One of the key issues the pandemic has exposed is the extreme importance of workplace communication. Companies without strong internal communication processes immediately saw the shift to remote work ratchet up existing issues and break down chains of command. Employees have been left struggling to access the information they need to get their jobs done, and utilizing any and every channel to contact their colleagues with no regard for the time or day. Furthermore, those organizations without a culture of transparency saddled their employees with the added stress of not knowing management’s position on potential layoffs, making it even more difficult to concentrate and complete tasks. Despite all the tools we have to enable communication within organizations, there’s still a lot of operator error in terms of how, when, and what we share.
Numerous studies have found that employees rank transparency within a company as the biggest contributor to workplace happiness. While this may not seem particularly surprising upon first reading, consider it in context of the fact that many organizations look to free food and snacks, happy hours, game rooms, etc. as first line strategies for improving employee engagement and company culture. While in reality, employees believe opportunities to volunteer are more important than these sorts of perks, employees also report that the novelty of these benefits wears off within a few months and it’s really the company culture and feeling safe and valued that drives retention and productivity.
A desire to feel safe and valued in the place(s) where people spend one-third of their lives makes sense; in the absence of these assurances, it’s difficult not to be perpetually distracted and anxious. Workplace communication plays a critical role in this. If employees are constantly wasting time struggling to find or access the information they need, or are experiencing slights from their managers and/or peers (whether real or perceived), how can they feel secure or effective? Instituting productive communication practices can fundamentally alter the company climate, helping to drive key business outcomes. Not the least of these is revenue, as SHRM estimates that poor communication costs the average 100,000+-employee company $62.4 million per year.
With all this in mind, what are some ways to improve workplace communication to boost employee happiness, and in the process increase retention and productivity? The first step is to formally lay out communication procedures and expectations. While it may sound overly cumbersome and difficult for employees to follow, equipping staff with clear and concise guidelines on what to do and when, will actually ease stress and reduce the time burden on employees when determining how to respond in various situations.
This should not be a quick job for one or two people. Take the time to actually evaluate where your company is today, where you want to go, and then lay out concrete steps and policies to help you get there. Designing communication procedures is a great opportunity to engage an employee task force, in order to ensure the new standards have buy-in across the organization.
The next step, of course, is to clearly communicate these policies and procedures to employees. Consider distributing them via email as well as posting them in easily accessible locations such as company wiki/intranet homepages, in a top-level folder on shared drives, or even on the wall if it’s appropriate for your workplace and guidelines. Make sure to engage employees in this process and do not simply hand down the decree without discussion. Take the time to get employee feedback, answer questions, and provide concrete examples of the policies in action.
We encourage you to go beyond just outlining when to use email vs. chat vs. in-person channels, to cover how employees at your company should treat each other, how they should treat customers, and what’s expected of them when they’re out in the community. Give your team the gift of full transparency, so they can do their jobs without the threat of unknown violations and the subsequent consequences. As the saying goes, ‘clear is kind’.
During these frightening and constantly shifting times, it’s more important than ever to ensure that your employees are informed and engaged. If you’re looking for an easy, all-in-one solution to manage employee groups and events, project teams, employee task forces, and more, consider checking out Workrowd and let us know what you think. We strive for a culture of openness, transparency, and constant improvement, so we’re always interested in feedback, positive or constructive. You can reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.