Is Constant Communication Your #1 Time Management Challenge?

Communication time wasters and how to overcome them

Time management is a key skill for leaders and managers to embed into their armory, but few rank communication skills as a time management issue. Yet statistics show that poor communication costs a team 280 hours of productive time each year.

To put this number into even greater context, the 2018 Holmes Report estimated that the cost of poor communication in large companies (with more than 100,000 employees) average $62.4 million per company every year. Further, the cumulative loss in productivity equates to a massive $26,041 per worker because of communication barriers.

In this article, we examine why constant communication is essential and look at the time wasters and how to overcome them as you seek to make constant communication a central strategy in your time management as a leader.

Why is constant communication essential?

Poor communication is a widespread problem in today’s organizations. How well your organization performs is largely due to its ability to communicate from the top down. When communication is not consistent, meaning is misunderstood, intention is misaligned, and confusion reigns. There are five key ways in which constant – and consistent – communication positively affects an organization.

1. Constant Communication Creates Certainty

A lack of communication causes employees to feel less certain about their role, their responsibilities, and their value to the organization. It causes concern about how your organization is doing, and this undermines employee and team confidence. In turn, this damages trust and morale.

A constant flow of information, communicated consistently, alleviates uncertainty, and helps to develop mutual trust between the organization, its leaders and managers, and its employees.

2. Constant Communication Quashes Gossip

The water cooler is busiest in those organizations in which employees are ill informed. Our nature as human beings is to solve problems – and what bigger problem is there than trying to figure out what is happening with your employer?

People will leap to their own conclusions, discuss these with their colleagues, and present persuasive arguments that compel others to spread rumors and fill in the gaps left by an absence of communication from managers. This is not only true of organizational issues, but also on a more personal level, too:

Gossip spreads fear and resentment, and dents morale. It can harm motivation and cause widespread mistrust. Open and honest communication with colleagues and employees builds trust and improves morale.

3. Constant Communication Improves Productivity

When managers communicate poorly, employees are often left second-guessing what they should be doing. They are reduced to asking others for confirmation of their role and how to do their tasks – causing a knock-on effect of interruption and delay.

Perhaps worse, those who are not sure of what it is they should be doing – or why – undertake their tasks with hesitation and uncertainty. They muddle through, and often complete their jobs with errors that must be fixed. This damages productivity, causes deadlines to be missed, and results in more management time being ‘wasted’ by recommunicating what was poorly communicated previously.

4. Constant Communication Improves the Customer Experience

As poor communication causes uncertainty, as well as a rise in unhelpful rumors and a drop in productivity, the next item on the list to be damaged will be your customers’ experiences. Mistrust, uncertainty and low morale eventually affects customers – usually in the form of poor customer service and substandard products.

When communication is precise, consistent and constant, there should be no misunderstanding that seeps into the customer experience. Closing gaps in communication ensures that mistakes are avoided, and that problems are solved effectively and efficiently.

5. Constant Communication Reduces Employee Turnover

It is often said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. Many studies have dived deeper than this overarching generalization, and found that poor communication lies at the heart of high turnover problems.

For example, a 2019 study by Peakon found that communication was the second-highest ranked factor when employees were asked ,”If you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change about your organization?” It comes second only to pay, and sits immediately above management.

People want to feel satisfied at work. They want to know they are doing a good job, and that their work matters to their boss, their organization, and the organization’s customers. If you don’t communicate these things to your employees constantly, they will soon start to feel unhappy and begin to shut down. Then they will seek a new job elsewhere.

Poor communication is a time waster

Not only does poor communication damage productivity, morale, and employee turnover, it also wastes a huge amount of a manager’s time.

Interruptions and distractions come in many forms, and it has been calculated that they cost managers an average of around three hours each day. Improving how you communicate as a leader can reduce this, and lead to better team performance.

Managers who communicate effectively will suffer fewer interruptions from employees who need instructions confirmed. Effective communication is also key to empowering employees to seek their own solutions – leading to fewer interruptions down the line and a more efficient and collaborative team.

Building in time to communicate constantly is a key technique for managers to embed in their time management habits.

Why leaders and managers must communicate constantly and more effectively

Effective communication skills enable managers to manage their time more effectively and improve their own personal productivity. As an effective communicator, a manager will be able to:

Effective communicators organize their time and their teams more efficiently, using the right channels and strategies to communicate with teams and individuals.

10 Steps to improve the communication ability of leaders and managers

Here are 10 steps that leaders and managers can follow to improve their communication ability within their time management framework.

1. Commit to Improving Communication

There is no time like the present to improve your communication skills as a manager and as a team. Effective communication is a skill that must be learned and, in a world in which communication channels and possibilities are continually evolving, continually reassessed and improved.

It’s also necessary to regularly review how you communicate with your team, allocating the right resources and delivering messages in ways that resonate with your employees.

2. Look in the Mirror

Much of your communication is likely to be made face-to-face. Have you ever considered what your employees and colleagues see when you are speaking and listening? Watching yourself speaking in a mirror can begin the process of improving your outward appearance to others.

It is also necessary to learn more about yourself to become a more effective communicator. Assessments we provide to help you do this include:

Assessments such as these are often the first step in developing leadership and management plans and improving your communication skills.

3. Know Your People

Understanding your team and the individuals within your team is essential to communicating effectively with them and bridging gaps in multigenerational teams. Understanding individual cultures and how these impact behaviors helps you to ensure that your messages are meaningful to all.

4. Develop a Communication Strategy

Work with your team to develop a communication strategy and then create an action plan to ensure that it is executed effectively. You’ll need to assess the needs of your team, understand the outcomes you wish to achieve, and commit to positive communication daily.

5. Listen

Listen to the concerns of your team and actively seek suggestions. No strategy or plan is infallible, so constantly seek ways to improve your communication strategy and methods. Listening and acting on feedback is critical – it demonstrates that you respect and value your people.

6. Learn to Say ‘No’

As a manager, you are not immune to having tasks delegated to you. Be prepared to challenge this by learning how to question reasons and value to you and your team. If it is right that work is assigned to your team, you must have a clear understanding of:

It is important to raise objections and questions before accepting tasks, get all the information you need, and, finally, to be able to say ‘no’.

7. Delegate Effectively

When delegating work to individual employees or to your team, ensure that you provide all the information they need to be able to do the work to a high standard. Consider the questions that you would ask and provide clear instructions that answer all of these. Make sure that you tie the work delegated to ability, capability, goals and purpose.

While you shouldn’t micromanage your team, make sure that you check in on them regularly and that you provide the support they need, when they need it.

8. Improve Your Own Teamwork by Communicating Better

As a leader or manager, you will be working with both superiors and subordinates. Communicating effectively is key to your success in teamwork, and to do this you should get to know your colleagues better.

Learn about others’ goals, objectives and aspirations. Remember that while goals may be the same, the reasons for aspiring to them may be different. People have different skillsets, and this includes different communication abilities. You should be mindful of the ability of others to communicate when you are communicating with them, and ensure that the meaning of what you have said is understood by all.

9. Employ Appropriate Communication Channels

When developing your communication plan, it is critical to ensure that you communicate on the most appropriate channels. Managing internal communications in the omnichannel workplace effectively will enable you to:

As well as communicating to different people in different ways, and ensuring that your message is consistent in the omnichannel environment, you should also consider what communication channel is best for which type of message.

Many managers rely on email when communicating with their teams. However, this reduces the urgency of the message. Email isn’t designed for emergencies or high-priority communications. Also, the overuse of emails ensures that both you and your team suffer constant distractions (which is why some of the best time managers only visit their email inbox once or twice a day).

Sensitive and urgent communication is better executed either by phone or, preferably, in person.

Set your communication guidelines early in your communication strategy planning, and ensure that these are adhered to by all.

10. Set a time for interruptions

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to overcome time wasters is to set a time for interruptions. Setting aside an hour each day when your door is ‘open for questions’ means that you are more likely to not be disturbed the rest of the day.

You may decide to set an hour before or after lunch, for example, when your employees can come into your office to discuss problems they have or help they may need. By doing so, you train your team to interrupting you only during this time, and prevent suffering from the need to constantly refocus after interruptions throughout the day.

In summary

The most effective managers are exceptional time managers, not only of their own time, but also of the time of their employees. Distractions are the biggest time wasters and they destroy focus.

Most time management coaching centers on tasks, priorities, to-do lists, and minimizing distractions. However, by communicating more effectively you will reduce the number of interruptions to your day. Your people will be more focused and productive. Rather than being a time waster that many believe it to be, constant and consistent communication within an agreed and focused communication strategy is key to improving time management of leaders, managers and employees across your organization.

