As an employer, effective communication is key to running a successful organization. Whether you're discussing job duties, explaining HR policies, or outlining a benefits package, it's critical to keep an open line of communication between you and your employees.
This article will explain why open communication is vital for your organization and provide eight tips employers and HR managers can leverage to ensure an open and honest line of communication.
Open communication vs. closed communication
Open communication is when team members at every level feel they can openly express their thoughts and ideas. This form of communication empowers employees to share their opinions without fear of repercussions in the workplace. Employees who experience open communication feel more valued and appreciated by their employer.
Closed communication is when one person runs the show without any back-and-forth from the people receiving their message. The main goal of closed communication is to relay information rather than gather input or feedback.
Why is an effective communication strategy important?
Bad communication is bad for business. A lack of clarity can lead to misunderstandings and mixed signals. Plus, employees don't like to be left in the dark. They want to share their thoughts, ideas, and honest feedback with someone who's willing to listen.
When you embrace honest and transparent communication with employees, it can profoundly affect company culture and success. Open lines of communication encourage higher quality work, an understanding of essential policies, and stronger relationships between employees and company leaders.
When your employees understand the common goals of your organization, they're more likely to do their part in order to achieve them. In addition, an open-door environment can even promote employee retention, helping save employers thousands of dollars on recruitment costs.
Eight tips for establishing communication with employees
Your business’s success largely depends on the success of your communication strategy. Let's go over some tips for creating better systems of communication.
1. Enact an open-door policy
One way to foster communication is to enact an open-door policy. This creates a culture where employees are comfortable going to management for questions and support. But this only works if the employer truly welcomes it. If not, employees can generally tell if an "open door" is just for show.
An open-door policy should also allow and encourage employees to provide candid feedback. This helps you keep an eye on potential concerns so you can tackle those issues before they grow.
2. Encourage feedback
You can't have open communication without welcoming employee feedback. Not only should workers feel comfortable with providing unprompted feedback, but employers should also ask their employees for feedback directly. This is especially vital when implementing a new program or policy within your company.
You can gather feedback from direct reports through employee surveys, such as engagement surveys or anonymous surveys. Ask your employees direct and specific questions. Be sure they understand all the messages you deliver and address what concerns they may have. Once you receive their constructive feedback, you can use it to improve future strategies.
There may be a time when an employer receives feedback that doesn't make sense to act on. If this is the case, be honest with your employees about why the feedback wasn't implemented so they don't feel ignored.
Feedback is also crucial for teams. By normalizing feedback in your company culture, your teams can start to improve together and uplift the entire organization. As a result of an open culture that values and seeks feedback, you'll eliminate toxic behaviors and boost employee morale.
3. Establish ground rules
Different employees will have different communication styles. Depending on the information being communicated, employers may choose to take a different approach with each employee or apply the same process to everyone.
Regardless of how and when communication happens, it's important to establish expectations at the start with communication channels. Determine whether there will be regular meetings such as daily check-ins, weekly one-on-one meetings, or annual reviews with individual employees and your leadership team. Once you have a communication plan, ensure everyone knows the expectations.
4. Ensure confidentiality
Helping employees with issues like personal concerns, employee benefits, and HR policies and procedures requires a great deal of trust between employers and employees. It's vital to show sensitivity to what your employees are going through while validating their concerns. Making employees feel safe and comfortable about coming to you with any concerns they have is essential for fostering a relationship of honesty and trust.
5. Use the right employee communication tools
Email and messaging apps like Slack make it easy to circulate information quickly through your company. Employees will instantly see your message notification when they're online and can reply directly to your message with any questions or comments.
However, messaging tools aren't without their shortcomings. It can be challenging to know if employees have read a message, as they can quickly get buried if your company is active on the platform. If there is something important to communicate to employees, scheduling a meeting or video call may be best.
6. Be direct
People tend to appreciate when you’re direct with them. With that being said, don't beat around the bush or try to sugarcoat things when you have to deliver bad news to your employee. Speak the truth, maintain eye contact, and listen with empathy. Your employees will respect your honesty, even if they don't agree with the message you are delivering. This is vital in fostering open communication and strong relationships based on trust and understanding.
7. Promote brainstorming
One of the best ways to promote better business communication is to create a culture that encourages employees to brainstorm and contribute ideas. This creates engagement and increases participation, helping make employees feel valued.
The sharing of ideas and solutions also helps ensure organizational success and growth. To foster this environment, you'll need to recognize employees for sharing their thoughts and ideas. A spot bonus could come in handy when you want to reward someone for particularly exceptional work. You can also establish set times for the team to formally brainstorm new ideas and initiatives every month or quarter.
8. Be open about employee benefits
Being open about employee benefits and compensation is important for ensuring compliance with fair labor standards and diversity obligations. Not to mention it helps employees feel appreciated and trusted. However, it can be challenging and uncomfortable for many employees and managers.
Information about your benefits package should always be readily available to your employees so you can ensure they know how to use them. After all, the more employees you have using your benefits, the more value you'll receive as an organization in terms of morale, engagement, and productivity.
For example, if you offer a health reimbursement arrangement (HRA) or employee stipends to your employees, you'll need to ensure that your employees know how to submit their expenses for reimbursement. Thankfully, benefits administration software solutions like PeopleKeep can help with this.
Although some organizations take this approach, being open about benefits doesn't necessarily mean that you need to tell all of your employees how much their co-workers make. Instead, being clear about how employees can earn raises, who gets bonuses and commissions, and whether certain benefits and stock options are available can go a long way in making employees feel informed.
You'll also want to be clear about why an employee didn't receive a raise or promotion by directly discussing the situation with them. That way, they can work toward their goals or have a better idea of when they might be able to have this conversation again.
A happy employee is someone who feels seen and heard. Knowing how to implement employee communication strategies and foster two-way communication between management and employees is essential for the growth and prosperity of your organization. Employees can become frustrated and disengaged if your organization suffers from poor communication, leading to increased employee turnover rates.
By following the tips in this article, you'll be on the right path to better communication between managers and your entire team.
If you're looking to improve employee retention at your organization, offering the right employee benefits can go a long way in making your workers feel valued.
This blog article was originally published on October 15, 2014. It was last updated on April 6, 2023.