A company’s workforce represents its most significant investment and ultimately determines the success or failure of the organization. Engaged employees are far more likely to demonstrate the dedication and commitment that are essential to the long-term growth of any company, large or small. The foundation for genuine employee engagement begins with extensive and effective communication both vertically and horizontally throughout the organization. The resulting behaviors show up in increased productivity, heightened innovation, and improved job satisfaction.
When leaders think about employee engagement, they often consider traditional benefits, including pay, bonuses, and flexible hours. While these factors are important, they aren’t enough. In a study conducted by MSW·ARS Research on behalf of Dale Carnegie Training, more than half of employees surveyed reported that communication and honesty are key factors that drive their engagement on the job. Yet approximately three-quarters of respondents said that their companies failed to deliver in these two key areas. Being honest and communicating effectively with employees can transform levels of engagement, which, in turn, can drive long-term organizational success.
Why Engagement Matters
It takes more than financial incentives to connect a person with a company in a meaningful way. According to the 2013 Gallup State of the American Workplace report, organizations whose employees are engaged significantly outperform those with non-engaged workforces in key metrics including profitability, productivity, and customer ratings. The study also shows that engaged employees demonstrate a willingness to go above and beyond typical job expectations and responsibilities. Additionally, engaged employees demonstrate enhanced creativity and passion, decreased turnover, reduced accidents, and less absenteeism.
The Importance of Honest Communication
Today’s workforce is looking for more than financial rewards. MSW·ARS Research’s study, What Drives Communication and Why it Matters, conducted in conjunction with Dale Carnegie Training, cites three factors as key drivers of employee engagement:
- Satisfaction with the immediate supervisor. A supervisor who communicates openly and honestly with employees is more likely to have an engaged and productive team. Employees need their immediate supervisors to provide feedback on, show appreciation for, and offer encouragement to improve individual performance.
- Satisfaction with senior management. When leaders encourage open communication across all levels of the workforce, employees have increased levels of confidence that the company is being steered in the right direction.
- Pride in the organization. Communication is critical to developing an enterprise-wide understanding of and commitment to the organization’s philosophy, vision, and values.
Open and honest two-way communication is the common thread that runs through each of these key factors of employee engagement.
Communication Best Practices
Effective communication is important to employees, managers, senior leaders, and other stakeholders. Research shows that keeping employees informed with personal, relevant, and engaging communication gives companies a competitive edge and has direct results on the bottom line. These seven best practices can help increase open, honest, and effective two-way communication throughout the organization:
- Strategic internal communications plan: Marketing executives recognize the importance of a detailed plan that outlines specific messaging and tactics for communicating with customers and prospects. A clear and strategic internal communication strategy is the lifeblood of any company and the engine that drives employee engagement.
- Consistent two-way communication across all levels of the enterprise: Establishing a two-way flow of information fluidly and consistently carries information from the top to the bottom and then moves feedback from the bottom back up to the top. This reduces ambiguity of messages, eliminates inaccuracies that are inherent to the corporate grapevine, and empowers workforces with appropriate information that connects them with senior leadership.
- Frequency: There is no frequency standard for communication. Sent too frequently, messages are lost in a sea of information. When communication is too infrequent, employees may lose confidence that senior leadership is telling the full story. Make sure that communications are relevant and targeted to avoid unnecessarily contributing to information overload.
- Engaging messages: Great content starts with a clear goal and thorough understanding of the audience. While the core message should be consistent at every level, tailoring messaging and delivery to the appropriate audience is critical to accessibility and understanding.
- Robust communication channels: Make communications available to employees in a variety of ways, but always emphasize face-to-face communication. By offering employees a choice in how they access information, it creates a sense of empowerment and respect that immediately makes communications more engaging.
- Eliminate fear of repercussion: At the onset of an internal communications program, some employees may be wary of expressing themselves honestly, fearing for the security of their job if they disagree with a message from senior leadership. Therefore, it’s important for managers to establish a safe place where employees can voice their opinions without fear of how their honesty will affect their position.
- Measure, measure, measure: The only way to know if communication strategies are effective is to ask employees. Assess the success of an internal communication program during regular performance evaluations or through employee-satisfaction surveys. Are employees receiving communications too frequently or not often enough? Do they feel like leadership hears and values their opinions? Do they have suggestions for more effective communication channels?
Communication is a powerful tool that can have an enormous impact on the success of any organization. Effective communication can increase employee engagement, boost workplace productivity, and drive business growth. Conversely, poor communication can have damaging effects. Communication is a simple concept but perhaps one of the most challenging for businesses, especially when conflict arises. However, when leaders are consistently open and honest with their communication (regardless of the situation), they will gain credibility, respect, and employee trust while driving employee engagement and contributing to organizational success.
Mahan Tavakoli is regional vice president and chief diversity officer for Dale Carnegie Training, Hauppauge, NY. Dale Carnegie Training designs programs offering knowledge, skills, and practices to add value to businesses. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org or visit http://www.dalecarnegie.com.