To ensure that your communication strategy and technique is effective, contact Forward Focus today to learn how we can help to develop your communication skills and engage your employees at all levels.

 

Is Constant Communication Your #1 Time Management Challenge?

Communication time wasters and how to overcome them

Time management is a key skill for leaders and managers to embed into their armory, but few rank communication skills as a time management issue. Yet statistics show that poor communication costs a team 280 hours of productive time each year.

To put this number into even greater context, the 2018 Holmes Report estimated that the cost of poor communication in large companies (with more than 100,000 employees) average $62.4 million per company every year. Further, the cumulative loss in productivity equates to a massive $26,041 per worker because of communication barriers.

In this article, we examine why constant communication is essential and look at the time wasters and how to overcome them as you seek to make constant communication a central strategy in your time management as a leader.

Why is constant communication essential?

Poor communication is a widespread problem in today’s organisations. How well your organisation performs is largely due to its ability to communicate from the top down. When communication is not consistent, meaning is misunderstood, intention is misaligned, and confusion reigns. There are five key ways in which constant – and consistent – communication positively affects an organisation.

1. Constant Communication Creates Certainty

A lack of communication causes employees to feel less certain about their role, their responsibilities, and their value to the organisation. It causes concern about how your organisation is doing, and this undermines employee and team confidence. In turn, this damages trust and morale.

A constant flow of information, communicated consistently, alleviates uncertainty, and helps to develop mutual trust between the organisation, its leaders and managers, and its employees.

2. Constant Communication Quashes Gossip

The water cooler is busiest in those organisations in which employees are ill informed. Our nature as human beings is to solve problems – and what bigger problem is there than trying to figure out what is happening with your employer?

People will leap to their own conclusions, discuss these with their colleagues, and present persuasive arguments that compel others to spread rumors and fill in the gaps left by an absence of communication from managers. This is not only true of organisational issues, but also on a more personal level, too:

Gossip spreads fear and resentment, and dents morale. It can harm motivation and cause widespread mistrust. Open and honest communication with colleagues and employees builds trust and improves morale.

3. Constant Communication Improves Productivity

When managers communicate poorly, employees are often left second-guessing what they should be doing. They are reduced to asking others for confirmation of their role and how to do their tasks – causing a knock-on effect of interruption and delay.

Perhaps worse, those who are not sure of what it is they should be doing – or why – undertake their tasks with hesitation and uncertainty. They muddle through, and often complete their jobs with errors that must be fixed. This damages productivity, causes deadlines to be missed, and results in more management time being ‘wasted’ by recommunicating what was poorly communicated previously.

4. Constant Communication Improves the Customer Experience

As poor communication causes uncertainty, as well as a rise in unhelpful rumors and a drop in productivity, the next item on the list to be damaged will be your customers’ experiences. Mistrust, uncertainty and low morale eventually affects customers – usually in the form of poor customer service and substandard products.

When communication is precise, consistent and constant, there should be no misunderstanding that seeps into the customer experience. Closing gaps in communication ensures that mistakes are avoided, and that problems are solved effectively and efficiently.

5. Constant Communication Reduces Employee Turnover

It is often said that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses. Many studies have dived deeper than this overarching generalization, and found that poor communication lies at the heart of high turnover problems.

For example, a 2019 study by Peakon found that communication was the second-highest ranked factor when employees were asked ,”If you had a magic wand, what’s the one thing you would change about your organisation?” It comes second only to pay, and sits immediately above management.

People want to feel satisfied at work. They want to know they are doing a good job, and that their work matters to their boss, their organisation, and the organisation’s customers. If you don’t communicate these things to your employees constantly, they will soon start to feel unhappy and begin to shut down. Then they will seek a new job elsewhere.

Poor communication is a time waster

Not only does poor communication damage productivity, morale, and employee turnover, it also wastes a huge amount of a manager’s time.

Interruptions and distractions come in many forms, and it has been calculated that they cost managers an average of around three hours each day. Improving how you communicate as a leader can reduce this, and lead to better team performance.

Managers who communicate effectively will suffer fewer interruptions from employees who need instructions confirmed. Effective communication is also key to empowering employees to seek their own solutions – leading to fewer interruptions down the line and a more efficient and collaborative team.

Building in time to communicate constantly is a key technique for managers to embed in their time management habits.

Why leaders and managers must communicate constantly and more effectively

Effective communication skills enable managers to manage their time more effectively and improve their own personal productivity. As an effective communicator, a manager will be able to:

Effective communicators organize their time and their teams more efficiently, using the right channels and strategies to communicate with teams and individuals.

10 Steps to improve the communication ability of leaders and managers

Here are 10 steps that leaders and managers can follow to improve their communication ability within their time management framework.

1. Commit to Improving Communication

There is no time like the present to improve your communication skills as a manager and as a team. Effective communication is a skill that must be learned and, in a world in which communication channels and possibilities are continually evolving, continually reassessed and improved.

It’s also necessary to regularly review how you communicate with your team, allocating the right resources and delivering messages in ways that resonate with your employees.

2. Look in the Mirror

Much of your communication is likely to be made face-to-face. Have you ever considered what your employees and colleagues see when you are speaking and listening? Watching yourself speaking in a mirror can begin the process of improving your outward appearance to others.

It is also necessary to learn more about yourself to become a more effective communicator. Assessments we provide to help you do this include:

Assessments such as these are often the first step in developing leadership and management plans and improving your communication skills.

3. Know Your People

Understanding your team and the individuals within your team is essential to communicating effectively with them and bridging gaps in multigenerational teams. Understanding individual cultures and how these impact behaviours helps you to ensure that your messages are meaningful to all.

4. Develop a Communication Strategy

Work with your team to develop a communication strategy and then create an action plan to ensure that it is executed effectively. You’ll need to assess the needs of your team, understand the outcomes you wish to achieve, and commit to positive communication daily.

5. Listen

Listen to the concerns of your team and actively seek suggestions. No strategy or plan is infallible, so constantly seek ways to improve your communication strategy and methods. Listening and acting on feedback is critical – it demonstrates that you respect and value your people.

6. Learn to Say ‘No’

As a manager, you are not immune to having tasks delegated to you. Be prepared to challenge this by learning how to question reasons and value to you and your team. If it is right that work is assigned to your team, you must have a clear understanding of:

It is important to raise objections and questions before accepting tasks, get all the information you need, and, finally, to be able to say ‘no’.

7. Delegate Effectively

When delegating work to individual employees or to your team, ensure that you provide all the information they need to be able to do the work to a high standard. Consider the questions that you would ask and provide clear instructions that answer all of these. Make sure that you tie the work delegated to ability, capability, goals and purpose.

While you shouldn’t micromanage your team, make sure that you check in on them regularly and that you provide the support they need, when they need it.

8. Improve Your Own Teamwork by Communicating Better

As a leader or manager, you will be working with both superiors and subordinates. Communicating effectively is key to your success in teamwork, and to do this you should get to know your colleagues better.

Learn about others’ goals, objectives and aspirations. Remember that while goals may be the same, the reasons for aspiring to them may be different. People have different skillsets, and this includes different communication abilities. You should be mindful of the ability of others to communicate when you are communicating with them, and ensure that the meaning of what you have said is understood by all.

9. Employ Appropriate Communication Channels

When developing your communication plan, it is critical to ensure that you communicate on the most appropriate channels. Managing internal communications in the omnichannel workplace effectively will enable you to:

As well as communicating to different people in different ways, and ensuring that your message is consistent in the omnichannel environment, you should also consider what communication channel is best for which type of message.

Many managers rely on email when communicating with their teams. However, this reduces the urgency of the message. Email isn’t designed for emergencies or high-priority communications. Also, the overuse of emails ensures that both you and your team suffer constant distractions (which is why some of the best time managers only visit their email inbox once or twice a day).

Sensitive and urgent communication is better executed either by phone or, preferably, in person.

Set your communication guidelines early in your communication strategy planning, and ensure that these are adhered to by all.

10. Set a time for interruptions

Perhaps one of the most effective ways to overcome time wasters is to set a time for interruptions. Setting aside an hour each day when your door is ‘open for questions’ means that you are more likely to not be disturbed the rest of the day.

You may decide to set an hour before or after lunch, for example, when your employees can come into your office to discuss problems they have or help they may need. By doing so, you train your team to interrupting you only during this time, and prevent suffering from the need to constantly refocus after interruptions throughout the day.

In summary

The most effective managers are exceptional time managers, not only of their own time, but also of the time of their employees. Distractions are the biggest time wasters and they destroy focus.

Most time management coaching centers on tasks, priorities, to-do lists, and minimizing distractions. However, by communicating more effectively you will reduce the number of interruptions to your day. Your people will be more focused and productive. Rather than being a time waster that many believe it to be, constant and consistent communication within an agreed and focused communication strategy is key to improving time management of leaders, managers and employees across your organisation.

