How to communicate effectively and encourage employee engagement

If your organization is suffering from a lack of employee engagement, it is likely that your leaders aren’t effectively using the most basic of leadership abilities. Gallup workplace surveys regularly find that poor communication is a root cause of disengagement in the workplace.

In this article, you’ll learn how to design organizational behaviors to enable effective communication and encourage employee engagement.

How do you know your employees are not engaged at work?

It can be a challenge to uncover a lack of employee engagement. A 2014 Gallup survey found that only 33% of employees in the United States felt engaged at work. With as many as two-thirds of your employees feeling disengaged, the symptoms could remain hidden. However, there are some warning signs that an organization should watch for. These include:

  • Absenteeism
  • Staff turnover
  • A high rate of safety incidents
  • Lower quality of work

Where these factors are abnormally different in individual teams or departments to an organization’s average, this is a good indication that there could be a breakdown in communication between the manager and his or her team.

How does a lack of employee engagement affect an organization?

The 2014 Gallup survey found that an organization with a disengaged workforce suffers on all fronts. It found the difference between top-quartile and bottom-quartile companies when measured by employee engagement as follows:

  • 10% better in customer ratings
  • 17% better in productivity
  • 20% better in sales
  • 21% more profitable
  • 41% less absenteeism
  • 70% fewer safety incidents
  • 40% less quality defects

Knowing the connection between communication and engagement, these numbers are motivation enough for organizations to tackle poor communication practices in the workplace.

Why is communication a key to engagement?

Communication in the workplace is vital to operating excellence. Leaders communicate goals, values, beliefs, and operational messages. As much as 90% of a manager’s time is spent communicating with employees, suppliers, customers, and colleagues. In some work environments, miscommunication can be fatal.

So, poor communication can lead to accidents at work, and ensuing lawsuits, too. But it also leads to disengagement of employees, and the associated disadvantages as outlined above. In Gallup’s State of the American Manager report, research shows that as much as 70% of the variance in employee engagement is the fault of the employee’s manager. Given that so much of a manager’s time is spent communicating, it follows that communication is the pivot that can rebalance organizational behavior and redress disengagement. And Gallup finds this to be true, with consistent communication directly linked to higher engagement.

The interplay between communication and organizational behavior

Communication within an organization falls into three main categories:

  • Emotional sharing
  • Transmission of information
  • Coordination of communication

Organizations without a communication standard, or where managers ignore those standards, are most at risk of a disengaged workforce.

Whether communication is made in person, by email, in printed formats, or by instant messenging or Skype, or some other means, the aim must be to build relationships with workers, achieve consensus, and maintain employee engagement.

How can organizations and leaders communicate better?

It’s essential that you have a policy in place that promotes the organizational behaviors required to ensure. So, what might such a policy look like, and what behaviors might you need to enable?

·      Have an open communication culture

Be open and honest with all communications, and encourage people to be likewise in a transparent environment. This helps build trust. Enable the communication culture by:

  • Scheduling regular communication – a morning meeting or email, for example
  • Having regular one-to-ones with employees
  • Reducing barriers to communication, such as power differences
  • Conducting open team meetings, where all are encouraged to actively participate

·      Use communication channels effectively

Whenever you communicate, ensure that the communication channel used is effective for purpose. Some messages may be best transmitted by email, while others are best made in person. In addition:

  • Ensure that leaders, managers, and supervisors are coached in effective communication techniques to engage employees.
  • Keep communication brief and to the point, especially when communication is made by email. Put main points at the top.
  • Makes sure that managers reward a job well done – people want to know their efforts are appreciated.
  • Leaders should always go to meetings well prepared. They should know what they are going to say, and consider questions or objections they may receive before they are voiced.
  • Give your managers coaching in body language, and ensure they know the difference between verbal and non-verbal communication.
  • Ensure follow-up and feedback.

Ensure your leaders listen

The most important ability in communication technique is listening. When leaders do all the talking, employees switch off. Instead:

  • Ask questions to draw people out, then listen, create a safe enivornment to express different views
  • Listen to employees, who are often best positioned to suggest solutions and ideas for improvement
  • Enable feedback by encouraging open discussion, and ensuring there are channels for feedback to be given
  • Return to organizational culture – make certain that leaders, managers, and supervisors encourage transparency, and do not meet criticism or questions with hostility

Effective communication is key to employee engagement. In this regard, there can be no doubt that communication is pivotal in increasing an organization’s value. Engaged employees are happier in their work, and more productive.

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

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