If Communication with Employees is Important, Why is it so Hard?
Oh my! How many times do we – in all of our roles in life – have to be told how important communication is in order to get it right? Sometimes, early on in relationships, we start out well. We communicate often, clearly and we even check in to see if the other person is getting what we intend with our communication. And then, slowly but surely, we get tired and busy and distracted and …gone! Our communication suffers, and the other person grabs onto ideas that may not be correct. The ideas or concepts fester and become more awful and there is damage to our relationships.
As a leader in an organization it is important to never stop trying to communicate effectively – it is our job to communicate.
If your employee tells you they want more and better communication, how would you respond?
If your employee tells you that they want you to show them more trust, how would you communicate that?
If your employee indicates that they want more recognition, more appreciation from you for their hard work, how would you communicate that?
If your employee tells you that they feel like they are being taken advantage of, even though they should feel “lucky” to have a job, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?
If your employee shares that they don’t believe the workload is distributed evenly or …
Oh my! Don’t you just want to throw in the towel and go back to being a technician rather than a manager? Isn’t this just all too much? And then you remember what it was like when you walked in their shoes.
Remember a time when someone else decided what you would do and how you would do it; when you were told to go not only how to do your work but also when and where you could go on your break; when you were rewarded with something you really didn’t want; when you questioned why something had to be done or done a particular way but you were never told the answer; when you worked really hard and accomplished something that was a big stretch for you, and nothing was said?
Remember a time when you were asked your preference – would you like this or this one; when you were asked for your opinion or thoughts on the best solution; when you were trusted to implement the solution without anyone looking over your shoulder; when you worked extra hard because everyone was and you didn’t want to be the slacker; when someone caught you doing something well and they fully described their delight with your behaviour?
Which of these paragraphs has more energy for you? When you remember those negative times, your energy is drained. Think about something positive – feeling trusted, respected, included, and recognized – and there is a zap of energy that can be felt by most of us.
Effective managers give their employee what they need for success – including energy and motivation. It is our job to communicate with our employees in a way that will increase their energy and motivation, resulting in increased success – theirs, yours and the business. This is why you must do your best to communicate effectively with your employees. Happier employees are more productive. Happier, productive employees will stay with the company longer. Not only is the business more financially successful when employees are happy, but it is more financially successful because there are fewer recurring costs associated with the recruitment and hiring of new, replacement employees, and the cost of lower productivity as these employees get up to their full capacity over the first three to five years.
On a regular basis – perhaps every Friday afternoon – stop and think about what you are communicating to your employees. Think about what you want to communicate to your employees, what you want them to learn from you and what you want to learn from them. What do you want them to know? Do you want them to know that you trust them? What can you say and do non-verbally, that will communicate this? How often will you communicate this?
I remember the story about a man talking about how wonderful his wife was, how much he loved her. He loved her so much that, at times, he almost couldn’t stop himself from telling her so! I wonder how that worked for his wife.
What are you communicating to your employees?
- Do you want to acknowledge your employee’s accomplishments?
- Do you want them to know that they are appreciated, especially when they go above and beyond what a typical employee does?
- Do you want to delegate responsibility to an employee as a sign of trust?
- Do you want your employee to understand that their workload is fair, from your perspective?
- Do you want your employee to appreciate all the benefits – tangible and not – this job is giving them?
- Do you want your employee to fulfill their responsibilities such as coming to work on a regular recurring basis, on time?
How will you communicate these things? How many different ways will you communicate this? How often will you communicate this?
It never fails to surprise me when I’m talk with business owners and managers and they ask me what I think they should do to reward a particular employee who is really been a star performer. My answer: ask the employee! Please don’t give me a Tim Horton’s or a Cineplex gift card. A Chapters or a Starbucks gift card, a bouquet of flowers – even wild ones – any of those would make my heart sing! Not long ago I chatted with a business owner who was paying for a house cleaner for one of his staff members who was working a lot of overtime on a project – now you’re singing my song.
Don’t be afraid of talking to your employees about their preferences. Get to know them – because knowing, liking and trusting your employees AND having your employees knowing, liking and trusting you is the name of this game. When this is in place, communication is much easier, whether it is a conversation about how well they are doing, or a conversation about what they need to do differently to be successful. Communication is easiest when you know, like and trust each other. Start there. Communicate and then communicate.