To ensure that your communication strategy and technique is effective, contact Forward Focus today to learn how we can help to develop your communication skills and engage your employees at all levels.

 

The Role of Emotion in Interpersonal Communication

In the previous article in this series, I discussed the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication and looked at how body language plays a vital part in the role of emotion in interpersonal communication. Your body language communicates energy, passion, reluctance, and a whole range of other emotions. I concluded with the need to gain greater understanding of the connection between emotional intelligence and nonverbal communication in order to use body language more effectively.

In this article I want to dig a little deeper, and gain a greater insight into the art of communicating effectively and the role of emotion in interpersonal communication.

Defining effective communication

Believing that communication is the act of exchanging ideas is too narrow a definition. It is far more than this. Think about the way in which we communicate, how people talk, and the signals they provide. Communication is more than simple words: effective communication is a two-way exchange of information, emotions, and intentions.

When you are able to communicate effectively, you will be able to form deeper relationships, build an alliance of teamwork, commit yourself and others more easily to responsibility, and increase your problem solving ability. To communicate effectively requires adept skills that include listening, assertiveness, nonverbal techniques, emotional intelligence, and the ability to manage stress.

Identifying the role of emotion in interpersonal communication

Emotion plays a large part in our ability to communicate effectively. The best communicators use emotion in a positive manner, evidencing passion, drive, energy, trust, and calmness. However, this skill is one that needs to be learned: it is a natural human trait for our emotions to cloud our ability to communicate, giving away our feelings and disrupting our ability to communicate effectively.

Stress: the devil that destroys effective communication

The major road block in establishing and continuing effective communication is stress. This may be caused by a number of factors – some work related, others of a more personal nature – but whatever the cause, surrender to stress results in a lessened ability to listen and read other people as well as an increased likelihood of giving out false signals.

When poor communication is stress-led, all parties can degenerate to knee-jerk reaction. An emotionally intelligent person is better able to manage their stress and reactions as well as the reactions of others.

Everyday exercises to help manage stress

When considering the role of emotion in interpersonal communication, stress management is one of the top strategies to adopt. When you are able to manage stress in a variety of situations, not only will you communicate more effectively but you will earn the reputation of being a calm and fast-thinker, and able decision maker.

If you realize that you are becoming stressed, here are a few everyday exercises to help you manage stress levels and communicate in a calmer, more effective manner:

4 steps to remain stress free and communicate more effectively

  1. Take a moment to breath
    Don’t rush to respond. Take a second or two to breathe, gather thoughts, and process information received. Don’t think it negative to ask for clarification of a question or previous statement – this gives you time to think about how to answer.
  2. Communicate one point at a time
    Listeners have a limited time-frame of concentration. It is better to communicate one point at a time, use examples to clarify your position, and allow the other person a chance to respond accordingly. This gives you a chance to consider reaction, while drawing the correspondent into a more meaningful exchange, building mutual trust and respect.
  3. Use body language effectively
    Think about your body language as you speak. Maintain eye contact, speak in an even tone, and speak clearly and concisely. Choose words carefully, relax, and open yourself to the communication exchange.
  4. It helps to clarify your position
    Having spoken, summarize your position and what you have said. Then allow the other correspondent to talk. Even if there is silence, don’t feel the need to continue.

In later articles, I’ll explore further communication techniques as we build out the foundations of the deeper emotional intelligence that will empower the effectiveness of your communication capabilities.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

The Role of Emotion in Interpersonal Communication

In the previous article in this series, I discussed the difference between verbal and nonverbal communication and looked at how body language plays a vital part in the role of emotion in interpersonal communication. Your body language communicates energy, passion, reluctance, and a whole range of other emotions. I concluded with the need to gain greater understanding of the connection between emotional intelligence and nonverbal communication in order to use body language more effectively.

In this article I want to dig a little deeper, and gain a greater insight into the art of communicating effectively and the role of emotion in interpersonal communication.

Defining effective communication

Believing that communication is the act of exchanging ideas is too narrow a definition. It is far more than this. Think about the way in which we communicate, how people talk, and the signals they provide. Communication is more than simple words: effective communication is a two-way exchange of information, emotions, and intentions.

When you are able to communicate effectively, you will be able to form deeper relationships, build an alliance of teamwork, commit yourself and others more easily to responsibility, and increase your problem solving ability. To communicate effectively requires adept skills that include listening, assertiveness, nonverbal techniques, emotional intelligence, and the ability to manage stress.

Identifying the role of emotion in interpersonal communication

Emotion plays a large part in our ability to communicate effectively. The best communicators use emotion in a positive manner, evidencing passion, drive, energy, trust, and calmness. However, this skill is one that needs to be learned: it is a natural human trait for our emotions to cloud our ability to communicate, giving away our feelings and disrupting our ability to communicate effectively.

Stress: the devil that destroys effective communication

The major road block in establishing and continuing effective communication is stress. This may be caused by a number of factors – some work related, others of a more personal nature – but whatever the cause, surrender to stress results in a lessened ability to listen and read other people as well as an increased likelihood of giving out false signals.

When poor communication is stress-led, all parties can degenerate to knee-jerk reaction. An emotionally intelligent person is better able to manage their stress and reactions as well as the reactions of others.

Everyday exercises to help manage stress

When considering the role of emotion in interpersonal communication, stress management is one of the top strategies to adopt. When you are able to manage stress in a variety of situations, not only will you communicate more effectively but you will earn the reputation of being a calm and fast-thinker, and able decision maker.

If you realize that you are becoming stressed, here are a few everyday exercises to help you manage stress levels and communicate in a calmer, more effective manner:

4 steps to remain stress free and communicate more effectively

  1. Take a moment to breath
    Don’t rush to respond. Take a second or two to breathe, gather thoughts, and process information received. Don’t think it negative to ask for clarification of a question or previous statement – this gives you time to think about how to answer.
  2. Communicate one point at a time
    Listeners have a limited time-frame of concentration. It is better to communicate one point at a time, use examples to clarify your position, and allow the other person a chance to respond accordingly. This gives you a chance to consider reaction, while drawing the correspondent into a more meaningful exchange, building mutual trust and respect.
  3. Use body language effectively
    Think about your body language as you speak. Maintain eye contact, speak in an even tone, and speak clearly and concisely. Choose words carefully, relax, and open yourself to the communication exchange.
  4. It helps to clarify your position
    Having spoken, summarize your position and what you have said. Then allow the other correspondent to talk. Even if there is silence, don’t feel the need to continue.

In later articles, I’ll explore further communication techniques as we build out the foundations of the deeper emotional intelligence that will empower the effectiveness of your communication capabilities.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

7 Ways to Motivate Your Team

Leading via the link between motivation and engagement

Many studies, surveys and polls have concluded that employee engagement is key to building a successful business, leading change initiatives, and developing high-performance teams. In its eighth meta-analysis measuring the effects of employee engagement, Gallup found that:

Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organizations, 65% in low-turnover organizations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).

Given so many positives of employee engagement, it is little wonder that organizations are continually finding ways to increase employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement describes how people are committed to the work they do and the values and mission of the organization for whom they work. They are happy team players who are invested in their colleagues, their team, and their organization.

In other words, they are motivated to turn up, help others, and do the best work they can. However, engagement is not quite the same as motivation, but a complimentary quality – a key ingredient in employee engagement. For example, motivated employees feel that their work is meaningful, while engaged employees are emotionally committed to their work. Good leaders motivate their employees to be engaged.

How to engage employees with motivational tactics

Many motivational techniques will serve the simultaneous objectives of engaging employees and developing a high-performing team. Here are seven of the techniques used by successful managers and leaders.

1.      Share the big picture to give them purpose

Share your vision with your employees, helping them to see how they fit into the achievement of that vision by providing tasks that help the team progress toward its goals. This will provide the purpose they need to engage with the big picture.

2.      Motivate individuals to motivate the team

Each member of a team will have individual aspirations, goals and objectives. It is a manager’s responsibility to learn what makes their employees tick, and how to create the environment where the needs of individuals can be activated to improve the team.

Listen to ideas, learn from their experiences, and recycle into the team environment, showing how individual success can propel the team to greater teamwork. This personal and individual approach will help to incentivise employees with a clear understanding of the power of collaboration.

3.      Give trust

Give trust to your employees, and show that you trust their abilities by handing over responsibility. This responsibility may be given through providing specific tasks that challenge, or by asking an employee to manage a project sub-team, or perhaps requesting that a team member act as chair in a team meeting. There are many opportunities to share responsibilities and give trust each day – these should be used.

