It’s not an understatement to say that 2020 has been as unpredictable as any year that any of us can recall. Likewise, businesses have faced an array of challenges, volatility, and unprecedented adjustments. And we still have more than four months to go!
This year’s challenges have accelerated a number of changes that were already taking place in how and where businesses work. This article is the first in a five-part series about the ongoing evolution of offices and what businesses can do to adapt and succeed. The uncertainty unleashed this year has been harrowing for many businesses, but there are opportunities to grow amidst all the disruption.
The first area of focus for any company or business leader should be effective communications with employees. Team members who don’t feel engaged or connected to a company’s mission and strategy are unlikely to be invested in that company’s success. In fact, those disengaged employees are typically less productive and effective at work. It’s no wonder, then, that communication and engagement with employees is a top concern for many businesses. That concern has been amplified as businesses have adjusted by communicating with their team members remotely.
Recent studies have found that over 70% of employees think they’re missing out on company news and don’t have a full understanding of their company’s strategy.
Effective and consistent communication is a challenge when team members are collaborating together in an office space. With so many companies, especially small businesses, pursuing remote work policies these challenges are compounded.
Fortunately, there are a number of best practices to support effective communication in the workplace, whether all together or working remotely. Three of the top tips include:
Communication Is a Two-Way Street
Don’t just talk at employees or share a never-ending stream of updates. Rather, facilitate conversations. When working to develop business goals, include employees in the discussion. As you craft those goals, outline roles for employees as their part in reaching those goals. Keep it short and concise. Then, listen to the feedback. Do they truly understand what you, as a manager or business owner, want from them? Sometimes they may hear or read something else into what you’ve tried to communicate. Have an open discussion about each other’s thoughts and feelings on the topic. All parties must have the same understanding of the goals or you may end up undermining one another.
Active Listening Matters
As a leader, it’s imperative that you listen to the other’s words as well as tone. Also look for non-verbal cues. A person’s tone and body language may tell you how they are feeling. Is the other person engaged? Are they enthusiastic about what is being said or what they are saying? Are they yawning or fidgeting? Are you yawning or fidgeting? A person who is making eye contact, has their arms uncrossed, and is sitting forward is engaged in the conversation.
Lead by Example
It’s not enough to say something; you have to demonstrate that you’ll follow through. Show others that you believe in what you’re telling them. An employee will look to the manager to see what they should be doing and if they are doing it correctly. For instance, if the manager is not getting work completed on time or not responding in a timely manner, then the employee may feel that they have some leeway there too. If you don’t “live it,” why should they?
These tips can be applied for team members in an office environment or working remotely. Additional best practices are outlined in this blog post, which is based on our firm’s experience in improving employee communication.
Another important, and often overlooked, consideration is an employee survey. Conducting an annual employee survey can accomplish many goals. In addition to engaging with employees and ensuring they feel fully informed, these surveys can be used to identify firm strengths and opportunities. A high-quality employee survey requires time and thoughtfulness. Luckily, it’s worth the effort. By offering an annual employee survey, company leaders can better track overall improvements or dips in areas of the firm that may not be apparent on a daily basis.
Logistics of an Employee Survey
Simply put, an impactful employee survey that will help you make better decisions requires an investment of time and resources.
Five keys to impactful employee surveys include:
Use a third-party survey company, platform, or software to coordinate the survey and tabulate the results. This approach allows for the best chance of receiving honest feedback.
Keep the survey brief, which will help to ensure it’s completed.
Include open ended questions in the employee survey. Don’t rely on multiple choice or yes/no questions. Pose questions with free form/open answers to provide an opportunity for employees to share feedback. These free form answers often help a business understand underlying issues.
Design questions to be direct and ask what you want to know. Take time to ensure the questions focus on areas where you want feedback. Company leaders should read the questions aloud and complete the survey themselves before offering to all employees. You also can consider a small group to test the survey so the version you share with all employees is as impactful as possible.
Provide ample time for employees to complete the survey, but don’t overextend the timeline. Consider your team’s capacity and responsiveness when setting an ideal deadline for completion.
Employee survey questions should focus on at least five areas:
Customer Service: Ask if employees feel that they and the company more broadly is serving clients as they “advertise” they will.
Internal Communication: Ask how the company is performing with its internal communication. Do employees feel free to communicate any issues? Do they feel that they’re being heard? Do they feel they receive valuable feedback? Are internal meetings a good use of time? Do employees understand the company’s strategy?
Performance Reviews: This might seem uncomfortable, but request candid feedback on performance reviews. Are these reviews happening on a regular basis? Is the frequency too much, not enough, or just right? Does the employee feel valued by the company? Does the employee understand their role in the firm? Do they believe that their skills are utilized and respected?
Compensation and Benefits: Effective employee surveys must cover issues that matter deeply to employees and you can’t avoid addressing compensation and benefits. Does the employee feel fairly compensated? Is the benefits package valuable to the employee?
Overall Experience: Don’t forget to capture if an employee feels connected to the company. Ask about their broad, overall experience. Does the employee understand the vision/mission of the company? Do they see a link between their work and the work of the firm? Do they feel personal accomplishment? Are they proud to work for the firm?
When the company receives the results from an employee survey, senior leaders should meet to discuss those results and feedback. Ultimately, results should be summarized to share with the entire company along with a clear action plan on changes or updates that will be made as a result of the findings. Highlight common themes as well as acknowledge if things can’t be fixed or why suggestions were heard but won’t be acted upon. Remember, you asked for the feedback so you need to respect the results and address them. This follow through is absolutely essential. The actions that company leaders take after conducting an employee survey can serve to energize and motivate their teams.
As we all continue to adapt to new realities and an uncertain future, businesses should continue to be proactive in how they communicate, engage, and motivate their team. Those communications should be clear, direct, and consistent. A business is much more likely to survive the current upheaval with energized employees who feel connected and informed.
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