Written by: Brian Smith
Communication, or the lack of communication, is the number one reason that employees leave an employer, for reasons not associated with advancement or issues such as a spouse moving. You can review the history of terminated employees at most companies and the root cause ends up being something to do with failed communication.
What never ceases to amaze me is how simple communicating with employees can be. The most powerful tool you have in communication is your spoken word, privately to an employee. Spoken words followed up by supportive action will show tremendous results. Second to this is the use of banners, newsletters, emails, social media messaging, and text messages; however, all should be used in support of your spoken word and policies and procedures.
It is imperative that you develop a high-level communication program within your organization if you wish to retain employees and eliminate high turnover. A simple periodic email to the team with some company updates goes a long way to increase communication and build culture.
Other ways to do this are:
- Have an open door policy at all times. However, do not usurp the authority of lower-level managers
- Encourage and reward discussion from all employees during meetings while staying within meeting agenda and goals
- Establish activity targets and rewards for everyone in the company
- Talk with each employee personally and consistently; everyone must know management’s way of communication
- Challenge employees by using the “praise/mentor/praise” method of communication
- Discipline (mentor) in private to keep employee ego and self-esteem intact
- Praise/recognize/praise! Identify wins more often than you challenge mistakes
- Write letters to employees for important social accomplishments. They will be re-read and will motivate with dividends
After communication standards are in place they are supported by the policy and procedures that the company uses to get its job done. Offering tools to the employees to be successful will enable them to focus on the key aspects of their jobs. Task lists and other tools will provide them practical ways to stay organized. Empowerment to complete what is expected goes a long way towards helping an employee feel trusted and supported by your organization. Communication and policies and procedures will outperform and outlast the most qualified person in an environment lacking any of these qualities.
Employee engagement is truly impacted by increased communication. By this I mean the actual day-to-day relationship that the company will have with employees leads to higher employee engagement. This engagement needs to reinforce the interview and onboarding process by carrying through the structure and support identified already. Engagement is an ongoing process and is a great way to ensure employees are productive and stay with your organization.
Communication isn’t just about giving employees direction. It’s also about listening to them. The company should always listen to the most played communication in the company: WII-FM (What’s In It For Me). Performance measurement, for example, is a two way street in organizations. Employees are constantly measuring their peers, supervisors, and the company overall.
Developing time to get to know your employees, their values, personality, interests, and motives will go a long way to creating long-term employees. Use your policy and procedures to develop a consistent approach to getting to know each employee; maintaining that relationship will also help to better define your corporate culture, which is another key component of long-term employee retention.
Employee retention is not about being nice. High turnover is not about being too demanding or having too high of expectations. Successful organizations have increased communication with their employees especially during the hiring processes. Onboarding a new employee should pick up that consistency and detail, make the new employee feel welcome, and provide a path to being productive that is clear and structured. Once the employee is integrated, they should become a valued part of the team right away. Sharing the vision of a company and its progress will enable employees to have a better understanding of where the company is headed and how they fit in. Enabling employees to do their jobs with the tools and information needed will create engaged employees that perform and grow with and for the company. Mentoring employees and using mistakes as learning opportunities will solidify trust throughout the organization and provide a culture of progress. Implementing an employee separation procedure that helps to identify his or her view of the company as they leave will give you some behind-the-scenes data you can use to refine your business in a multitude of ways.
My final thoughts on employee engagement are to use the S.M.A.R.T. management approach:
S – Specific
Make sure all communication is clear and concise, and that you get confirmation that everyone understands what is expected
M – Measurable
Put a yardstick to tasks, if you cannot measure it you cannot control it. People naturally give more attention to activities that are measured
A – Attainable
Make sure the person being hired is getting trained properly and is given the tools to attain what is expected of them
R – Reasonable
Establish reasonable goals and get consensus. Setting unreasonable goals alienates your employees and becomes the root cause of poor quality, job failure, lack of safety, and a demoralized team
T – Timely
Maintain timelines and check progress. Have a beginning, milestones, and an ending time. Review progress and look for exceptions; exceptions can be your friend and expose good and bad issues that can be rectified quickly
In the end, people want a work environment where they feel secure, appreciated, and understood. They will gravitate towards structure and the goals of the company in these environments and stay on as valuable contributors to your organization.