4.      Motivate with milestones

Lofty goals often remain unaccomplished because they seem so far away, and unachievable. This serves to demotivate and disengage. Focus instead on smaller, challenging but achievable milestones that will help individuals and teams progress. Reward achievement of each milestone, and reinforce how much nearer it takes the team to its final target.

5.      Reward performance based upon feedback

Value performance and attitude by recording, measuring and rewarding feedback from clients, suppliers, colleagues and other stakeholders. Seek to reward the expected behaviors that help to drive teamwork and promote the organization.

6.      Energise the team by exampling expected behaviors

Employees follow the lead of their managers and the organization’s leaders. An enthusiastic, energetic leader who exudes positivity toward work and the organization’s values and goals is more likely to create that energy within his or her team.

7.      Communicate openly

Be transparent about company goals and progress. Hide nothing, so that there are no surprises. Allow people the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions, and provide honest feedback. Always show respect in the communication process, and include team members in the decision-making process, valuing their contribution and helping them to understand their value to the organization.

Conclusion

Employee engagement and employee motivation work hand in hand to energize teams in the work they do and the goals of the organization. When team leaders, supervisors and managers employ effective motivation strategies, the team should become a more collaborative and cohesive unit, fixed on the achievement of individual and team goals. This level of engagement could transform a team’s results.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers to redefine their own behaviors and embed the leadership techniques to build high-performing teams.

How to Give Feedback Effectively

Giving Feedback Effectively

2009 Gallup survey of more than 1,000 US-based employees sought to qualify the impact of feedback on employees. Its findings are insightful:

The conclusion drawn by the study is that the tools, techniques, and strategies that a manager uses when giving feedback have a huge impact on employee engagement.

In this article I’ll discuss why feedback is crucial, the basis of an effective feedback strategy, and one of the key tools that provide a framework for constructive feedback.

Why is feedback so crucial?

Many studies have shown that engaged employees work more productively. They provide impetus toward shared vision, values, and goals. When you energize employees to perform at their peak, the impact on performance at individual and team levels is clear – and this directly benefits your bottom line.

To be engaged in your future vision, an employee needs to feel wanted. They need to know that their contribution is valued, and that they are helping the organization reach its goals.

When a manager provides no feedback, the employee feels ignored. When someone feels ignored, they feel unimportant. Even negative feedback is better than this.

Setting the scene for constructive feedback

For feedback to be given, listened to, and then acted upon, there are some ground rules that must be observed. I call these the ‘tools for the road’.

When you drive the highway, you first need to know your destination. You need to know what you and others can control. For example:

In the workplace this means setting clear expectations for your employees. For example, provide examples of work products that clearly reflect the quality and detail you expect from an individual.

Let your people know explicitly what they control, and provide a continuum for feedback. Remember also that feedback is a two-way street. It is about listening, understanding, and acting.

Techniques for giving and receiving feedback

When providing feedback, it is important to be on point. Feedback must be specific to behavior.

For example, saying someone is doing a good job may raise a smile, but is a short-lived ‘throw-away’ appraisal. What is that person good at? What is it that they are doing which can be used as best practice, and inform the behavior of others?

Consider which is the better and more effective feedback of the following:

“You’re working well on these reports. Well done.”

or…

“I see you’ve put in a process to reduce the time it takes to process these reports. That’s great work, and something we could use across the whole company.”

In brief, there are five elements of constructive feedback. It should be:

Making your feedback effective using a simple feedback framework

To make feedback effective (that is to say, something that will leave a positive, engaging impact on the employee) I recommend following the situation-behavior-impact (SBI) model. This model ensures that you hit the five elements of constructive feedback I highlighted above. For example:

Capture the situation

“In yesterday’s team meeting…”

Describe the behavior

“…you interrupted constantly.”

Describe the impact

“This forced your colleagues to shut down. Consequently, we weren’t able to discuss their ideas and arrive at a team-based solution to our problem.”

From this specific feedback, you will be able to discuss behavior, and jointly produce a plan of action that the employee can use to improve his or her performance.

How to receive feedback

As I said earlier, feedback is a two-way street. A good manager encourages his or her people to provide feedback on him or her. Doing so will aid your development as a leader, and further promote engagement. When receiving feedback, you should follow these bullet point rules:

If your people appear distant, disengaged, or disenfranchised, then you may need to brush up on your feedback technique. If you don’t provide effective discussion of performance, you are doing yourself, your employee, and your organization a severe injustice.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

Long Live Continuous Dialogue!

Understanding and harnessing employee engagement is something that has challenged organizations and their leaders for decades.

Despite the ground-breaking book from Buckingham and Coffman, First, Break all the Rules, in 1999 which popularised the Gallup Q12 survey tool and shone a light on the ways in which managers can engage and motivate their staff – business leaders still struggle with the issues, attitudes and performance of their staff.

And, it’s really not that surprising, given the period of rapid technological growth and now the acceleration of home-working over the last year, our people are now potentially on 24-7 availability; the pressure to perform has increased (just look at the impact of forced ranking if you want evidence of this!); the emphasis on short-term outputs is greater than ever. And, CEOs still want to be able to talk about the numeric employee engagement as part of their dialogue with stakeholders and investors; almost, without understanding the drivers that create authentic and meaningful engagement.

Organisations and HR teams are faced with the associated challenges of needing to decide how to pursue an effective employee engagement strategy: the dichotomy being how to provide meaningful information to managers and stakeholders whilst also developing actionable information that will drive greater employee commitment to doing a great job.

What is employee engagement anyway?

Academics have argued hard and long about the provenance, characteristics and effects of employee engagement. And some, Professor Rob Briner for example don’t even acknowledge the existence of such a construct. A simple definition is employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organization and put discretionary effort into their work.

The annual employee survey has been a popular method for understanding employee mindset. However, the answers given will only provide part of the picture of current workforce attitudes.

There are issues of timing: once a year may not capture the full story. And, individual attitude and the influences on that at a given time may not reflect one’s true sense of passion for the job. There are also the particular pressures at work at the time of completion; as well as other prevailing personal pressures. The output from a survey is expressed as a set of percentages, X% agree/disagree with statement Y, but why do they agree/disagree?

In short, the annual survey enables businesses to understand what issues individuals are facing, but not the why that may lie behind these problems.

The problem with focus groups

For businesses hoping to receive clearer insight into the results of their annual survey, one of the common approaches traditionally has been to hold a series of focus groups, where individuals have the chance to air their opinion in a controlled setting. While undoubtedly offering a number of benefits, including the ability to talk directly with team members and hear about their grievances, attitudes, daily headaches, etc, there are many reasons to change this practice in future, as we’ll now explain.

Focus groups are:

  1. Not always representative
  2. Expensive, if done properly
  3. Not timely
  4. A platform for the loudest voices
  5. Insensitive – not all issues can be discussed in the open forum of a focus group
  6. Time-limited
  7. Sometimes biased by the facilitator and circumstances
  8. Potentially a breeding ground for discontent – completely counter-productive

 

As you can see, the problems surrounding the use of focus groups to delve into employee issues are many; and often, the outcomes that are achieved based on this practice are not adequate to fully resolve engagement issues for staff.

So, what can organizations do about it?

Ultimately, for an organization that hopes to achieve a timely, in-depth and accurate snapshot of the levels of engagement within their business, there needs to be a shift in approach from the staid application of surveys and focus groups to follow.

Surveys can be a positive tool for organizations to continue to make use of, but the way this information is collated and acted upon needs to change. Once complete, the next stage should be to properly assess the responses and pinpoint those segments of respondents that raise interesting issues whether good or bad – and then return to them to expand on their responses.

This process of a more targeted dialogue allows a business to start a conversation with their staff. It means that serious problems can be addressed in a more thoughtful, personable and sensitive manner, hopefully leading to more effective and lasting change.

How to do this without breaking confidentiality or putting people ‘on the spot’?

Primeast has recently formed a powerful new relationship with Peachy Mondays, an organization that has solved this conundrum. They have developed an anonymous employee feedback platform that gives deep insight in days rather than months. It allows you to capture WHAT your people feel, have targeted anonymous dialogue to find out WHY, and efficiently manage and analyze responses at enterprise scale. This opens up the subject of employee engagement, staff opinions and meaningful two-way employee communications to new opportunities.

David Evans, Primeast Associate, recently met with Gordon Adam, Peachy Mondays co-founder. He explained that the simple and flexible survey tool that he and his partner, James Anderson, have created answers the killer-questions that employee surveys raise, quickly, effectively and anonymously.

“It’s the issue of anonymity that has defeated other efforts to get below the surface of employee opinion,” Gordon says. “If people’s privacy can be assured, so that they can explain safely why they replied to certain questions the way they did, surveys really can surface the issues and root-causes that will otherwise remain hidden or at least ambiguous. As they fester and spread, they will erode employee engagement.”

