Basic Communication Skills are the Backbone of Engagement
Having a picture perfect workplace that can quickly become a sinking ship due to a breakdown in communications is an employee’s worst nightmare. I had the privilege to consult on a project with a person whom I considered to be great leader with an exemplary communication style. This leader continuously encouraged his staff through communicating to them that he believes in them and reassured them that they played a vital role not only within his department but also within the organization.
His staff felt comfortable talking to him because they knew he would give them proper guidance and also provide tough love when and if they got off track. With this scenario in mind, hopefully organizations realize just how important managers with great communication skills contribute to the engagement of employees. When top leaders within organizations take for granted the importance of proper communication with their staff, organizations should prepare for possible turnover, increased absences, resistance and worst of all - disengaged employees.
It is important for employees to feel valued within their organization. Senior leaders whether they believe it or not play a key role in this. Employees want to feel like they belong. They want to know that their managers trust them to not only fulfil their job duties but also possibly provide input into the direction of the next course of action. Through my experiences within organizations and conducting employee engagement surveys, I feel that managers within organizations who lack this important leadership quality are contributing to the death of workplace employee engagement.
Poor Communication skills. There are three ways in which you can communicate to your staff: oral, written, and non-verbal. Managers should incorporate all three styles to cover the spectrum of their employees learning styles. It is imperative for them to find that perfect balance of communicating in order to avoid over or under communicating with their staff. A clear breakdown in communication contributes to confusion within the workplace. This confusion allows for employees minds to wander, thereby creating doubt within this area of uncertainty which in turn fosters disengagement.
Another key theme that employees stated in my engagement data was that their managers did not listen. Communication is a two-way street. When managers constantly dictate and bark out commands to employees this contributes to an unhealthy work environment. How can you expect employees to be fully engaged in an unhealthy work environment? This turns employees off making them feel as if they cannot come to you with questions, concerns, or seeking work guidance. If employees feel they cannot go to their managers for guidance, how are they going to grow and develop within the organization? This makes for a great excuse to jump ship. When employees no longer see a future at their current organization you better believe they are looking for it at another.
With the current economy and unstable markets, it appears as if organizations have forgotten how important it is to continuously develop their leadership soft skills; with communication skills being an important one. A great part of conflicts within the workplace occur from a misunderstanding or a breakdown in communications. Organizations that promote and foster open communications between their employees send a great message that they are concerned about their employee’s well being and responsive to their feedback. This can contribute to an engaged workforce which in turn is great for the organizational bottom-line. Sometimes you have to just go back to the basics, and nothing is more simple to implement than this riff of the “Golden Rule” - Communicate to others as you would have them communicate to you.
April Scott Read, Psy.D. is a Business Psychologist specializing in change management. She is a recent graduate of The Chicago School of Professional Psychology with a background in clinical and business psychology. Her expertise includes a hands-on strategy to understand employee psychological processes with alignment to organizational change