So yes, you ‘talk’ to your employees regularly. You look at them and words come out of your mouth.
But are you really ‘communicating’ effectively, or is it just words? Are your employees engaged with what you're saying and can you see the results?
Learning to effectively communicate with employees is one of the most important skills in business. Get it right and you will drive a productive and motivated workforce. Get it wrong and it will cost you, big time.
Put simply, poor communication will cost your bottom line. A recent survey of 100 companies with 100 employees each and a culture of poor communication discovered that the net profit impact was, on average, a staggering $420,000 per year! That is big bucks!
So why did this survey find that the costs of poor communication was so significant?
Poor communication with employees is often simply vague communication. The result of this vagueness is that employees do no understand what is expected of them, resulting in operating inefficiently. Employees will also lack the confidence to push the limits of performance.
Employees always thrive in a workplace where they clearly understand the business goals and how they can contribute personally. This way, it becomes more than just a job and they come to work daily feeling motivated to do their bit and contribute to the bigger picture. If communication is poor, then overall morale can suffer as staff are confused of their purpose. They simply underperform until they can find a new job that offers them motivation.
Without clear direction and feedback, stress can creep in quickly which results in mistakes and errors becoming a regular occurrence. This becomes a vicious cycle, bad communication leads to stress, leading to even worse communication and additional stress. Untold employee mistakes impact not only profitability but, in certain workplaces, can be very dangerous.
Innovation is vital to any business. Creating a top-down culture where everyone from junior employees to the boss, encourages and support innovation, is a must. However, poor communication can result in confusion, leaving employees without both the time and confidence to innovate and look at ways of improving their role.
So we now know why poor employee communication is bad, but how do we improve it?
1. Choice of Words.
Always be mindful of the words you use when addressing employees. Avoid jargon and speak clearly and slowly. This gives employees, at all levels, the time to digest what you're telling them and the ability to ask clarifying questions as the conversation proceeds.
Employees will, subconsciously, pick up on your tone. If you're stressed, tied, angry or bored, your tone gives it all away. This can be hard one to manage as a business owner as we often have a range of bigger stresses on our mind when communicating with staff. However, try to be super self-aware of the tone and energy of your voice in order to get the best outcomes.
3. Body Language.
Eye contact, posture and hand contact speak volumes. If you're not looking at your employees and are sloshing in your chair, this sends a clear message that the communication is not really important and your employee will treat it accordingly. Quite simply, your body language reveals the seriousness of the message as well as what you think of the person you’re communicating with.
4. Watch and Adjust.
Everyone is different. It’s vital that whilst communicating, you watch employee reactions carefully and adjust as needed. Are they understanding? Are they listening? Do they look engaged? If you notice mid-way through communication that you're not getting the right signals, adjust your tone, words, body language until you feel like the communication is effective.
5. Bite Size Pieces.
If the message you're trying to communicate is complex, its always a good to break it into bite size pieces to help your employees absorb in parts. It's also great to stop at each part of your communication and ask questions to staff so as to check in. "Any questions?", "So what was the important message in what I've said so far?".
As explained earlier, every employee is different and has a different style of communicating. It's therefore vital to adjust your way of communicating to best suit each employee.
Below are some common communication styles you may find are preferred by individual employees:
1. Direct vs. Indirect.
Direct styles prefer when people speak up and are blunt and to the point. They don’t want to waste time with fluffy communication. On the other hand, indirect communicators prefer to talk about a topic from sideways, without saying it directly. Direct styles won’t pick up on what indirect styles are implying and indirect communicators can easily offend by being too blunt.
2. Competitive vs. Affiliative.
Some employees are always in a competition, others prefer group consensus. Competitive styles try to establish power and dominate. Affiliative styles, on the other hand, want input from others and are less assertive. Affiliative styles are easily made silent if competitive styles are allowed free reign.
Some people learn better through images or video. Others are quick to pick things up by hearing. Others need a more hands-on experience. Try to offer a mix of both in meetings and training. When working one-on-one, tailor your communication accordingly.
Communication isn’t a one-way street, though a lot of managers seem to think so. Learn to listen.
The basic rule of thumb, when communicating, is to first be aware of your own deficiencies, and be aware of all of the moving pieces at work. Know that when you are speaking to a group of employees, they are not all perceiving you the same way.
Good employee communication is hard work, but the payoffs are huge.
Founder/CEO @ RosterElf
Magically Simply Staff Rostering.