Peachy Mondays can offer a simple, quick and revealing solution to employee opinion, and Primeast sees it as a compelling diagnostic tool for the work we do in people and organizational development.

Beating the confines of dead-end data

Drilling deeper into the responses of staff means the information contained in employee surveys can be used more as a starting point in delivering improved levels of engagement, rather than it being an end in itself, as is sometimes now the case.

By overhauling employee engagement programs to focus on specific issues and individual responses, data become an avenue to creating a program for further evaluation and the means to take positive action. Through follow-up surveys, one-to-one intervention and a targeted approach to individual problems, issues that plague organizational performance can be more easily defined and addressed. At the same time, staff themselves can be reassured their problems are being listened to.

You can find out more about the importance of better understanding employee behavior and attitudes, as well as the need to bridge gaps in communication at all levels of any successful organization, by reading Transparent communication at the heart of business performance.

For more about Peachy Mondays, visit wwww.peachymondays.com

When Conversations Get Tough

Be purposeful and creative, rather than reactive

Tough conversations matter. And in tough conversations, one of the biggest challenges is to get the right balance between being assertive and empathic. Being effectively assertive allows you to express what’s important to you; the things you need, your perspective; as well as what concerns you about the situation. Being effectively empathic means you work hard to understand the other person’s perspective and are able to express their views without adding any kind of judgemental twist.

How to start

A good place to start could be thinking about how you typically approach ‘conflict’, remembering ‘conflict’ can be anything on a spectrum from violent disagreement to simple differences of opinion. It’s helpful to reflect on the following:

By stepping back and thinking how your tendencies will drive how you are likely to react in this kind of scenario, you can choose to be more purposeful and respond in a way that helps create the right conditions to solve the problem together.

7 Top tips for managing difficult conversations

Conversations that could potentially become tough ones really matter. Give them the attention and thought they deserve.

How to have Open & Honest Conversation with Colleagues

When asked to describe the virtues that make a great team player, Patrick Lencioni told Forbes that an employee needs to be three things: humble, hungry, and smart. He then went on to describe these attributes as:

The smart element brings me to the role of emotional intelligence in interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. It’s the secret to open and honest conversation with colleagues.

Emotional Intelligence: the key to unlock team capability

The higher your emotional intelligence, the more confident and adaptable you are likely to be. Within a team-based organization, your emotional intelligence is a determinant of your value to the team. It dictates your ability to communicate with openness and honesty, and this encourages others to do likewise. It is this that leads to complete trust and the deeper intrapersonal relationships that drive team coherence and success.

What emotional intelligence traits do you possess?

The traits of an emotionally intelligent person include:

Communicating in an open and honest manner is key to developing a greater understanding, more empathy, and an improved awareness of others. Your relationships will become deeper and more trusting. The key to achieving this level of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships is to work to improve your emotional intelligence.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees, by improving your:

Is Technology Destroying Communication in the Workplace?

Why are we more connected, yet many feel disconnected?

There is no doubt that the COVID-19-induced recession would have been far worse had it not been for technology. Our ability to communicate and collaborate in real time allowed millions of workers to stay at home and remain productive. Video technology enabled people to connect socially, even though they were apart. We may never know the extent to which communication technology helped to avoid mental health issues caused by enforced isolation.

However, there is a dark side of technology, too. It is rarely discussed or considered. Yet organizations must answer the big question that this dark side poses. Is technology destroying communication in the workplace? Moreover, how can you ensure it doesn’t?

Why communication is important in the workplace

Let’s first look at why effective communication is so important in the workplace.

Good communication is crucial to sharing information

If information is not shared effectively, your people won’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it. Collaboration will be crushed. Innovation will grind to a halt. Obvious, isn’t it? Yet, Dynamic Signal found that almost three quarters of employees feel that they are missing out on company information and news.

Communication shapes attitudes

The better informed you are, the better your attitude is likely to be. Misinformed – or uninformed – employees are distrustful of their employer. They spread gossip and increase resistance to change. Lexicon found that 80% of Americans say that communication with employees is key to developing trust with their employees.

Good communication motivates employees

Clarity of purpose engages employees in vision and mission, and motivates them to go the extra mile. According to a survey by JobsInME, 85% of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news. Equally damaging, Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that only 23% of executives say their companies are excellent at aligning employees’ goals with their organization’s purpose.

Communication is critical to the governance of behavior

Employees must comply with an organization’s policies and procedures. Without these communicated effectively, an organization risks spiraling into pseudo-anarchism – especially the flatter hierarchies prevalent in today’s organizational structures. Salesforce found that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Communication is key to employees working effectively

Clear and concise instructions enable employees to carry out tasks efficiently. Miscommunication leads to tasks taking longer to do and being done below the standards expected. Yet an Interact Survey reported in the Harvard Business Review found that 57% of employees report not being given clear directions, and 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with the employees in general.

Get your communication strategy right, and your organization will benefit from:

The communication journey seen through technological change

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, all communication was verbal and face-to-face. Then humans learned to write, and within just a few centuries we were able to send letters oversea and thousands of miles away. With luck, we would receive news within a couple of weeks. Today we talk instantly, in real time, via video link.

Business has followed a similar path. First, we had memos. Along came the telephone. Then faxes. Emails soon followed – and have stuck. As well as email communication, employees use instant messengers, video conferencing technology, and project management tools that integrate with all your other technology. The world of work has never had such ability to communicate internally and externally.

We are super connected. You only need to look at a few email statistics to see just how connected we are:

And yet, despite all this connectivity, the stats we shared earlier indicate that our workplace communication is failing.

What’s going wrong?

Technology has revolutionized the way we do business and the way we communicate in the workplace. But not all these changes have been positive.

Greater connectivity means that many people never switch off from work. This can cause stress in both personal and professional lives, and causes damaging work/life balance issues that eventually affect a person’s ability to do their work effectively. Here are five more ways in which the use of technology can damage communication in the workplace.

Technology dehumanizes communication

It is easier for people to take on false personas when they are not communicating face-to-face. Emailing, texting and instant messaging give the user a certain amount of anonymity, and behaviors can change. This is especially recognizable with social media use.

Misconstrued messages

80% of message is conveyed by nonverbal communication (body language). Even when we are not sure of the meaning of the words used, it is usually possible to understand the message by contextualizing with nonverbal communication and the verbalized words around it.

In addition, when communicating in writing – especially when we are unsure of our audience – it is more likely that we will write things that are misunderstood culturally. This is becoming more common within remote and geographically dispersed teams. There are nuances in how people are addressed and how tone is conveyed. Even among English speaking countries, differences in language can cause confusion (in England, for example, chips are crisps, and fries are chips).

Communication by technology can be thoughtless

Emails, instant messages, and other communications can be easily forwarded. A difficult message is not reframed for the individual or team to who it is sent. Such messages can damage trust and create emotional responses that are out of character from the recipient.

Technology has eliminated privacy

What is done cannot be undone. An email, video or message on a project management application is there to be retrieved when needed. An emotional response via email may receive a wider audience than intended. No longer are there quiet conversations between conflicted parties which lead to mutual understanding with privacy ensured.

Communication technology can cause social isolation

Organizations are utilizing internal social networks more extensively. These enable connectivity and sharing of information, best practices, and ‘outside work’ topics. Connected people collaborate better, right?

Being connected by technology does not give the same warm feeling as being connected personally. The connections are shallower and less meaningful. Despite the super connectivity today, a study by the Cigna Health Insurance Company fond that loneliness among Americans is at epidemic proportions. We are only just starting to understand the mental health issues related to the social connection that technology affords us. But we don’t need studies to tell us what so many of us already know. The COVID-19 lockdown has brought home our basic human need to be with other people.

Enhancing the positives of technology and eliminating the negatives

Advancing technology is enabling organizations to hire the best talent no matter where it is located. It is empowering greater collaboration than we ever thought possible. People can now work together, on a single connected network in real time. Without the communication technology that we have, the economic damage caused by COVID-19 would have been many times greater.

However, organizations must also understand that technology in communication can have damaging effects. Used without high regard to the message being conveyed and the recipient for which it is intended, that message can be misinterpreted and therefore damaging to individuals, teams, and even the organization.

Over-reliance on technology can lead to people feeling isolated, and this can lead to mental health issues that could otherwise be avoided. There are also privacy issues surrounding online communications, and the issue of how much time we spend receiving, reading, deciphering, and answering communications to us.

