Communication is the foundation of all productive relationships in and out of the workplace. With the current emphasis on remote work, clear, concise communication is essential to ensure employees understand what’s expected of them and managers know how their teams are doing.
In the past, most organizations favored downward communication. Ideas, data, projects, and news flowed from the top down. Employers prioritize two-way communication today because they recognize measurable benefits in employee satisfaction, improved productivity, and a more connected internal culture.
Today’s post will cover the benefits of employee communication, the barriers companies may face, strategies and tools to apply to improve and streamline internal comms, and how to track and measure communication success.
The Importance of Employee Communication
Things run more smoothly when everybody is on the same page. Good employee communication can:
Improve engagement. Employees are happier when they have what they need to do their jobs. When communication is encouraged, employees feel more connected, leading to greater harmony.
Strengthen company culture. Good communication is inclusive and unbiased, connecting diverse employees empowered to work together for the common good.
Remove departmental silos. Employee communication connects departments, keeping everyone aligned to shared goals. Companies connected from the inside out are more agile and better adapted to change.
Help you get things done faster. Improved communication encourages collaboration, accelerating project completion and giving employees a sense of accomplishment.
Reduce costs and improve the bottom line. Employees who work well together get things done faster and more efficiently. Accelerated completion makes you faster to market, sending value straight to the bottom line.
Intranets cause communication breakdowns
Sending updates on an intranet is like putting a message in a bottle. Boost your communication with a platform designed for the modern workplace.
Barriers to effective employee communication
Good employee communication takes effort, leadership, and consistency. Barriers arise when communication is thwarted, such as when an employee comes to their manager with a concern and is summarily ignored, deprioritized, or disregarded.
Some common barriers to improving employee communication include:
Proximity bias. Remote employees may be overlooked simply because they aren’t seen. For example, remote employees might not be included in daily conversations or asked to weigh in on topics as often, resulting in disengagement and potentially lost opportunities.
The solution: ensure all employees are included in team discussions and conversations. Check in with remote workers frequently and give everyone an equal opportunity to weigh in whether or not they are physically present.
Lack of consistency. Consistency is critical in communication, especially with distributed teams. Be clear about which ones will be used for what purpose (projects, client comms, etc.), and stay consistent with those policies.
The solution: Create clear policies around communications. For example, email for outside clients, customers, and vendors, Slack for team projects, and Jostle as the central platform for everything company-related.
Lack of information. Siloed information erects barriers to good communication.
The solution: Use technology to improve communication. Regular updates keep people in the loop and connected to the goals.
Fear of retaliation. Closed or inconsistent communication may prevent employees from speaking up or providing feedback. The solution: Create a feedback culture. During regular check-ins and reviews, encourage employees to speak openly. Establish an open-door policy to foster a culture of openness and transparency.
Best practices for employee communication
Creating a culture of open communication starts from the top down. Company leaders and managers must lead by example, creating a culture of trust, transparency, and accountability.
Here are some best practices, tips, and strategies for creating a culture of open communication.
1. Make it a vital part of your company culture.
Employees need to know that their feedback is welcome. Employees are open to expressing ideas when communication is part of the culture. Company policy, training, and internal documentation can reinforce these ideals.
2. Encourage employees to participate in decisions.
Many management decisions affect employees, but these should not happen in a vacuum. When employees are informed during the decision-making process and asked to weigh in, they will take ownership in the execution of new ideas.
3. Provide ways for employees to give anonymous feedback.
Even in an open and communicative culture, some employees hesitate to speak up, especially if the feedback is negative. All employees should have a way to submit their thoughts without fear of retaliation.
4. Show respect, always.
When employees feel heard and respected, they will be more willing to share their thoughts and participate in discussions, even when the topics are challenging. Ask questions, solicit specific feedback, and process the information non-judgmentally.
5. Leverage technology across the organization.
Technology should be used consistently across the organization, not just to connect remote employees. A centralized platform like Jostle puts everyone on a level playing field, keeping everyone up to speed and helping people get work done.
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Tools for Employee Communication
We’ve touched on several tools companies use to support employee communication today, but let’s drill down on each specific type, their pros, and cons.
Pros: Widely used by all, unintrusive. Messages can be templated to ensure consistency and professionalism.
Cons: People may not respond to emails immediately, so it might not be appropriate for urgent matters. Group email threads can become long and convoluted. Emails can end up unread in spam folders.
Best for: Customer and client communications, newsletters, marketing, and anything that doesn’t necessarily require a quick response.
Instant messaging and SMS
Cons: SMS can be annoying or intrusive. Group chats can be complicated when members are using different types of devices. Companies must take steps to ensure messages are encrypted and secure.
Best for: Emergencies, anything that needs a quick response when no other method is available. Notifications can be sent via SMS to alert users to new messages or posts in other systems.
Pros: Immediate, direct, confidential.
Cons: Phone calls are not always convenient—no permanent record of the conversation.
Best for: Getting a fast response or having a confidential or sensitive conversation.
Pros: Connect with colleagues face-to-face; share screens remotely. Cuts down on the cost of in-office meetings.
Cons: Poor internet or audio can result in missed signals and miscommunication.
Best for: pre-scheduled meetings, meetings with remote teams, international teams.
Employee success platform
Pros: Centralized hub for all employees regardless of location or time zone. Connects teams around common tools and data. Removes organizational silos, improves internal communication, reduces miscommunication, enhances consistency, strengthens culture, and integrates with existing productivity software.
Cons: Requires buy-in to ensure all employees get the most out of it.
Best for: global companies, distributed teams, remote-first companies, distributing content across departments.
Measuring the Effectiveness of Employee Communication
Establishing KPIs is essential to gauge the effectiveness of your employee communication strategy.
The metrics you choose will depend on your goals, but the most commonly tracked KPIs include:
Message open/read/click rates
Track employee feedback
Some of these KPIs are quantifiable with data from your communications systems. Others need to be tracked using feedback forms or periodic reviews. Companies using intranet and attached apps have a wellspring of data to draw from, often able to drill down to the individual level.
Based on these numbers, managers can identify gaps in the system or support employees who are not getting the most out of it.
Effective employee communication leads to better business outcomes, greater agility, and a more productive workplace. Open communication, clear policies, and a feedback culture are crucial to employee happiness. Implementing simple, centralized communications technology is the best strategy to get you there.