By Mike Marks, Indian River Consulting Group
Employees don’t want to be worker bees – they want to feel like they are part of something important. Great leadership and communication play key roles in employee engagement. Although many top executives love to talk about their “open-door” communication policies, how many follow through?
According to one Gartner survey, only 13% of employees are completely satisfied with their workplace experience. In addition, McKinsey & Company also found that a third of employees who recently left a job quit because they didn’t have caring leaders. Another third left due to a lack of career development and advancement potential, and 35% more said they quit because they did not have sustainable work expectations.
Monetary compensation is no longer enough to attract and retain great employees. To cultivate a thriving culture in the “Great Attrition,” leaders must go above and beyond to create an environment that values transparency, integrity and communication.
Town Hall Meetings vs. the Grapevine
Successful companies are made up of forward-facing employees who genuinely care about where the company is going and how they can play a part in its success. Unfortunately, getting people on board with a company’s vision can be challenging, especially if there is a lack of transparency.
Most businesses have two types of communication: official communication and the “grapevine.”
A grapevine occurs when employees talk amongst themselves about management, company policies and where the business is headed. It’s the perfect place for rumors to start. Without intervention, a grapevine can lead to unfounded fears about layoffs, poor management and budget cuts. Without clear communication, good employees may lose confidence and leave.
Nature abhors a vacuum and if management is not forthcoming with what staff wants and needs to know, the grapevine will create the answers. This then puts executives on the defensive trying to deny the rumors.
Companies that focus on communicating with their employees with “town hall” meetings and one-on-one interactions generally don’t have a problem with grapevines because employees aren’t left to wonder about the company’s future. Instead, they are given information upfront and encouraged to be open and honest about their issues and concerns.
When distributors value clear and transparent communication, employees feel more engaged, valued and purpose-driven, which will benefit your organization. So, how can you improve your company’s communication strategy?
Six Best Practices for Improving Communication & Employee Engagement
With so many people working in remote and hybrid environments, companies must work harder than ever to keep up communications and encourage engagement. I’ve outlined several steps you can take to drive employee engagement and establish transparent communication in the workplace.
1.CONDUCT EMPLOYEE ENGAGEMENT SURVEYS
Conducting an employee engagement survey every two to three years is a great way to get a pulse on your workplace culture. Ask employees if they know and understand the company’s values and vision and allow them to grade your management. Surveys can provide valuable insight into the effectiveness of your leadership, communication initiatives and employee satisfaction. Identify areas that need improvement, and make a plan to address them. Sometimes it hurts. We recently had a distributor owner rated in the bottom decile of all CEOs by his employees.
2. ALLOW EMPLOYEES TO PLAY A ROLE IN SHAPING GOALS
Employees who have a role in defining their company’s goals will have a sense of ownership and be more engaged and committed. Remember, there is a difference between being compliant (following along with someone else’s objectives) and being fully committed. Employees who are actively engaged in their company’s future have higher labor productivity and make fewer mistakes.
3. IN VOLATILE TIMES, DOUBLE DOWN ON TRANSFORMATION EFFORTS
When COVID-19 hit, many businesses focused on what was happening around them instead of looking inward. Supply chain constraints, customer relationship management and revenue losses demanded their attention. Unfortunately, this meant that distributors weren’t paying enough attention to their team; great employees left to find better opportunities, and mediocre ones stayed behind to collect a paycheck.
In volatile times, distributors must intensify the focus on transparent communication and employee engagement. When customers are struggling, you need your best team members on the job to find solutions. Sit down with your employees and explain where you are going, what roadblocks the company faces and what they can do to improve things. You’ll be surprised by your employees’ resilience when they feel indispensable.
4. REMOVE AMBIGUITY BY DEVELOPING A CLEAR PLAN WITH EMPLOYEE INPUT
Confidence comes from communication. Create a crystal-clear vision for where your business is going, what that will look like and how employees can be involved. Then, communicate that vision to your team and give them the ability to provide feedback. Embrace employee-driven innovation – they’re the most familiar with day-to-day issues that need attention.
The best way to remove ambiguity in your organization is to:
- Define your “North Star”
- Communicate goals with your team
- Give employees the tools to develop a plan
5. HAVE “HUMAN” LEADERS IN YOUR ORGANIZATION
According to Gartner, a “human” leader is authentic, empathetic and adaptive; they act purposefully, show genuine care and respect for their employees and support their team’s unique needs. Unfortunately, only 29% of Gartner survey respondents said that their leaders were “human” leaders.
Outstanding leadership goes hand-in-hand with productivity and team performance. Great leaders will be open and transparent, create growth opportunities for their team and be open to feedback. Human leadership is only possible in an organization that has embraced transparent communication.
6. CREATE A SCOREBOARD TO GIVE EMPLOYEES SOMETHING TO STRIVE FOR
People are naturally competitive. One McKinsey study found that more than half of employees are driven by non-financial recognition. This means engagement often comes down to factors other than money, such as the chance to be seen and recognized by management and peers. Encourage engagement by creating a scorecard to reward motivated employees.
The Need for Transformational Change in Distribution
Widespread labor shortages have wreaked havoc on the global economy. Employees don’t just want bonuses and pool tables – they want flexibility, ownership and open communication. If you don’t make changes, you may wake up one day to find that your best employees are gone.
Distributors who want to stay in the game must do something different; go the extra mile and create a roadmap towards establishing clear and transparent communication at every level of your organization.
Think about all the studies cited about poor leadership and frustrated employees. What is the commercial impact if a firm had strong human leadership? What would that cost compared to other investments?