To take advantage of all the benefits that technology in communication offers, it is crucial to ensure that organizations implement policies and guidelines for how technology should be used to communicate. Such policies might include:

Technology has the potential to advance and enhance business and the human experience. It is in the hands of business leaders to ensure that this potential is reached – organizational sustainability depends upon it.

7 Steps to an Effective Internal Communications Plan Template

In a world threatened by information overload, organizational leaders have a responsibility for cutting through the fog and presenting a clear picture of vision, values, and strategy. In return, employees must be encouraged to offer feedback willingly and without fear.

Creating a two-way street of open and honest communication within the organization requires a strategic view. The following internal communications plan template will help your organization achieve this.

A more effective workplace with an internal communications plan template

Effective in-house communications begin at the senior level and filter down. Communication skills are the employee empowerment tools of inspirational leaders. As I’ve outlined previously:

An internal communications plan template will enable the leader to:

How to align the goals of internal communication

Many businesses fail to deliver on their stated values and vision because they fail to communicate them. In-house communications are found to be lacking in design and focus, even if external communications are excellent. By instigating an internal communications plan template, an organization will more effectively ensure that all employees are pulling together.

Here are 7 steps to create an effective internal communications plan template:

1.     Define the culture

Define the organizational goals, values, and vision. Require senior executives to live and breathe them, acting as examples of expected performance and working practices. If this step isn’t executed by the top level executives, those below them will see no reasons to engage.

2.     Define the audience

Put consistent audience targeting processes in place to identify key employee groups. Employee personas will help to develop effective communications and can be used to plan business strategy and release relevant news.

3.     Define appropriate messaging channels

Decide the best channel to connect with each unique persona, and develop a process that interconnects these at the center. This enables easy management of the internal communication plan template, and might feed into workplace calendars, intranet, social media, and news channels.

4.     Encourage feedback

Support employees to become involved in the communication process, making it easy for individuals and teams to offer feedback and creative ideas. This process will include open team meetings, intranet, and other engagement tools. This requires some mediation allowing those who would be afraid to speak up in front of others to have an equal opportunity to speak as those who offer opinions freely.

This process of engagement in internal communications encourages self-confidence, creativity, and ideation.

5.     Establish management control and measurement of effectiveness

Design a system of measuring the effectiveness of internal communication to enable continuous improvement. Metrics will depend upon the strategic vision of the organization, but will necessarily include the adoption of expected behaviors in line with the corporate culture.

6.     Coach employees in digital communication

Increase effectiveness of the internal communication plan template by ensuring staff are adept at using internal communications channels.

7.     Recognize performance

Put in place a process of recognition, rewarding individual and team performance to enhance the corporate culture. Congratulate hard work, innovation, and teamwork in action not just in concept.

An effective internal communications plan template requires a combination of systems, processes, and leadership. Of these, leadership is the key ingredient: without effective leadership, workplace communications will inevitably break down.

Producing a valuable internal communications strategy takes time, resource, and effort. Leaders will need to be coached in effective communications and benefit from high emotional intelligence, freeing themselves to opening performance enhancing communication channels between them and their employees.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

How to have Open & Honest Conversation with Colleagues

When asked to describe the virtues that make a great team player, Patrick Lencioni told Forbes that an employee needs to be three things: humble, hungry, and smart. He then went on to describe these attributes as:

The smart element brings me to the role of emotional intelligence in interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships. It’s the secret to open and honest conversation with colleagues.

Emotional Intelligence: the key to unlock team capability

The higher your emotional intelligence, the more confident and adaptable you are likely to be. Within a team-based organization, your emotional intelligence is a determinant of your value to the team. It dictates your ability to communicate with openness and honesty, and this encourages others to do likewise. It is this that leads to complete trust and the deeper intrapersonal relationships that drive team coherence and success.

What emotional intelligence traits do you possess?

The traits of an emotionally intelligent person include:

Communicating in an open and honest manner is key to developing a greater understanding, more empathy, and an improved awareness of others. Your relationships will become deeper and more trusting. The key to achieving this level of interpersonal and intrapersonal relationships is to work to improve your emotional intelligence.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers and employees, by improving your:

Is Technology Destroying Communication in the Workplace?

Why are we more connected, yet many feel disconnected?

There is no doubt that the COVID-19-induced recession would have been far worse had it not been for technology. Our ability to communicate and collaborate in real time allowed millions of workers to stay at home and remain productive. Video technology enabled people to connect socially, even though they were apart. We may never know the extent to which communication technology helped to avoid mental health issues caused by enforced isolation.

However, there is a dark side of technology, too. It is rarely discussed or considered. Yet organizations must answer the big question that this dark side poses. Is technology destroying communication in the workplace? Moreover, how can you ensure it doesn’t?

Why communication is important in the workplace

Let’s first look at why effective communication is so important in the workplace.

Good communication is crucial to sharing information

If information is not shared effectively, your people won’t know what they are doing or why they are doing it. Collaboration will be crushed. Innovation will grind to a halt. Obvious, isn’t it? Yet, Dynamic Signal found that almost three quarters of employees feel that they are missing out on company information and news.

Communication shapes attitudes

The better informed you are, the better your attitude is likely to be. Misinformed – or uninformed – employees are distrustful of their employer. They spread gossip and increase resistance to change. Lexicon found that 80% of Americans say that communication with employees is key to developing trust with their employees.

Good communication motivates employees

Clarity of purpose engages employees in vision and mission, and motivates them to go the extra mile. According to a survey by JobsInME, 85% of employees said they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news. Equally damaging, Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends report found that only 23% of executives say their companies are excellent at aligning employees’ goals with their organization’s purpose.

Communication is critical to the governance of behavior

Employees must comply with an organization’s policies and procedures. Without these communicated effectively, an organization risks spiraling into pseudo-anarchism – especially the flatter hierarchies prevalent in today’s organizational structures. Salesforce found that 86% of employees and executives cite lack of collaboration or ineffective communication for workplace failures.

Communication is key to employees working effectively

Clear and concise instructions enable employees to carry out tasks efficiently. Miscommunication leads to tasks taking longer to do and being done below the standards expected. Yet an Interact Survey reported in the Harvard Business Review found that 57% of employees report not being given clear directions, and 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with the employees in general.

Get your communication strategy right, and your organization will benefit from:

The communication journey seen through technological change

Once upon a time, many centuries ago, all communication was verbal and face-to-face. Then humans learned to write, and within just a few centuries we were able to send letters oversea and thousands of miles away. With luck, we would receive news within a couple of weeks. Today we talk instantly, in real time, via video link.

Business has followed a similar path. First, we had memos. Along came the telephone. Then faxes. Emails soon followed – and have stuck. As well as email communication, employees use instant messengers, video conferencing technology, and project management tools that integrate with all your other technology. The world of work has never had such ability to communicate internally and externally.

We are super connected. You only need to look at a few email statistics to see just how connected we are:

And yet, despite all this connectivity, the stats we shared earlier indicate that our workplace communication is failing.

What’s going wrong?

Technology has revolutionized the way we do business and the way we communicate in the workplace. But not all these changes have been positive.

Greater connectivity means that many people never switch off from work. This can cause stress in both personal and professional lives, and causes damaging work/life balance issues that eventually affect a person’s ability to do their work effectively. Here are five more ways in which the use of technology can damage communication in the workplace.

Technology dehumanizes communication

It is easier for people to take on false personas when they are not communicating face-to-face. Emailing, texting and instant messaging give the user a certain amount of anonymity, and behaviors can change. This is especially recognizable with social media use.

Misconstrued messages

80% of message is conveyed by nonverbal communication (body language). Even when we are not sure of the meaning of the words used, it is usually possible to understand the message by contextualizing with nonverbal communication and the verbalized words around it.

In addition, when communicating in writing – especially when we are unsure of our audience – it is more likely that we will write things that are misunderstood culturally. This is becoming more common within remote and geographically dispersed teams. There are nuances in how people are addressed and how tone is conveyed. Even among English speaking countries, differences in language can cause confusion (in England, for example, chips are crisps, and fries are chips).

Communication by technology can be thoughtless

Emails, instant messages, and other communications can be easily forwarded. A difficult message is not reframed for the individual or team to who it is sent. Such messages can damage trust and create emotional responses that are out of character from the recipient.

Technology has eliminated privacy

What is done cannot be undone. An email, video or message on a project management application is there to be retrieved when needed. An emotional response via email may receive a wider audience than intended. No longer are there quiet conversations between conflicted parties which lead to mutual understanding with privacy ensured.

Communication technology can cause social isolation

Organizations are utilizing internal social networks more extensively. These enable connectivity and sharing of information, best practices, and ‘outside work’ topics. Connected people collaborate better, right?

