Get your workforce engaged! (104)
In this fourth and final installment of our series on developing an “engaged” workforce, we’re going talk about the need for effective communication. We touched on communication in the first installment of this series when we said, “Your values, mission, and vision need to be in writing, and they need to be disseminated, explained, and discussed. They need to be repeated and reinforced regularly.” But there’s more . . . much more . . . that needs to be communicated clearly, concisely, and effectively. For more about the role of effective communication in developing an engaged workforce, please read below.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”
– James Humes
Humes is an author, so he knows something about communication, and he has been a speechwriter for five presidents, so he also knows a thing or two about leadership. And when you think about it, he’s right. After all, if a leader can’t communicate to his people where he wants to take them, how can they follow her there? Think of a battlefield commander yelling “Charge!” without telling people in what direction to charge. Most likely everyone would charge off aimlessly in whatever direction they happened to be facing when the order to charge was given . . . not a very effective way to run an army, or a business.
When thinking about what you need to communicate, and to whom, think broadly of two buckets, one for communicating with your people collectively, the other for communicating with them individually.
From the collective bucket, you should be communicating:
• the corporate mission, vision, values, and culture
• strategic plans . . . where we’re going and how we intend to get there
• changes in our marketplace, i.e., new competitors, disruptive technologies, etc.
• organizational changes (changing the way people and departments interact with one another)
• operational changes (changing the way we get stuff done)
Communications about these matters can take a variety of forms. They can be verbal through all-company meetings, departmental meetings, or brown bag lunches. Or they can be written through memos, emails, text messages, or signs posted in the lunchroom. The medium can be whatever works best in your environment, but the key is, for whatever medium of communication you choose, the communication must be clear, concise, timely, and unambiguous.
From the individual bucket, you should be communicating:
• performance standards. An employee needs to know what is expected of him or her and what a “good job” looks like.
• performance evaluations (not to be confused with annual reviews). An employee needs regular feedback to know what’s going well and where he or she needs to improve.
• the big picture. An employee needs to know his job is important, and how her work impacts others and the overall performance of the company.
• interest. The people working for you need to know you’re interested in them as human beings, not just cogs in a wheel. They need to know you will listen to them and will value their thoughts, ideas, and concerns.
• recognition. When an employee does something extraordinary, he or she needs to know it was both noticed and appreciated.
These are not intended to be comprehensive lists of everything you should be communicating. You can probably think of things that should be added to them. Just remember, people are information junkies. Every employee satisfaction survey I’ve ever seen puts “knowing what’s going on” very near the top. So if you really want to engage your workforce, you need to do it both collectively and individually with timely, clear, effective communication.
(*) To briefly review our series on workforce engagement:
1) In our introduction to the topic, we tried to answer the question, “Why should I want an ‘engaged’ workforce?” We said an “engaged” workforce is both efficient and effective, is more likely to deliver a high level of customer service, and will minimize absenteeism and turnover . . . all of which positively impacts your bottom line.
2) In our first installment of the series, we talked about the need to have firmly established mission, vision, values, and culture in order for you to (in the words of best-selling author Jim Collins) get the right people on the bus.
3) In our second installment, we talked about the role enlightened leadership plays in developing an engaged workforce.
4) The third installment talked about the need to get all the people on our bus in the right seats . . . that is, to put them where their talents, skills, and interests will provide the most value.
5) And finally, this fourth installment discusses the need to effectively communicate with your people, both collectively and individually.
So is this all there is to it? No there’s always more. This is not the kind of thing you put in place and forget about. Developing and keeping an engaged workforce will always be a work-in-progress. But the benefits of an engaged workforce, even if it is not perfectly engaged, are so enormous, so transformational, that it’s well-worth the effort.
(*) If you missed any of the series, or would like to review any of them, they are archived at my website, www.rocksolidbizdevelopment.com.