A-Z of employee communication

This year, I set myself the goal of writing an article about communication. Although I’m not an expert, I’ve always believed communication is fundamental to any relationship: friendly, romantic or professional. Against popular opinion, I’m in favour of always being open and honest, because if you say what you think, you’ll waste less time and prevent many conflicts.

We have a lot more technology nowadays that allows us to be closer to each other; to improve the way we communicate in terms of frequency, ease and speed; but sometimes I get the impression that people have forgotten the basics of communicating properly.

“If you say what you think, you’ll waste much less time and prevent many conflicts”

This article is a simple communication reminder for managers, HR professionals and employees. I would love to hear which of the following you think is most important.

A – ACTIONS
It may be because I’m older now, but I learned from my professional and personal life that it doesn’t matter what people say, but what they do. So make sure that if you make any promises, you keep them. Otherwise, your words will lose their value with your team.

B – BENEFITS
As I said in an previous article, benefits are a way of retaining staff. It’s therefore important that you understand your employees in order to know what benefits to choose for them. It’s equally important to communicate those them well, as an employee benefit is not a benefit until it’s realised. You can have the best benefits package in the world, but if your employees don’t know it exists, then it’s money wasted.

“You can have the best benefits package in the world, but if your employees don’t know it exists, then it’s money wasted”

C – CULTURE
In my opinion, the only workable culture is an open one where everyone feels free to speak. This is something that doesn’t happen overnight, but there are a few small things you can do to begin the process. Perhaps try having lunch one day each month with your team. Or maybe breakfast with one employee each week. Show your team that you also provide feedback to your own manager. Set the example and, slowly, people will feel that it’s okay to voice a different opinion to their managers.
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D – DELEGATION
For me, this is one of the biggest signs that my manager trusts me. It’s an indication that you admit you need help, you’re choosing me to help you, and valuing me by making me responsible for a specific project. However, for delegation to work well, I prefer to have a manager who spends time explaining the background of the project, the main goals and who has which responsibilities, rather than one who just delegates by email.    

E – ENGAGEMENT
There’s a lot of literature at the moment about how to create an engagement culture, with which I agree, by the way. However, employees also need to take responsibility for engagement. They need to be a part of the process and I believe they should be more direct with their managers. It’s too easy to hide behind ‘the management’ and blame them for everything, so how about trying to be more open? Stop assuming managers have mind-reading super powers. Besides, telling them what is not working for you will show how committed you are – if you have a suggestion for improvement.   

“Stop assuming managers have mind-reading super powers”

F – FEEDBACK
Most of us know how important it is to ask for feedback but do you often find the only thing you get in return is silence? Ask yourself why and then go back to the letter C.  

G – GUTS
A lot of managers hide behind HR when difficult conversations need to be had. Of course you can use HR as support, but you’re the one working most closely with your team so you should have the guts to be honest about what’s happening. Your team will know if you’re avoiding an issue, and that will damage your relationship with them.
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H – HEALTH AND SAFETY
This one is a broad spectrum, I know. In fact, it’s common to hear people complaining about their working conditions. In my case, I’m not adapting well to my new chair at work, but I’m lucky because I’ve been heard.  Unfortunately sometimes being listened to is a luxury, but it shouldn’t be! Make sure you’re aware of how people feel about their work conditions.

I – INTEREST
Show some interest in your employees. If someone has been away for two weeks on holiday, the least you can do is ask them how it was, and whether they enjoyed it. If someone has been sick for one or two days, don’t email them with more work, ask them how are they feeling instead. Your employees should be your priority: if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be able to hit your targets.

“Your employees should be your priority: if it weren’t for them, you wouldn’t be able to hit your targets”

J – JOB DESCRIPTION
This is the base for good HR. From a job description, you benchmark salaries, develop career plans, do performance reviews, plan training, and so on. Because this is so important, when you’re going through a job description process, it’s vital that you interview one or two employees that represent the job you’re describing. They’ll know more about it than you.

K – KNOWLEDGE
Ask your employees what they’d like to learn and how they want to develop their skills. Make them responsible for their own future and support them to get there.

