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Communication Ė Where It All Begins
Author: Amy Esry, Human Resource Consultant, Hausmann-Johnson Insurance
 
Iíve been in Human Resources a long time now - over 20 years. (Once you hit 20, you can stop counting.)  Iíve had the privilege of working for a number of truly great companies, in a variety of industries. 

Iíve written a few blogs this year about some core components of great workplaces.  If youíre interested, you can check out my blogs on Trust, Respect, Recognition, and Engagement.

So as we near the end of the year, I wanted to bring it all together.  And I realized that there is one thing that all great organizations do, and itís the foundation for everything else:

Itís Communication.

Communication builds trust.  Communication is a means to convey respect.  Communication is the tool for recognition and appreciation.  And because Communication is the key to everything else, it also drives engagement.

So what does that look like, specifically?  Over the years Iíve talked to a lot of employees, and a lot of HR professionals, and Iíve identified several areas where communication is critical:

State of the Business / Company Updates Ė Your employees want to know how the business is doing.  People want to know if their efforts are paying off and that the company is doing well, or if there are factors impacting the organization that is causing some hardship.  This is something you should be sharing at least annually.  Perhaps you feel you canít give specific numbers.  Thatís fine.  You can show trends.  Create charts or graphs showing sales/profits/number of clients, etc and then take the numbers off if you donít want to share specifics. (Although is there really any harm in revealing the actual data?)

Donít be afraid to share the bad news too.  Your employees can handle it, and they might have great ideas for efficiencies or cost savings to help turn things around. 

Company updates can also include info on new customers, new technology, new locations/branches, new employees, departmental and even individual success stories.  Regular company updates like this help employees feel like they are part of something bigger, and gives them a sense of belonging.

Career Coaching Ė Most employees want to grow professionally, learn new skills, and expand their expertise and responsibilities.  Are job openings posted internally?  Are there written career paths for most positions/departments so people have an idea of where they can go?   Are employees asked about their career aspirations at least annually?  Do supervisors talk to staff about how they can achieve their goals?  Even in small, or relatively flat organizations, employers can find ways to help staff grow, learn, and develop their skills. 

Decision Making Ė Employees may not be directly involved in company decision making, but they still want to know whatís going on.  If decisions are made from the top down, with very little input from staff or even line managers, try to find ways to give employees updates on the process.  This is especially important during periods of change.  Telling employees ďthis is what we know, this is what we donít know, and this is what we are working onĒ goes a long way in giving employees confidence in the decision makers and the future of the organization.

Interdepartmental Updates Ė Typically, what one department does has an impact on other departments in the organization.  But often employees donít really understand how their jobs affect anyone else.  Sometimes, employees donít really even know what other departments do.  This can lead to miscommunication, information silos, double work or rework, and a missed opportunity for employees to see the big picture and how they contribute to it.

New Hire Onboarding Ė Youíve spent a lot of time and effort in hiring someone, and theyíre very excited to join the team.  This is your honeymoon period.  Make sure your onboarding process makes the most of that engagement and excitement.  As Iíve said before, help the new employee see the big picture and how they fit.  Do you have some kind of training plan where new hires are spending time with their supervisor and/or peers, or are new hires left to figure things out on their own?  Checking in often with your new hires and getting feedback on their training and experience is especially important in their first year and can greatly impact their longevity with the company.

Team Communication Ė If you are a supervisor of a team, how often does the team get together?   Is there information hoarding?  Are individual successes praised, or is there jealousy?  Are expectations consistent or do some team members not fully understand the goals of the department or the company?  Does the team work together to solve group or even individual issues?  Do a quick Google search and youíll find lots of articles and resources online that discuss running meetings, team communication, and team building.

And Iíve saved the most important for last:

Manager One-on-One Meetings with Staff - How well do you know your employees?   Would they come to you with a personal problem that is affecting their work (and personal problems almost always affect their work!)   Are you a good coach?  Do you even know what that means? (hint:  coaching is not the same thing as giving advice)  Do you give your staff updates on what is going on elsewhere in the company?   For most employees, their direct supervisor is their main source of information about other departments, and the company in general. If communication with the supervisor is difficult, ineffective, or infrequent, often the rumor mill becomes their fallback source of information. 
If you work on one thing in your organization in the next year, perhaps it should be Communication.  If you feel like your organization struggles with competencies like Trust, Respect, and Engagement, consider how Communication is the foundation for those endeavors.  Communication is where it all begins.
 
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