each of the four fundamental levels of communication in your organization for an answer:
1. Organization wide communication – involving all employees
2. Departmental communication – specific to one department or unit
3. Team communication – within one cohesive team or group
4. Individual communication – specific to one employee at any one time
Communications may be working effectively at higher levels, with regular and informative newsletters emanating from Head Office. However, the quality and quantity of communications may fail dismally at the more local level. The interpersonal skills of supervisors, team leaders and local managers are especially critical at levels 3 and 4, as these are the people that frontline workers develop working relationships with most personally and closely. Many exit surveys have shown that employees commonly leave an organization because of a poor working relationship with an immediate supervisor. How are the communication skills of the supervisors in your organization?
Just as important is the communication between and within levels. Gone are the days when departments could stand as silos, isolated from the rest of the organization by impenetrable barriers. Intra-national and international competition is now so fierce that everyone in the organization needs to collaborate closely on solving organizational challenges and on achieving agreed strategic objectives. What are the communication barriers in your organization?
Where is your organization at in its life-cycle? Is it large or growing rapidly? As more people are added to an organization, communication needs and stresses increase exponentially. Joe, who used to do purchasing, inspection and warehousing on his own now needs to talk to three other departments as well as the people in his own growing team. What structures, systems and processes has your organization put in place to encourage and facilitate effective communication flow?
Well-designed organizational culture surveys and employee communication surveys can determine how well your communication systems and practices are contributing to your organization’s performance – or how much they are hindering performance. This information will then help you in devising an effective employee communication strategy. Whatever else you do, communication practices impact every facet of your business. Looking closely at communication in your organization is well worth your while, because even if you do not, your employees are.