Communicating to Build Engagement and Community

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Communication is the life‑blood of any relationship. Given this fact, is it any wonder that in companies in times of turmoil, there is a strain on relationships and the quality of communication between employees and management deteriorates? For an organization to be high‑performing and stable, vital information must move up and down levels of the organization freely, candidly, and honestly. There is no more important time for free, supportive, and honest communication than during the stressful time we are experiencing today.

Employees have to be trusted with information, even sensitive information and need to be included in the decision‑making process. Well‑informed employees are not only productive employees, but are also engaged, committed, and stay with the organization.

Over the years numerous studies have shown employees place a high value on being kept informed about their job, their performance, and how the company is doing. An organization’s inability to engage and retain top employees can be in large part traced directly to the lack of positive, open communication that provides them with the information they need. This deficiency is not always intentional. You may not even be aware people feel in the dark. They do not send bulletins or carry signs that they are dissatisfied with and are considering leaving. It is up to you to perceive subtle hints, identify problems, and, more importantly, create an atmosphere of open and candid communication. This will promote the solution of problems before they reach the critical level to cause an employee to consider leaving.

Some leaders are so caught up in the daily problems that they don’t consider or value the insight of their employees. These actions and attitudes can leave employees feeling isolated and unaware, especially with those remote workers. Many managers and executives are not aware that the future of the organization rests not just on the commitment, but on communication from the entire organization.

Companies of 10, 25, or even 100 may have more difficulty communicating than larger businesses. Many times, in smaller organizations employees, are relatives or friends of top management and, as a result, there is resistance from others to share information because they fear offending someone. A company’s small size is not a guarantee that top management is in tune with employees and aware of what they know.

Success during a pandemic, and always, rests on candid and open communication because top management must know how employees and customers are feeling. Open and candid communication clears up misconceptions or inaccurate perceptions. It is very important to understand that both customer and employee perceptions, even those based on inaccurate information, determine their actions. It is not the reality that determines a person’s attitudes and actions, it is their perception of reality. Now probably more than ever, be sure the perception is accurate.

Some top managers feel they should avoid sensitive topics with employees because mentioning it would mean they have to address the topic and it could cause problems. A topic that is avoided and the information kept secret cause problems. In the absence of facts, assumptions will be made, or rumors fill the void. In almost all cases, the assumptions, rumors, or even speculation is more damaging than the facts.

To create open and candid communication with others, use the following communication tips:

Communication Tips

  • Address a topic as soon as you feel people might be worried and begin talking to others.
  • Be sure you realize and understand cultural differences and how they affect communication.
  • Don’t use jargon and phrases with vague meanings. Be clear in what you say.
  • Share the company’s bad times, as well as the good times, with employees.
  • Be open about the impact of the situation on the organization.  They can sense it.
  • Don’t “shoot the messenger” who brings bad news unless you don’t want any more messages.
  • Ask everyone frequently if they are getting the information they need and want.
  • Make sure when you communicate with others, that you listen as well as talk.
  • Listen to what is being said and, even more importantly, what is not being said.
  • Use skill and become skilled in all appropriate mediums of communication to bridge gap caused by the social distancing.
  • Post or send charts and notes to keep people informed (handwritten notes are especially good).
  • Write letters of praise to people about specific contributions.
  • Now, more than ever, acknowledge special occasions such as birthdays or a child’s graduation.
  • Reach out and talk with people you wouldn’t normally interact with.  You will learn from them.  They will get to know you and be willing to approach and communicate with you.
  • Spend more time communicating with the important people; not just at work, but those who are important to you personally during these uncertain and stressful times.
  • Ask yourself each day, “Have I taken the time to listen and understand others’ needs or concerns?”

If you want employees and others in your life to be engaged, you must stay “in touch” and communicate with them candidly and frequently. It sounds easy to do but, unfortunately, it does not occur often enough. Make communicating with those who are important to you a top priority. The time spent communicating with employees will improve both your personal and professional life.

Increased engagement and motivation are even more critical in today’s pandemic business and personal environment. 

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