By: Bruce L. Katcher, Ph.D., President, The Discovery Group
One out of every two employees feels that they do not receive the information they need to do their job well. As a result, employees feel frustrated and the quality of the organization's products and services suffer.
Employees complain that they need more information from management, supervisors, co-workers, and customers. The key employee questions that frequently go unanswered are listed below.
- Employees want to know from management: What organizational and marketplace changes are taking place that will impact my job? What are our priorities?
- Employees want to know from supervisors: What exactly do you want me to do? How much money do I have to work with? When do you need my work to be completed? How well am I doing? What do you want me to do differently?
- Employees want to know from coworkers: When will the work I need from you be completed? What are your expectations of me?
- Employees want to know from customers: How satisfied are you with the products and services I provide to you? What would you like me to do differently?
Why this Information is Not Forthcoming
- Unnecessary secrecy - Management often mistakenly assumes that by withholding information they will be able to retain power and influence over employees.
- Ineffective supervision - Although communication is the most critically important supervisory skill, many supervisors enter the ranks of management due to their technical, not their people, skills.
- Communication is not built into the workflow system - Organizations typically do a better job of planning the flow of materials and products than they do of information. Critical information, therefore, often slips
through the cracks.
- Lack of a cooperative spirit - Without a strong spirit of cooperation, employees are more apt to withhold than to share important information.
- The information is simply not available. - Employees often mistakenly assume that information is available and is being intentionally withheld from them.
WHAT MANAGEMENT CAN DO?
- Conduct an Information-Needs AnalysisA systematic analysis should be conducted for each job in the organization which outlines what information is needed, from whom, and by when. The results of this analysis then must be fully integrated into the organization's daily procedures.
- Squelch SecrecyEncourage openness, not secrecy. Without a good ethical, privacy, or legal rationale, secrecy within organizations makes no sense and should be eliminated.
- Provide Customer Satisfaction InformationCustomer satisfaction surveys should be conducted on an ongoing basis. The information obtained from these studies should be communicated to all employees, especially those with customer contact.
- Conduct the JFK ExerciseEmployees should develop a list NOT of what information they need from others in the organization, but of what information they can provide FOR others.
- Promote Supervisors on the Basis of Their Communication SkillsThe ability to effectively communicate with others is the most important supervisory skill. It should, therefore, be the most important factor in promotion decisions.
In summary, organizations need to take proactive measures to make certain that employees receive the information necessary to do their jobs well.