Being connected by technology does not give the same warm feeling as being connected personally. The connections are shallower and less meaningful. Despite the super connectivity today, a study by the Cigna Health Insurance Company fond that loneliness among Americans is at epidemic proportions. We are only just starting to understand the mental health issues related to the social connection that technology affords us. But we don’t need studies to tell us what so many of us already know. The COVID-19 lockdown has brought home our basic human need to be with other people.

Enhancing the positives of technology and eliminating the negatives

Advancing technology is enabling organizations to hire the best talent no matter where it is located. It is empowering greater collaboration than we ever thought possible. People can now work together, on a single connected network in real time. Without the communication technology that we have, the economic damage caused by COVID-19 would have been many times greater.

However, organizations must also understand that technology in communication can have damaging effects. Used without high regard to the message being conveyed and the recipient for which it is intended, that message can be misinterpreted and therefore damaging to individuals, teams, and even the organization.

Over-reliance on technology can lead to people feeling isolated, and this can lead to mental health issues that could otherwise be avoided. There are also privacy issues surrounding online communications, and the issue of how much time we spend receiving, reading, deciphering, and answering communications to us.

To take advantage of all the benefits that technology in communication offers, it is crucial to ensure that organizations implement policies and guidelines for how technology should be used to communicate. Such policies might include:

Technology has the potential to advance and enhance business and the human experience. It is in the hands of business leaders to ensure that this potential is reached – organizational sustainability depends upon it.

7 Steps to an Effective Internal Communications Plan Template

In a world threatened by information overload, organisational leaders have a responsibility for cutting through the fog and presenting a clear picture of vision, values, and strategy. In return, employees must be encouraged to offer feedback willingly and without fear.

Creating a two-way street of open and honest communication within the organisation requires a strategic view. The following internal communications plan template will help your organisation achieve this.

A more effective workplace with an internal communications plan template

Effective in-house communications begin at the senior level and filter down. Communication skills are the employee empowerment tools of inspirational leaders. As I’ve outlined previously:

An internal communications plan template will enable the leader to:

How to align the goals of internal communication

Many businesses fail to deliver on their stated values and vision because they fail to communicate them. In-house communications are found to be lacking in design and focus, even if external communications are excellent. By instigating an internal communications plan template, an organisation will more effectively ensure that all employees are pulling together.

Here are 7 steps to create an effective internal communications plan template:

1.     Define the culture

Define the organisational goals, values, and vision. Require senior executives to live and breathe them, acting as examples of expected performance and working practices. If this step isn’t executed by the top level executives, those below them will see no reasons to engage.

2.     Define the audience

Put consistent audience targeting processes in place to identify key employee groups. Employee personas will help to develop effective communications and can be used to plan business strategy and release relevant news.

3.     Define appropriate messaging channels

Decide the best channel to connect with each unique persona, and develop a process that interconnects these at the center. This enables easy management of the internal communication plan template, and might feed into workplace calendars, intranet, social media, and news channels.

4.     Encourage feedback

Support employees to become involved in the communication process, making it easy for individuals and teams to offer feedback and creative ideas. This process will include open team meetings, intranet, and other engagement tools. This requires some mediation allowing those who would be afraid to speak up in front of others to have an equal opportunity to speak as those who offer opinions freely.

This process of engagement in internal communications encourages self-confidence, creativity, and ideation.

5.     Establish management control and measurement of effectiveness

Design a system of measuring the effectiveness of internal communication to enable continuous improvement. Metrics will depend upon the strategic vision of the organisation, but will necessarily include the adoption of expected behaviours in line with the corporate culture.

6.     Coach employees in digital communication

Increase effectiveness of the internal communication plan template by ensuring staff are adept at using internal communications channels.

7.     Recognize performance

Put in place a process of recognition, rewarding individual and team performance to enhance the corporate culture. Congratulate hard work, innovation, and teamwork in action not just in concept.

An effective internal communications plan template requires a combination of systems, processes, and leadership. Of these, leadership is the key ingredient: without effective leadership, workplace communications will inevitably break down.

Producing a valuable internal communications strategy takes time, resource, and effort. Leaders will need to be coached in effective communications and benefit from high emotional intelligence, freeing themselves to opening performance enhancing communication channels between them and their employees.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

How to Give Feedback Effectively

Giving Feedback Effectively

2009 Gallup survey of more than 1,000 US-based employees sought to qualify the impact of feedback on employees. Its findings are insightful:

The conclusion drawn by the study is that the tools, techniques, and strategies that a manager uses when giving feedback have a huge impact on employee engagement.

In this article I’ll discuss why feedback is crucial, the basis of an effective feedback strategy, and one of the key tools that provide a framework for constructive feedback.

Why is feedback so crucial?

Many studies have shown that engaged employees work more productively. They provide impetus toward shared vision, values, and goals. When you energise employees to perform at their peak, the impact on performance at individual and team levels is clear – and this directly benefits your bottom line.

To be engaged in your future vision, an employee needs to feel wanted. They need to know that their contribution is valued, and that they are helping the organisation reach its goals.

When a manager provides no feedback, the employee feels ignored. When someone feels ignored, they feel unimportant. Even negative feedback is better than this.

Setting the scene for constructive feedback

For feedback to be given, listened to, and then acted upon, there are some ground rules that must be observed. I call these the ‘tools for the road’.

When you drive the highway, you first need to know your destination. You need to know what you and others can control. For example:

In the workplace this means setting clear expectations for your employees. For example, provide examples of work products that clearly reflect the quality and detail you expect from an individual.

Let your people know explicitly what they control, and provide a continuum for feedback. Remember also that feedback is a two-way street. It is about listening, understanding, and acting.

Techniques for giving and receiving feedback

When providing feedback, it is important to be on point. Feedback must be specific to behaviour.

For example, saying someone is doing a good job may raise a smile, but is a short-lived ‘throw-away’ appraisal. What is that person good at? What is it that they are doing which can be used as best practice, and inform the behaviour of others?

Consider which is the better and more effective feedback of the following:

“You’re working well on these reports. Well done.”

or…

“I see you’ve put in a process to reduce the time it takes to process these reports. That’s great work, and something we could use across the whole company.”

In brief, there are five elements of constructive feedback. It should be:

Making your feedback effective using a simple feedback framework

To make feedback effective (that is to say, something that will leave a positive, engaging impact on the employee) I recommend following the situation-behaviour-impact (SBI) model. This model ensures that you hit the five elements of constructive feedback I highlighted above. For example:

Capture the situation

“In yesterday’s team meeting…”

Describe the behaviour

“…you interrupted constantly.”

Describe the impact

“This forced your colleagues to shut down. Consequently, we weren’t able to discuss their ideas and arrive at a team-based solution to our problem.”

From this specific feedback, you will be able to discuss behaviour, and jointly produce a plan of action that the employee can use to improve his or her performance.

How to receive feedback

As I said earlier, feedback is a two-way street. A good manager encourages his or her people to provide feedback on him or her. Doing so will aid your development as a leader, and further promote engagement. When receiving feedback, you should follow these bullet point rules:

If your people appear distant, disengaged, or disenfranchised, then you may need to brush up on your feedback technique. If you don’t provide effective discussion of performance, you are doing yourself, your employee, and your organisation a severe injustice.

Contact Primeast today to discover how an Emotional Intelligence course will develop and embed effective personal skills in the workplace, for leaders, managers, and employees.

7 Ways to Motivate Your Team

Leading via the link between motivation and engagement

Many studies, surveys and polls have concluded that employee engagement is key to building a successful business, leading change initiatives, and developing high-performance teams. In its eighth meta-analysis measuring the effects of employee engagement, Gallup found that:

Work units in the top quartile in employee engagement outperformed bottom-quartile units by 10% on customer ratings, 22% in profitability, and 21% in productivity. Work units in the top quartile also saw significantly lower turnover (25% in high-turnover organisations, 65% in low-turnover organisations), shrinkage (28%), and absenteeism (37%) and fewer safety incidents (48%), patient safety incidents (41%), and quality defects (41%).

Given so many positives of employee engagement, it is little wonder that organisations are continually finding ways to increase employee engagement.

What is employee engagement?

Employee engagement describes how people are committed to the work they do and the values and mission of the organisation for whom they work. They are happy team players who are invested in their colleagues, their team, and their organisation.

In other words, they are motivated to turn up, help others, and do the best work they can. However, engagement is not quite the same as motivation, but a complimentary quality – a key ingredient in employee engagement. For example, motivated employees feel that their work is meaningful, while engaged employees are emotionally committed to their work. Good leaders motivate their employees to be engaged.

How to engage employees with motivational tactics

Many motivational techniques will serve the simultaneous objectives of engaging employees and developing a high-performing team. Here are seven of the techniques used by successful managers and leaders.

