Employees are often overlooked as a primary stakeholder and brand champion for your business. Organizations are more productive and successful when there is good dialogue and communication between management and employees. It is therefore important that you put just as much time and effort into communicating with your employees as you do your customers and your investors. It is also important that all of your employees understand the brand and what the business truly means otherwise there will be conflicting information coming from the company about who you are and what you do. Employee communication is just good business.
Three Types of Employee Communications:
The formal way of communicating with your employees is what most people think of when they think communications. I am talking about newsletters, emails, brochures, letters, speeches from the CEO and other officially sanctioned company writing. This is a great way to let your employees know what is going on with the company, keep them up to date on news and changes that might affect their daily work life. It is however, only one-way communication. You are sharing information in a way that doesn’t really allow for a response. Companies often use surveys to try and get feedback about their formal communications. As anyone who has ever sent out a survey knows, sending out a survey and getting a survey back are completely different things.
If you are going to have a newsletter, make it timely and consistent so people expect it on a regular basis. It doesn’t matter if it’s monthly or quarterly, as long as you are consistent with it. (So much can change in a year that I feel that those who only do one newsletter a year are failing to use newsletters effectively.) Emails should be professional and to the point. For a full summary of how to write proper business emails, you can read part one and part two of my Business Email Etiquette blog. Letters, like speeches can also be useful in connecting top management to the front lines. It is extremely important to do these correctly as they can help galvanize (or bore) the staff into working harder (or slacking off).
The semi—formal ways of communicating with your employees involve more of the week to week decisions and interactions that shape the management-employee relationship. This communication helps employees to understand their value and worth within a company. These methods include meeting agendas, compensation and policy decisions. During meetings are employees opinions being taken into consideration? Do they have a voice and does their voice have any weight or impact on the company? If not, you may be setting yourself up for disaster. This semi-formal communication has more two-way communication, but usually on a quarterly basis surrounding stressful employee reviews that tend not to be the best atmosphere for an employee to share their concerns.
Employees who are silenced or easily dismissed will quickly become dissatisfied with their jobs. This is an even bigger problem if they are not being compensated fairly or at market value. Retaining talent is not only cost effective on the hiring/training front, but also on a reputation and brand champion level. If your employees feel like they are part of something bigger than themselves then they will take pride in the success of the organization and work harder. They will also speak highly of you on their networks, champion your causes and bring in new talent. If they feel they aren’t being treated fairly they will badmouth you and try to ruin your reputation through their network. While this might not have been a big deal a decade ago, social media has given everyone a significantly longer reach, increasing the odds that a bad word about you and your company from an employee will have long lasting effects on your bottom line.
The third and least recognized method of communication is by far the simplest. This informal communication includes day to day demonstrated attitudes, conversation, and leadership accessibility. Often overlooked and underrated, the day to day interaction from management to their employees often have the greatest effect on an employee’s feelings towards their employer. This can not only be the difference between feeling connected or cut off, but also the difference between feeling valued or disposable. They often say that actions speak louder than words, and it is never more true than in these informal methods of communication. No matter how lovely your newsletter is, if the day to day activities contradict the company’s brand and policies, the activities will win out.
Leadership accessibility essentially is about how easily an employee’s voice can reach management. The easier this process is, generally the happier the employee. Steps can be taken to give employees a voice, through creating a culture of open dialogue where employees are encouraged to speak their minds, to giving them a place to discuss their concerns either in a physical setting or an online one (Intranets, the internet, forums, company chat, etc.), and promoting/sharing their successes with the rest of the company.
Don’t forget your employees when you are building your communication plans and strategies! Whatever you have to say to your customers, you need to say to your employees first. Normally in more detail and with more discussion! Do not forget that two-way communication is vital to the success of your organization.
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