Communication Is Key: How To Connect With Your Employees

18 June, 2018

A good boss is not just great at managing tasks and projects, but also a master of clear communication.

Poor communication between managers and their direct reports can lead to confusion, frustration, irritation, anxiety, poor decisions and ultimately, the loss of talented employees.

If you do not communicate well with your workers, you’ll be missing out on all of the benefits that come with it. These include building a more motivated, inspired and engaged team. The following are some of the most important habits of great communicators.

1.    Regularly Field Open Ended Questions

To succeed, a business must encourage its employees to be focused, efficient and unambiguous. This philosophy is vital not just in everyday work but also during annual employee performance review meetings. Nevertheless, pointed or leading questions aren’t useful at all times.

If you want to deeply engage with employees one-on-one or during a department meeting, ask open-ended questions. This creates an avenue for them to freely share their ideas and opinions. The relaxed conversation can generate valuable ideas for improving business processes and making the work environment more conducive for staff.

2.    Respond to Emails No Later than 24 Hours

Business managers often have a lot on their plate. Competing demands can make some tasks fall through the cracks. One role that often suffers the most from a manager’s hectic schedule is email correspondence. To be fair, managers in large organizations can receive hundreds of emails on any given day. This can be quite overwhelming.

Still, managers must find creative ways stay on top of their email inbox if they want to cultivate open channels of communication with their staff. In particular, priority must be given to emails sent directly to you. Under no circumstances should an employee have to wait more than 24 hours for your response.

3.    Be Authentic

Managers that ruthlessly slave-drive their team and show little empathy are unlikely to get optimal results from employees. The other extreme isn’t effective either though i.e. business leaders who are overly friendly. They’ll be keen to be seen as approachable and pleasant. In reality, they could be perceived as dishonest, two-faced and untrustworthy.

Instead, managers should be authentic in interactions with their team. If someone needs to be told an uncomfortable truth, a good communicator will do so respectfully but clearly and firmly. Do not feign enthusiasm; people will see right through you. Be calm and maintain a polite normal demeanor when speaking to employees.

They may not always like what you tell them but they’ll know they can count on you to tell them the truth.

4.    Pay Attention to Nonverbal Communication

Nonverbal communication (better known as body language) will tell you more about a person’s thoughts and feelings than what they say. Postures, hand gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and tone of voice are all reflexive and thus difficult to fake.

This is why good communicators prefer in-person meetings (or videoconferencing) when discussing critical matters. They recognize that relying on text or voice only messaging channels such as email, SMS and voice calls will see them miss out on information that the employee is unwilling or unable to openly express.

5.    Sharpen Your Knowledge

No one is an expert on everything. Even when you are the CEO of an organization or the head of a department, there are things that the people who report to you understand better than you do. This shouldn’t be reason for complacency though. As the team leader, you must strive to be the subject matter expert in your department.

Members of your team will have little problem overlooking a few instances where you cannot answer their questions and have to consult someone else. However, if this happens too frequently, the team will lose confidence in your ability to lead them. This will only make it more difficult for them to take communication from you seriously.

You could set aside some time each month to catch up on changes to company procedure and policy documents. There’s no harm in honing your general knowledge too (for example, check this article on how to Convert Decimal Hours To Hours And Minutes In 1 Step! by OnTheClock).

6.    Make Performance Reviews Interactive

We often think of annual performance reviews as something employees dread. Of course, the reviews do determine a worker’s growth prospects and future in the organization so the anxiety is rational. However, performance evaluation shouldn’t be a monologue where the manager lectures the employee. It’s also a forum for candid feedback both ways.

There should be open communication that allows the employee to comfortably divulge the challenges they face and what suggestions they have for workplace improvement. That ensures bottlenecks can be resolved quickly and requisite changes initiated. Ultimately, interactive reviews make employees more dedicated and connected to the business.

Effective communication with your staff will require thoughtfulness, effort, consistency and sincerity. For successful business leaders, good communication is a skill that is practiced at each moment of every working day. It must be calculated and deliberate, and not just another check box that managers must get over and done with before they revert to ‘real work’.

When you commit to good communication with your team, you create a cohesion and synergy that makes it easier to realize company objectives.