How to create a culture that encourages communication in both directions
Great communication is critical to the success of any business because it provides a number of benefits, including:
- Improved performance.The better a company communicates, the easier it is to reach its objectives. Instead of creating situations where teams have to guess the next step, great communication ensures everyone is on the same page—always. This helps everyone perform better at a quicker pace, increasing the productivity and performance of an organization as a whole.
- Stronger teams.According to Gallup, less than one third of U.S. professionals are engaged at work. But a separate Gallup study found that having friends at the office boosts employee satisfaction by 50%. Better communication can help employees bond. What’s more, employees with work friends are seven times more likely to be engaged!
- Better ideas.There’s a reason we all know the phrasetwo minds are better than one. This is why so many leading organizations have embraced collaboration; they understand that individual efforts are simply not enough to keep up with today’s complex business landscape. Bouncing ideas off your colleagues is one of the best ways to have them come back stronger.
Despite these obvious benefits, many organizations still struggle with communication. For example, 46% of employees leave meetings unsure as to what they’re expected to do next.
Why do companies have such a hard time with good communication? For starters, some organizations don’t do enough to create cultures of active listening and sharing. Workers just keep their heads down and work, instead of sharing their ideas and asking questions when they’re unsure of something. On the other end of the spectrum are employees who are legitimately afraid of speaking up because they’re terrified of their bosses -- a Harvard Business Review study suggests that half of all employees are frightened of voicing their opinions for fear of repercussions. Finally, a recent study uncovered the fact more than two thirds ofmanagersare uncomfortable speaking with their subordinates.
Getting your organization to realize its full potential starts with creating a culture that encourages robust communication to flow in both directions. No matter how lacking a company’s communication skills may be, all it takes is a few changes to enjoy a more engaged workforce and better business outcomes. Here are nine simple tactics you can employ to improve communication at your company.
1. Build communication into the foundation of your culture
Elon Musk tells his employees to communicate with everyone—even if that means talking to their boss’ boss. Build a culture where communication is paramount and great things will happen. Make sure managers understand they need to communicate openly and regularly, too.
2. Keep employees in the loop
Anyone who’s ever worked at a company where important information was routinely withheld from lower-level staffers knows how demoralizing it can be. You spend so much of your energy working hard for your company, yet you’re treated as though you don’t deserve to know what’s really going on. Instead, make sure you keep your employees well informed about any major developments and company news in a timely manner.
3. Have regular meetings (but not too many!)
Schedule one-on-one, team and all-hands meetings regularly. But don’t bog your employees down with proverbial meetings about meetings about meetings. Many employees are overworked enough as it is. Use an appropriate amount of meetings (perhaps one or two of each per month) to keep your team in the loop and give them a platform where they can discuss their ideas. For the best results, encourage managers to give feedback during 1:1s.
4. Recognize your employees’ contributions
When your employees do a great job, recognize their efforts and congratulate them. Studies show that more employee recognition translates into happier workers, increased productivity, and higher retention rates. In fact, a majority of employees say they’d work harder if their managers simply recognized their work more often.
5. Figure out your office structure
The man who created the cubicle, Robert Probst, went to the grave hating his invention. It might be your infrastructure that’s negatively affecting your workplace communications. Look for and implement the best solution for your company -- something encourages workers to talk to one another while giving them space to work.
6. Launch a mentorship program
According to Gallup, 87% of millennial employees consider professional development opportunities to be important components of every job. An easy way to meet this need is by establishing a mentorship program that pairs seasoned employees with rookies. Not only will this help your new hires get up to speed quicker, it will also support the free exchange of ideas.
7. Encourage employees to have lunch with folks outside their immediate teams
Many employees form strong bonds with their immediate team members, but not everyone regularly interacts with individuals who work in different departments. Improve communication by encouraging your employees to eat lunch with people they don’t interact with regularly.
8. Invest in tools that make communication easy
Use technology to make it easier to communicate. While some employees might have an easy time sharing their ideas and opinions in a public forum, other introverted workers might not have the same confidence. Inter-office communication -- like chat options or employee feedback tools that let workers and managers share feedback easily -- might make things easier for them. The easier it is for employees to share their opinions, the more often they’ll let their thoughts be known.
9. Schedule team-building events regularly
Your employees need to know each other on some sort of personal level before they’ll be comfortable sharing their ideas candidly. Scheduling team-building activities once a quarter (or even more frequently) will give employees a chance to mingle with colleagues in a more casual setting. Whether that means going to a happy hour, attending a sporting event or heading to a local paintbar is up to you.
Doing any or all the adjustments above will be a great step forward in fostering communication in the workplace. You’ll end up with a happier team and a more competitive company. What’s not to like?