Keys to Effective Employee Communication
Employee communication is both simple and complex. We communicate with employees each day. Sometimes directly – when we respond to questions or requests, for example. Sometimes indirectly – when we issue new policies or send out a memo. Sometimes inadvertently – when employees observe our actions. Perhaps because communication takes place so naturally, we often fail to consider the process of communication as seriously as we should. Consequently, we often fail to communicate with employees effectively.
Below are some helpful tips for effective employee communication:
- Never start at the beginning. The key to communication is to start with the end result in mind. Many times people jump into a conversation or communication situation without considering what it is that they’re trying to accomplish. Always remember you need to have a clear idea of what your communication objectives are.
- Understand the business drivers. Communicators need to understand how their communications fit into the overall business strategy. Communication shouldn’t focus just on the nice to know, it should focus on what employees' need to know to help the business move forward. This is key when communicating any changes within your firm or changes in policies.
- Integrate. Use every opportunity to put messages in a consistent framework. For example, if you make a change in a company policy, explain how this change fits into the overall context of the policy procedures.
- Don’t waste people’s time! Be very carefully about the number of communication pieces distributed within your firm. Some people prefer print, some verbal, some electronic. A mix of messages, strategically planned, can help to ensure that all employees receive the information they need. Try to communicate more than one message whenever possible to avoid over delivering.
- Get real. While it’s okay to be positive as you frame your messages, it’s critical that you be straightforward and clear. Sometimes you have bad news to convey. Be accurate, honest and direct – don’t sugarcoat. Don't over analyze your words. Shoot straight and your message will be received accurately.
- Listen as much, or more, than you speak. Sit down and say to yourself, "How much do I really understand my audience?" Stephen Covey, author of 7 Habits of Highly Effective People says, "Seek first to understand." This is good advice for communicators. By understanding the needs of your audience you can better design messages that will be meaningful and impactful.
- Prioritize your messages. Focus on a few key points or you’ll risk losing the attention of your audience, whether you’re providing the information verbally or in writing. Be selective. Don’t run on and on. Be clean, concise and to the point. Use bullet points to get your key message across to your audience.
- Consider an internal review board. A group of influencers within your organization can provide a great opportunity to test your messages before rolling them out to the entire company.
- Don’t be wedded to your communication product or process. It is quite common for communicators to create a newsletter that they think is wonderful, or a headline that they feel is clever, only to discover that the tools they created didn’t achieve the goals they had intended. Be creative, but don't be wedded to your communication style. Instead, focus on the end result.
Communication isn’t easy. It’s a constant challenge because both the external and internal environments within which we operate are changing constantly. The people we communicate with are changing too.