The reasons for such a communication gap are numerous, ranging from employees thinking, “I don’t want to appear incompetent,” to “Who am I to offer ideas to management?” They recognize that management is busy with strategy and planning, so they choose not to interrupt. At the same time, employees need to familiarize management with their day-to-day activities.
Fortunately, there are steps you can take to get your employees to interact better. When employees and managers communicate well together everyone can understand what it takes to advance the company’s strategic vision and attain its goals. Support from every member in the group is essential for a company to significantly grow and prosper
To instill confidence in your employees and encourage them to contribute, apply the four elements of “SharedKnowledge”—a process that transforms the entire organization to one that works with a unified entrepreneurial spirit. This unique combination of elements, including organizational communication, skills, motivation and empowerment, creates mini-marketers throughout the business. Following are ways to use these four vital components to get your employees to communicate their needs so they can help the company succeed.
Communication is a two-way process and a shared responsibility. Employees and managers alike have responsibility for setting expectations and requirements, and for communicating barriers and opportunities.
Ask your employees to speak up and tell the management team what they are struggling with and what managers can do to help. Reinforce the company’s vision and state how the current objectives contribute to it. Then explain that you need the employees’ input to attain the company’s vision.
Share Industry Skills and Knowledge
While most employees are knowledgeable about, and skilled in, their particular job duties, many managers are unaware of their employees’ daily activities. Encourage your employees to educate you about their job specifics. Ask them to explain what goes into each successful project by proactively listing all the actions and costs, including time requirements.
Ask questions to get your employees to offer suggestions about the current situation. For example, you may say, “Last year we increased sales by 35 percent, but circumstances have changed. How do you think we can regain last year’s position? Is there something in your job that could be changed to make a stronger contribution to our company vision and goals? Listen to the feedback carefully, and where feasible, act upon it. Your employees will see their value to the company and its bottom line.
Create a Motivation Cycle
Your input plays a big part in motivating employees to communicate with you. Make communicating with management easy. Some suggestions to consider include:
- Arrange a group conference call in which employees share their ideas about a particular project or strategic plan.
- Send employees a personal thank-you note for a job well done, with the management team’s signatures.
- Set an hour aside (on a regular basis) to conduct roundtable discussions with employees to address their concerns.
- Offer short, 15-minute one-on-one sessions between managers and employees to discuss employee issues and ideas.
- Have senior management sit with the employees during breaks or at lunch to discuss company activities.
When the employees see you and other managers taking an interest in their responsibilities, they’ll be spurred to complete their tasks to the best of their ability. The senior team’s interest will show that each employee’s contribution is integral to the company’s strategic initiative. Employees will actively seek out new and creative ideas to advance the organization and will share those ideas with you. The result will be a greater increase to the company’s bottom line.
Establish Empowerment Expectations
Empowerment is about setting the expectations. Discuss goals and parameters with everyone involved before you begin delegating tasks so that, as a team, you can make the needed tradeoffs to ensure a successful outcome. When everyone knows the specifics of what’s required, you are empowered to create the desired results. Always remember that the entire interaction hinges upon communication, and the quality of the communication determines how empowered you and your team are.
Show why open communication from both sides, management and employees, is so vital to the company’s success. Make it a shared responsibility to educate each other, express what you need and show how specific duties affect the bottom line. Your team will operate more efficiently and greater success will follow.
Linda Keefe is a speaker, consultant and CEO of Shared Results International, a business focused on helping companies achieve faster growth and higher productivity. She provides creative solutions to companies that allow them to overcome organizational indifference, creating a unified, entrepreneurial spirit. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.