One of the biggest issues I see in the workplace is communication…or lack thereof. Staff can feel undervalued if they were the ‘last to know’ or have to hear information from someone else and this can create unease and resentment. 

Clear chains of communication and responsibility for disseminating important information, are vital for successful businesses and positive employment relationships. The past year has been very trying for a lot of businesses and has really highlighted any issues in the communications procedures in place, now more than ever it’s important to learn from what we have been this and improve.  

Remote working meant that face to face meetings moved online (via Zoom/Teams etc.) which while a useful substitute, isn’t the same. Therefore, in businesses where communication has not been prioritised or clear, some staff felt this has impacted their view of their workplace and employer. Some businesses will have come through lockdown and realised how good and effective their communication channels are, but there is always room for improvement. In order for staff to feel part of a team, they should feel like they know what is going on, from changes in personnel to changes in policy; these are important bits of information for staff to be made aware of. Many Human Resource issues arise from a lack of communication or misunderstanding and in turn, these issues can only be dealt with correctly if the communication with staff members is clear and follows policy and procedure. 

Here are some key things to consider to improve communication with your employees both those working in the office and remotely; 

How to communicate 

The old saying ‘it ain’t what you say, it’s the way that you say it’ springs to mind here. Often companies think that their communication is good simply because they have conveyed information – unfortunately this isn’t always the case. Good communication should; 

  • Use the appropriate method (e.g. email may be good way to update but does it allow time for questions and is it personal enough?) 
  • Include the right people – Are company wide staff updates used, are they frequent enough and are they used for the right purposes? 
  • Be delivered by the appropriate person  
  • Be timely – there is no use sharing information if it has already been disseminated via the rumour mill. Often companies wait until they can deliver the whole picture but sometimes telling people what you know at the earliest opportunity is best with regular updates provided thereafter 
  • Be genuine and honest  

Communication…a two way street! 

Communication isn’t just about talking and sharing information, it is about listening. Listening is actually the most important part of communication as if you don’t listen you don’t fully understand what the issues may be. As my Dad says ‘two ears, one mouth!’. 

Active listening is a useful skill when dealing with staff queries, disciplinaries or disputes- it not only reassures the employee that you are engaged in what they are saying but it also ensures that as a Manager/Human Resource you are getting a clear and concise picture of the problems or the issues which may have arisen- which can then be documented as a reference should you need to discuss things again or further with an employee. 

“Active listening refers to a pattern of listening that keeps you engaged with your conversation partner in a positive way. It is the process of listening attentively while someone else speaks, paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, and withholding judgment and advice.” 

Many people, particularly in management and leadership roles, are active listeners naturally (but I have met many who aren’t!) but it is a skill that can be refined and needs to be practiced. It has been proven that active listening helps develop relationships, improve productivity and benefits the person who is speaking and the person who is listening. The link below from the British Heart Foundation provides you with 10 tips for active listening- why not try some of them next time you have a meeting! 

10 tips for active listening – Heart Matters magazine (bhf.org.uk) 

Find out how people really feel 

In addition to really listening to your staff, questionnaires or providing staff with a platform to give honest and constructive feedback are valuable tools to help develop and improve communication. They will allow you to find out how staff are feeling, provide a forum for them to share ideas, as well as being a way of receiving constructive criticism in order to help improve aspect of the business that Managers/Directors may not see day-to-day.  

WARNING…there is no point in doing a questionnaire if you do not want to potentially receive some uncomfortable reading…this is also the case if you have no intention of acting upon the feedback you are given.  

Critical feedback is crucial in order for businesses to adapt and grow. If staff feel that their voices are being heard they are much more likely to give more to their work and feel comfortable to put forward ideas and initiatives which could help move the business forwards. 

4 Simple things that you can implement to improve communication 

Regular staff newsletter – keep staff in the loop with any changes that may be coming, any dates that they should be aware of and provide updates on key business matters and progress. You can also include information on social events and company wide initiatives and CSR projects. 

Weekly 1-1s – make sure your managers touch base with their members of your team every week, this will not only help develop relationships but it will also allow you to know if there are any issues (personal or professional) that they may need some support with. This doesn’t have to be an hour long meeting, just a 10 minute catch up on workload and issues. 

Monthly team updates – get your team together every month and give them relevant updates, this is a perfect opportunity to clarify any questions that they may have and a good moral builder as everyone will feel they know as much as their colleagues. 

Quarterly board updates – beyond their teams, it is important for staff to know about their company beyond their work ‘bubble’. What is the company doing really well? This is a great opportunity for positivity and to celebrate successes.