3 Key Areas Where Employers Must Effectively Communicate Right Now
Effective communication is more crucial than ever.
We are at the beginning of a “new normal” workplace. The early stages of any paradigm-shifting change is the figuring out and experimentation stage. Employers are all trying to define what the new normal should look like for their company. It's also during this beginning phase that employees tend to feel the most uncomfortable, because there are many unknowns involved. Where so much is unknown, rumors tend to spread like wildfire among employees, further exacerbating the uncertainty.
Effective communication helps to calm the fears that many employees might be thinking in silence. And open communication from the leadership team is a two-way street — be open, honest and transparent with your employees, and they are more likely to be open and honest with you.
What is clear is that employee needs have changed. Unless, as an employer, you understand how they have changed and how you can meet employees in the middle, you greatly increase your chances of a whole host of problems: The Great Resignation, churn and burn of employees and performance issues arising as a result of mental health issues, stress and burnout of employees.
I had a conversation with Whitney Benner, chief people officer of real-time information discovery platform Dataminr, which has deliberately focused intentionally on regular, transparent communication during the pandemic, which is positively impacting its employee satisfaction levels and performance.
In this conversation, I uncovered three key areas where intentional communication should be applied to help employers stop problems arising.
Communication around mental health and wellness
One saving grace of the pandemic is the spotlight being thrust upon the importance of positive mental health. Mental health and wellbeing initiatives are no longer a "nice to have." They are essential.
Leaders must also do their part in communicating the importance of mental health and the importance of employees actively taking measures to address problems and maintain good health. If you are going to offer wellbeing initiatives as an employer, emphasize — through your communication — the importance of staying on top of wellbeing.
Talking about mental health openly breaks down the taboo around the topic and decreases the likelihood of unpleasant surprises down the line for employers, such as employees needing to take long-term sick leave due to burnout or mental health issues that could have been addressed.
For the employer, the potential benefits of sending out the right message about wellbeing are greater employee engagement, less sick leave and greater innovation and creativity, which all impact the bottom line.
Communication around decision making
Don’t leave decisions to be communicated via the rumor mill. Unclear and/or sporadic communication can stir up an environment of unrest.
It’s not enough to simply communicate a decision (especially one that is unpopular) without giving any context for why that decision was made.
For example, many employees are still unclear about what the return to office plan might look like. Not least because of the continuing unknowns associated with the pandemic. Where there is a lack of clarity, more communication is needed — and that includes showing vulnerability and saying when you don’t know exactly what that looks like.
When you are working towards communicating with empathy as an employer, you need to put yourself in the shoes of the receivers of your communication. What do they need to know?
The important factor here is the "how." How are employers making decisions, and what are the core factors that are being considered in the process? Oftentimes, it’s the feeling of not being included that can create a bad taste for employees, and communicating well is a simple way to address that. Feeling a part of the process not only makes employees feel included, but it also makes them feel more psychologically safe to communicate their feedback as part of the process.
Intentional inclusion communication
Many companies are moving towards a more flexible working model. But a hybrid work model will mean that some people will be in the office and others won’t. Making sure that the people who are not in the office feel included is important.
That means keeping top of mind the remote/hybrid staff and developing more intentional communication with them in the absence of those impromptu "meet by the water cooler" moments. Leaders and managers need to actively make an effort to include remote workers in appropriate projects for them that will help them develop their careers.
More than that, it’s about showing them that you care about them just as much as your in-office employees. Putting time in the diary to form meaningful connections, check in and offer support will create the kind of culture where people truly feel like there is an even playing field for them. An inclusive culture increases the likelihood that employees will want to stay for the longer term.
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