Communication skills are vital to any workplace, and it should be found at all levels. A 2016 LinkedIn survey found that, according to the 291 hiring managers surveyed, communication skills are the most in-demand soft skill. When employers say communication is a necessity, they better have managers and supervisors who can communicate.
Unfortunately, higher-level employees often come up short. Significant results from an informal 2016 study by Comparably, reveal that communication is what leaders need to improve on the most.
Let’s take a look at what bad communication looks like and how leaders can improve their skills:
There’s no reason to keep employees in the dark, and yet it still happens. A study from Leadership IQ found that fewer than half of employees know if they’re doing a good job.
When employees are unsure of where they stand, they can get stressed out and even start to disengage. A good rule in general -- never assume employees know enough and avoid obscuring important information.
Tip: Create a culture of transparency. Be clear with everyone. Articulate what is expected of the staff and provide detailed descriptions when assigning tasks.
Keep employees in the loop, especially in terms of major company news and upcoming changes. Don’t leave them guessing and worrying about anything involving their job security.
To combat the issue of employees not knowing where they stand in the eyes of the company, focus on consistently providing them with constructive feedback. Do performance evaluations on a regular basis so they know where they are succeeding and where they need to make improvements.
Making feedback one-sided
Discussions during employee performance evaluations need to go both ways. When they don’t, employees feel disrespected because they aren’t given a voice. How are they supposed to react when they’re lectured and not heard?
Tip: Employees love giving their input, so make them feel comfortable doing this. Actively seek feedback so they start offering tips and insights into how things could run better.
Make sure to take their feedback into account and follow up with them on some of their top concerns. For example, if they suggest a new email policy to minimize distractions, announce a change and implement it to see if it’s effective. If it’s not, explain to them why it is counterproductive. No matter the result, alway express gratitude because their act of speaking up shows they care about the company and want to be part of its growth.
In addition to this, conduct surveys on a regular basis to keep two fingers on the pulse of employee engagement and job satisfaction. Gather some insights on how the team feels, and start to take action whenever there’s a noticeable dip in happiness and productivity. Make sure to remind employees that surveys give them the chance to maintain anonymity and to give an honest perspective on the organization.
Sometimes, managers are hardly ever seen by the staff. They live in a completely different world and rarely come out of their office. This distance is off-putting and can leave employees with a bad taste in their mouths, leading to feelings of distrust.
This is far more prevalent than one may think. The 2014 Work and Well-Being Survey from the American Psychological Association found that 25 percent of the 1,562 U.S. workers who responded don't trust their employer. Less than half of them consider their employer to be upfront with them and open.
Tip: This is one of the simplest pieces of advice -- be present. That means knowing how to manage workloads to create enough time to be on the frontlines. Being available to help with lower levels is not just a political move -- it makes employees happy and shows an investment in helping them maintain productivity.
Jump in and help out when necessary. For managers and supervisors who struggle to change their bad habits, offer them courses on leadership. They will learn the basic elements of strong leadership, but also improve their time management.
When managers can control their workload and learn how to balance it interacting with their staff, employees will see their immediate supervisors more and feel a stronger sense of respect and trust of them. There will be more communication between department heads and workers.
Employees don’t need constant praise, but when they are only called out for what they didn’t do, they can get frustrated. Turnover will climb when the only thing employees hear about is how they are falling short.
Tip: Use an employee recognition program to strategically reward employees for their successes. Create a culture of recognition by praising them publicly. The more often employees get patted on the back and the more they see their colleagues being rewarded, the more independent and engaged in their performance they will become.
Coordinate with other leaders and talk to employees about what motivates them most. Consider starting friendly competitions that everyone can participate in. Being outwardly grateful to employees is one of the best communication practices.