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4 Tips to Make Your Managers Employee Communication Masters

Posted by Sandy Yu on 10.15.2019

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From the lack of technology to poor planning, any number of variables can derail your teams communication.

Unfortunately, the 2018 North American State of the Sector report found it’s not just ‘anything’ negatively impacting employee communication. An overwhelming 51 percent of respondents say poor line manager communication skills is the main barrier to successful communication.

As a direct line to your employees, it’s a no-brainer that managers need the appropriate skills to communicate effectively. Without employee communication training, your entire company is susceptible to a drop in engagement and the ability to hit overarching goals.

It’s time to stop leaving this key element to company success up to chance. Here’s how you can train managers so they can knock employee communication out of the park:

1. Make them aware of employee communication’s power

Employee communication directly impacts employee performance, engagement, and overall satisfaction. When managers don’t fully understand the critical nature of effective employee communication, your training efforts are at a loss.

Managers must see the power of employee communication beyond giving orders. Once their minds open to full-spectrum communication and its effects on every aspect of the business, training can begin.

Start with employees looking at how employee communication impacts their careers. Ask questions to reveal how a leader’s or manager’s communication efforts have positively or negatively touched impacted them. For example:

  • Have you ever been praised for an achievement? Or felt a leader or manager ever passed you over for praise? How did that make you feel? How did it impact your work?
  • Please share a time when you believe directions for a task were unclear. How did that impact your ability to do your job well?
  • As an employee, what does effective communication from superiors mean to you?

Use managers’ responses to connect them to their own team’s potential issues stemming from poor communication. Each moment they were praised or when they failed because directions were unclear are connected to emotions. These emotions are pertinent to raising awareness regarding how they communicate with employees.

2. Coach them on responding to feedback

The way managers respond to feedback will either encourage open communication or cause employees to shut down. Before sending them into the field for on-the-job lessons, train managers on the art of responding.

Set a time frame of what’s considered a timely responses from managers. Ideally, no longer than 24 hours should pass from an employee’s first communication attempt to the time a manager responds. Responses, however, don’t need to offer an immediate solution. When managers feel pressured to react too quickly because ‘leaders say they need to,’ responses will be less genuine.

As a practice session, put your managers into groups and offer prompts of both compliments and constructive feedback for them to share and respond to. Encourage them to focus on one another’s responses to the compliment or criticism.

Did their body language make you feel uncomfortable opening up? Did you feel they were listening intently? Why or why not? Did they interrupt you to offer an excuse or explanation?

3. Send them off to gather feedback

Many managers live by the philosophy that ‘if an employee has a problem, they’ll come talk to me.’ Train employees out of this erroneous belief system. While it’s one of the toughest parts of employee communication training, it’s also one of the most critical.

Assign managers to one week of collecting employee feedback. During this time, they bring employees in for one-on-ones, group meetings, and send surveys to discover how effective their employee communication is actually perceived. Throughout the week, they must track responses and write down their initial reaction to the feedback.

At the completion of the assignment, bring managers together to share their results. Openly revealing how employees feel about their communication efforts may seem uncomfortable at first. However, it gives managers the ability to connect on common ground. Many will find employees have the same feedback and their initial responses were similar. Prompt them to discuss solutions and create new employee communication goals together.

4. Share an outline for employee communication strategies

Ultimately, your managers will all have their personal styles of communicating with employees. The key, though, is ensuring those styles effectively improve employee engagement, morale, productivity, and any other overarching company goals you have in place.

Create an employee communication strategy outline for managers to complete. Include direct steps, such as:

  1. Define your team’s employee communication goals.
  2. Connect these goals to company-wide goals.
  3. Please share how and how frequently you’ll measure these goals.
  4. Please share what forms of communication your team best responds to.
  5. Share what gaps in employee communication you’re hoping to fill.

Review these outlines with employees and have them weigh-in to have everyone on the same page of what is the most effective for their team.

The goal of this initial step isn’t to have a concrete plan in place. Instead, look for coaching moments. A manager, for example, may know their team best responds to email. However, they’re more comfortable with verbal communication than written. Take this opportunity to sign them up for a course focused on written employee communication.

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Topics: employee communication, leadership communication

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