L – LISTENING
Communicating is not just about talking. Sometimes, in fact, it’s more about listening. Try it one week by asking yourself, every day, “who did I listen to more today? My employees? Or myself?”. I’m sorry to say that people who like their own voice more than others’ are really boring. Don’t let that be you.
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M – MANAGERS
As a manager, you may be one of the main reasons employees leave, and also the main reason I wanted to write this article. It’s not just about my HR experience; it’s also my opinion as an employee. Better communication would avoid most conflicts and aid retention. If you’re not interested in improving your communication skills; if you can’t even ask yourself whether you have those skills or if they are good enough; maybe you shouldn’t be in a leadership position. However, the good news is that we can all improve!

N – NON-VERBAL COMMUNICATION
Non-verbal communication a universal language. It’s not spoken or written, it’s simply our body language. If someone is trying to speak with you, whether you’re an HR person, a manager or an employee, please always stop what you’re doing. Look away from the computer if you’ve agreed to speak to someone for a minute. If you don’t have time, say it. Treat others as you would like to be treated yourself, and you are more likely to pick up the visual clues that others are giving you.

O – ONBOARDING
I had an employee that once told me, when he accepted my offer, that he’d had a better offer from our main competitor. When I asked him why he accepted mine, I was surprised to hear that it was the way I spoke to him and took care of him during the entire recruitment process. He saw this as an indication of the type of company we were. In my opinion, onboarding starts before the first day, and communication is important from the first second.

“If you’re not interested in improving your communication skills; if you can’t even ask yourself whether you have those skills or if they are good enough; maybe you shouldn’t be in a leadership position”

P – PERFORMANCE REVIEWS
Performance reviews can be scary for some employees, so a good rule is to not have any surprises from you in their review. Make sure you tell them the key things that you’re going to bring up and give them a chance to come up with an response that they can include in their part of the review.

Q – QUESTION
Asking questions is a powerful tool to understanding your team, to knowing their level of motivation, how committed they are and what would make them happier. It shows you’re interested in them. Use this tool to your heart’s content and incentivise your team to do the same.
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R – REASSURANCE
If you want your employees to know that you’re personally praising them, make sure you tell them so. Reassure them when they are doing a good job, tell everyone in your team meeting how well they performed. I challenge you to praise a different team member each week in your team meeting.

S – SALARY
No one will ever be completely happy with their salary. We always want more. But clear communication on this topic is so important. Have a clear and transparent salary structure policy. The more you hide it, the more people will complain. It seems scary, but be confident.

T – TECHNOLOGY
This one is for HR. It’s time to wake up to the 21st century. Be faster and better with more technology. It won’t steal your job, it will give you more time to spend with employees understanding their needs and thinking about their development. You’ll be more respected.

“Be faster and better with more technology. It won’t steal your job”

U – UNBIASED
Every parent has a favourite son/daughter. It’s the same for managers. That’s fine, it’s human nature, but don’t show it, and don’t treat employees differently as a result. Your tone of voice and your non-verbal language can give you away, so if you want to ensure you don’t show preferences, ask for some coaching sessions.

V – VOLUNTEERING
Volunteering is a great way for your team to spend some time together, talking with each other, feeling good, proud of their achievements, and actually helping someone. Do it once every two months and your team’s communication will improve.

W – WORK-LIFE BALANCE
Do you still think that someone who works more hours is more committed? Think again. If you do, don’t be surprised if you start losing your younger employees in particular. Work-life balance is increasingly important in today’s workplaces, and it’s about more than just when you clock-in and out. Talk to your employees about what balance means for them.

“Remember: to your employees, you are the company”

X – X-RAY VISION
You don’t have it! You don’t know what other people are thinking. Make sure you ask them instead of assuming you already know what they mean.

Y – YOU
Remember that, to your employees, you are the company. You represent the management and need to act accordingly.

Z – ZOMBIES
Don’t allow your employees to turn into zombies; dying with boredom. Everyone deserves to have an interesting job, whatever their position. Make sure you know everyone’s needs and likes and try to make them part of projects where those interests have a chance to come to the fore.
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ABOUT MONICA:

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Born in the magnificent city of Lisbon, the warm sun encouraged Monica to be a happy and positive person. During her frequent travels, she became a real people person, and that sent her in the direction of Human Resources – her career for the past 7 years. If you want to have a chat about HR stuff (or Portugal), you can find her on LinkedIn.


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