A principal activity of management is to communicate effectively with their staff. The problem with this statement is whether managers practice what they preach and whether they have been trained to communicate well. The general dichotomy is to be found where managers believe that communicating should be a selective activity and where employees feel they rarely receive sufficient information to either, do their jobs effectively or to engage with management in the process of achieving high performance.
What is the problem with saying it as it is, good or bad and on a regular basis? The true answer is nothing. Bad management is the driver of selective communications and mistrust is the outcome. Where such a situation arises it is hugely unlikely that the organisation will function anywhere near its full capability and hence lost performance will damage competitiveness and could potentially drive the organisation into bankruptcy.
My experience is that staff are not afraid of bad news (its no news that frightens people). In fact most staff are prepared to support actions which overcome problems which could damage a business, if only they are asked. But to do so they must have trust in management and that can be won where management communicate regularly good and bad news. For those managers who have not been trained to communicate effectively or who have forgotten some of the key methods of communicating, the following prompts may be helpful.
Useful approaches to staff communications:
• Regular face-to-face meetings with staff
• Regular group/team meetings in lunch breaks or at the end of the day
• Posting notes of what was said or agreed at team meetings on notice boards or emailing to all participants
• Emailing once a week key events (big orders won, in-compliance production levels, staff productivity, absence rate, new employees, promotions etc)
• Writing personal letters to staff at their home address
• Producing an in-house newsletter weekly or monthly (a single side of A4 would do)
• Good use of an Intranet
• Holding focus groups or working party meetings and feeding back conclusions to all staff at team meetings
Remember that communications is a two-way process and managers should constantly be looking to obtain staff views on all of the issues affecting the company and more importantly all good ideas which could improve the effectiveness of the business/organisation. The more engaged that staff are, the more they will participate in the two-way communication process and the more likely the organisation will learn and adopt new methods and practices which will increase productivity and performance. So my message is: don’t hold back when it comes to communicating, just say it as it is and look forward to working in an environment where productivity is increasing.
Dr Hugh Billot, MD HR+ Limited
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