Communicating more with your employees can seem difficult when you’re running a large or fast growing business. It’s easier when you’re smaller and you’re sitting with your employees and know them all by name. Knowing everyone’s name and having a consistent presence or availability for one-one-ones with everyone isn’t practical when you have hundreds of employees but that doesn’t mean you can’t still be a great communicator.
As boss, your credibility is influenced by your communication. The better it is the more credible you are as a leader and that can positively impact employee motivation and productivity.
So how can you become a better communicator and improve your workplace culture?
Get out in front
Literally get out in front of your employees. Face to face communication is the best. Employees will be able to have their concerns addressed by senior management which makes them feel more connected — there’s nothing worse than a workforce that feels the management is out of touch. It is also a great opportunity to spread and underline your message and vision.
Site visits and Town Halls allow you to gauge directly what the specific issues are in each department, location or region and learn what they all do. If you’re not familiar with a certain project we recommend you choose a chaperone from that department to accompany you for the day around your site visit.
You’ll learn a great deal about what your people do, what they are working on and you’ll be able to communicate your strategy on a one-on-one basis and create advocates on the shop floor. Sit down with as many employees as you can and encourage them to share their ideas and innovations on how things could be done better that may get filtered out by mid-management.
This two way communication, people insights and personal employee engagement will transform the perception of management and improve workplace culture.
Remote working and offices in multiple locations can make communication harder, especially if your remote teams are working in different time-zones or on different projects – projects you may not entirely understand. As such it is easy for these workers to feel undervalued or ignored and that’s bad for business.
The communication strategy of a truly inspiring leadership will not overlook remote workers and satellite offices; it will seek to foster a culture of communication the whole company through.
Inspiring leadership will take time to recognise and reward achievement by sending a strong message that the CEO cares about their development and success.
Encourage your employees personally for their achievements. Ask managers to keep you apprised of promotions, targets being achieved and exceeded or qualifications earned. Do the same for life events – graduations, marriages, births, work anniversaries, religious ceremonies and deaths. Flowers of congratulations or condolences, a book with a personal message of encouragement or a teddy bear are simple, inexpensive gestures that create loyalty. Take a leaf out of PepsiCo’s CEO’s book and write a short letter to the parents of an employee. Gift a book to the children of your employees attending college or just graduating — you might just be securing a future employee with a simple gesture.
Make special effort to do this with remote workers and encourage management to do the same as remote workers often require more feedback and recognition than on-site workers.
Many companies have incentives and reward schemes but too often are heavily weighted towards money-makers. This can make support and infrastructure employees feel undervalued. Rewards should be accessible to all employees.
One inclusive idea is a dinner club; invite the top 1-2 performers from all departments, not just sales, out for dinner at a nice restaurant and encourage them to mingle to improve interdepartmental rapport.
Something like this will let all departments know that they are equally valued by you and the company. Don’t leave out remote employees either. If necessary pay for their travel and accommodation for the event but make it more worthwhile by inviting them to work in another office for a few days so they can create new relationships.
Give each department a budget for a team fun day as well (and make sure it’s on a workday!!)
Use collaborative software
Telecommuting is on the rise and to ensure motivation and productivity at work is not impacted by location many companies turn to collaborative software. Videoconferencing, web-based tools and cloud-sharing allows separate to work closely together. However, these software programs have untapped potential for CEO communication.
Ideally you will still get face to face at least once a year with remote teams but once a year isn’t often enough to engage with your employees effectively. Services like Lync, Skype and Google Hangouts allow you to communicate with all of these offices more regularly without travelling.
Employee engagement should be personal and public so a blog, direct from your computer, is an effective method of communicating strategy and progress. Include details of the past week, plans for the next week, public congratulations of employee achievements and work anniversaries (in addition to a direct personal message), ongoing vision and details of recent board meetings.
When you visit other regions or departments use your blog to highlight what you observed and discovered, insights on the people you met and the great work they are doing. You can’t meet everyone one on one but you can talk publicly of those you have. Their co-workers will know who they are and by extension will feel personally valued too.
If you can employ just a few of these communication tips you’ll quickly see the benefits through an improved workplace culture, more internal collaboration and a boost in morale and loyalty.
Everything from employee retention to productivity will benefit from your concerted effort to make employee engagement and valuation a top priority.