1.      Share the big picture to give them purpose

Share your vision with your employees, helping them to see how they fit into the achievement of that vision by providing tasks that help the team progress toward its goals. This will provide the purpose they need to engage with the big picture.

2.      Motivate individuals to motivate the team

Each member of a team will have individual aspirations, goals and objectives. It is a manager’s responsibility to learn what makes their employees tick, and how to create the environment where the needs of individuals can be activated to improve the team.

Listen to ideas, learn from their experiences, and recycle into the team environment, showing how individual success can propel the team to greater teamwork. This personal and individual approach will help to incentivise employees with a clear understanding of the power of collaboration.

3.      Give trust

Give trust to your employees, and show that you trust their abilities by handing over responsibility. This responsibility may be given through providing specific tasks that challenge, or by asking an employee to manage a project sub-team, or perhaps requesting that a team member act as chair in a team meeting. There are many opportunities to share responsibilities and give trust each day – these should be used.

4.      Motivate with milestones

Lofty goals often remain unaccomplished because they seem so far away, and unachievable. This serves to demotivate and disengage. Focus instead on smaller, challenging but achievable milestones that will help individuals and teams progress. Reward achievement of each milestone, and reinforce how much nearer it takes the team to its final target.

5.      Reward performance based upon feedback

Value performance and attitude by recording, measuring and rewarding feedback from clients, suppliers, colleagues and other stakeholders. Seek to reward the expected behaviours that help to drive teamwork and promote the organisation.

6.      Energise the team by exampling expected behaviours

Employees follow the lead of their managers and the organisation’s leaders. An enthusiastic, energetic leader who exudes positivity toward work and the organisation’s values and goals is more likely to create that energy within his or her team.

7.      Communicate openly

Be transparent about company goals and progress. Hide nothing, so that there are no surprises. Allow people the opportunity to voice concerns and ask questions, and provide honest feedback. Always show respect in the communication process, and include team members in the decision-making process, valuing their contribution and helping them to understand their value to the organisation.

Conclusion

Employee engagement and employee motivation work hand in hand to energise teams in the work they do and the goals of the organisation. When team leaders, supervisors and managers employ effective motivation strategies, the team should become a more collaborative and cohesive unit, fixed on the achievement of individual and team goals. This level of engagement could transform a team’s results.

Contact us today, and discover how we could help your managers to redefine their own behaviours and embed the leadership techniques to build high-performing teams.

Long Live Continuous Dialogue!

Understanding and harnessing employee engagement is something that has challenged organisations and their leaders for decades.

Despite the ground-breaking book from Buckingham and Coffman, First, Break all the Rules, in 1999 which popularised the Gallup Q12 survey tool and shone a light on the ways in which managers can engage and motivate their staff – business leaders still struggle with the issues, attitudes and performance of their staff.

And, it’s really not that surprising, given the period of rapid technological growth and now the acceleration of home-working over the last year, our people are now potentially on 24-7 availability; the pressure to perform has increased (just look at the impact of forced ranking if you want evidence of this!); the emphasis on short-term outputs is greater than ever. And, CEOs still want to be able to talk about the numeric employee engagement as part of their dialogue with stakeholders and investors; almost, without understanding the drivers that create authentic and meaningful engagement.

Organisations and HR teams are faced with the associated challenges of needing to decide how to pursue an effective employee engagement strategy: the dichotomy being how to provide meaningful information to managers and stakeholders whilst also developing actionable information that will drive greater employee commitment to doing a great job.

What is employee engagement anyway?

Academics have argued hard and long about the provenance, characteristics and effects of employee engagement. And some, Professor Rob Briner for example don’t even acknowledge the existence of such a construct. A simple definition is employee engagement is the extent to which employees feel passionate about their jobs, are committed to the organisation and put discretionary effort into their work.

The annual employee survey has been a popular method for understanding employee mindset. However, the answers given will only provide part of the picture of current workforce attitudes.

There are issues of timing: once a year may not capture the full story. And, individual attitude and the influences on that at a given time may not reflect one’s true sense of passion for the job. There are also the particular pressures at work at the time of completion; as well as other prevailing personal pressures. The output from a survey is expressed as a set of percentages, X% agree/disagree with statement Y, but why do they agree/disagree?

In short, the annual survey enables businesses to understand what issues individuals are facing, but not the why that may lie behind these problems.

The problem with focus groups

For businesses hoping to receive clearer insight into the results of their annual survey, one of the common approaches traditionally has been to hold a series of focus groups, where individuals have the chance to air their opinion in a controlled setting. While undoubtedly offering a number of benefits, including the ability to talk directly with team members and hear about their grievances, attitudes, daily headaches, etc, there are many reasons to change this practice in future, as we’ll now explain.

Focus groups are:

  1. Not always representative
  2. Expensive, if done properly
  3. Not timely
  4. A platform for the loudest voices
  5. Insensitive – not all issues can be discussed in the open forum of a focus group
  6. Time-limited
  7. Sometimes biased by the facilitator and circumstances
  8. Potentially a breeding ground for discontent – completely counter-productive

 

As you can see, the problems surrounding the use of focus groups to delve into employee issues are many; and often, the outcomes that are achieved based on this practice are not adequate to fully resolve engagement issues for staff.

So, what can organisations do about it?

Ultimately, for an organisation that hopes to achieve a timely, in-depth and accurate snapshot of the levels of engagement within their business, there needs to be a shift in approach from the staid application of surveys and focus groups to follow.

Surveys can be a positive tool for organisations to continue to make use of, but the way this information is collated and acted upon needs to change. Once complete, the next stage should be to properly assess the responses and pinpoint those segments of respondents that raise interesting issues whether good or bad – and then return to them to expand on their responses.

This process of a more targeted dialogue allows a business to start a conversation with their staff. It means that serious problems can be addressed in a more thoughtful, personable and sensitive manner, hopefully leading to more effective and lasting change.

How to do this without breaking confidentiality or putting people ‘on the spot’?

Primeast has recently formed a powerful new relationship with Peachy Mondays, an organisation that has solved this conundrum. They have developed an anonymous employee feedback platform that gives deep insight in days rather than months. It allows you to capture WHAT your people feel, have targeted anonymous dialogue to find out WHY, and efficiently manage and analyse responses at enterprise scale. This opens up the subject of employee engagement, staff opinions and meaningful two-way employee communications to new opportunities.

David Evans, Primeast Associate, recently met with Gordon Adam, Peachy Mondays co-founder. He explained that the simple and flexible survey tool that he and his partner, James Anderson, have created answers the killer-questions that employee surveys raise, quickly, effectively and anonymously.

“It’s the issue of anonymity that has defeated other efforts to get below the surface of employee opinion,” Gordon says. “If people’s privacy can be assured, so that they can explain safely why they replied to certain questions the way they did, surveys really can surface the issues and root-causes that will otherwise remain hidden or at least ambiguous. As they fester and spread, they will erode employee engagement.”

Peachy Mondays can offer a simple, quick and revealing solution to employee opinion, and Primeast sees it as a compelling diagnostic tool for the work we do in people and organisational development.

Beating the confines of dead-end data

Drilling deeper into the responses of staff means the information contained in employee surveys can be used more as a starting point in delivering improved levels of engagement, rather than it being an end in itself, as is sometimes now the case.

By overhauling employee engagement programmes to focus on specific issues and individual responses, data become an avenue to creating a programme for further evaluation and the means to take positive action. Through follow-up surveys, one-to-one intervention and a targeted approach to individual problems, issues that plague organisational performance can be more easily defined and addressed. At the same time, staff themselves can be reassured their problems are being listened to.

You can find out more about the importance of better understanding employee behaviour and attitudes, as well as the need to bridge gaps in communication at all levels of any successful organisation, by reading Transparent communication at the heart of business performance.

For more about Peachy Mondays, visit wwww.peachymondays.com

When Conversations Get Tough

Be purposeful and creative, rather than reactive

Tough conversations matter. And in tough conversations, one of the biggest challenges is to get the right balance between being assertive and empathic. Being effectively assertive allows you to express what’s important to you; the things you need, your perspective; as well as what concerns you about the situation. Being effectively empathic means you work hard to understand the other person’s perspective and are able to express their views without adding any kind of judgemental twist.

How to start

A good place to start could be thinking about how you typically approach ‘conflict’, remembering ‘conflict’ can be anything on a spectrum from violent disagreement to simple differences of opinion. It’s helpful to reflect on the following:

By stepping back and thinking how your tendencies will drive how you are likely to react in this kind of scenario, you can choose to be more purposeful and respond in a way that helps create the right conditions to solve the problem together.

7 Top tips for managing difficult conversations

Conversations that could potentially become tough ones really matter. Give them the attention and thought they deserve.