Every New Year’s Day, people around the world make resolutions to improve themselves in the upcoming year. Making resolutions is a good idea for employers, too! One area of improvement that always benefits an organization is employee engagement, since year after year, studies show that businesses with higher engagement also perform better.
One of the chief boosters for building a culture of engagement and performance is clear communication. Good communication fosters an understanding of expectations and provides feedback and recognition regarding performance goals. It also offers a channel for employees to provide feedback and ideas to improve an organization and even warn of potentially harmful behaviors.
Without further ado, here are four resolutions to help your organization improve communication and boost employee engagement and performance in 2018.
1. Help employees connect with the organization’s mission and values
Does each of your employees know how their job contributes to the big picture? Are you truly interested in their input? The answer to both of these questions too often is “no,” which is bad for employers. A big problem in today’s workplace is that employees often don’t see how they matter. But when they know the connection between their work performance and the company mission, employees are more engaged.
An employer should define how the role of each job aligns with and helps achieve the employer’s mission and goals. Then that information needs to be shared with each employee. By doing this, employers will be able to show employees the part their jobs play in the company’s success and help create a sense of purpose.
An employee’s manager should be responsible for sharing how the employee’s role aligns with, supports and helps achieve the employer’s mission, values and goals. An employee should understand:
- What are the mission, values and goals of the organization?
- What are the priorities and benchmarks?
- What does success in the employee’s role look like?
- How does the employee’s success contribute to the organization’s success?
The metrics that will be used to measure the employee’s performance also should be explained, as well as how and why the data will be used.
2. Promote Transparency
Employees are more engaged when there is an atmosphere and culture of trust in an organization. Therefore, employees need to know that they can bring their concerns to management and they will be taken seriously, especially if those issues involve possible wrongdoing or illegal behavior. Employers should create a culture in which employees feel comfortable reporting wrongdoing by supervisors or others.
An employer should welcome an employee’s allegation of discrimination, harassment or illegal or improper activity as an opportunity to discover and correct a problem before it leads to a discrimination lawsuit or a whistleblower complaint. An open door policy that encourages employees to seek out their supervisor with legitimate concerns and questions will help further a transparent workplace. An employer should be open to hearing employee complaints even if they cannot be resolved to an employee’s complete satisfaction.
The employer should lay the groundwork by developing a whistleblowing policy that:
- Serves to prevent employees from engaging in misconduct;
- Allows employees to disclose misconduct without fear of retribution; and
- Provides a procedure for the employer to manage any disclosures effectively.
The policy should emphasize the employer’s dedication to preventing and disciplining all forms of misconduct or malpractice.
To encourage employees to come forward, employers should provide a safe and transparent process for employees to communicate their concerns or to report wrongdoing. Emphasize that any employee who makes a disclosure in good faith will be taken seriously and that retaliation against such individuals will not be tolerated. Employers should also provide a contact person who can answer questions and offer support throughout the process.
3. Give and accept more feedback
Allowing employees to offer opinions, particularly when the final decision affects them, develops good will. By making employees part of the decision-making process, instead of just the recipients of decisions, they are more likely to feel they have contributed to the daily operations and overall success of the organization. When employees feel invested in their organization, their performance, productivity and motivation improves.
Throughout an organization, an employer can improve communication by doing three things. First, an employer should regularly communicate regarding updates to things such as deadlines, customer feedback, product information, training opportunities and new reporting relationships. Second, employers should have frontline supervisors and managers hold routine one-on-one meetings with direct reports to troubleshoot issues, listen to concerns or ideas and provide feedback. Finally, an employer needs to encourage transparency by holding regular organization-wide meetings to discuss the state of the business.
Effective performance management is a year-round process that must take place on a daily basis, not just during an annual review meeting. An employee’s manager or supervisor has great influence on employee engagement through job assignments, feedback and recognition.
Managers can take steps to take to make it more likely their employees will go the extra mile by:
- Encouraging employees to participate in setting and meeting reachable objectives;
- Involving employees in problem-solving and improvements;
- Visiting with employees throughout the year to check on their progress;
- Providing clear, specific feedback;
- Rewarding and recognizing employees who meet or exceed the organization’s expectations;
- Making appreciation part of the work culture;
- Celebrating the “awesome” (e.g., “Here’s what we mean by great customer service!”); and
- Showing they care about employees as human beings.
4. Have the hard conversations
Employee discipline is one of the most difficult, yet necessary, tasks in maintaining a productive workplace. No one likes to be the bearer of bad news or be the “heavy” who has to correct a problem. But avoiding discipline helps neither the employee involved nor the organization. By avoiding the hard conversations, too often a small issue that could be corrected early on becomes a larger problem that might require an employee’s termination.
How a disciplinary meeting is handled can impact how well an employee accepts the guidance and tries to improve. The meeting should be a private discussion with the employee, the supervisor, and, if necessary, a representative from human resources. The purpose is to alert the employee to a problem that the employer wants to prevent from becoming a more serious issue.
It is important that the substance of the meeting be factual. The supervisor should be prepared to offer specific areas for praise and criticism, using facts and objective standards to the extent possible, and explain the employer’s expectations moving forward. Most importantly, the supervisor must limit criticism to the employee’s behavior, not the employee’s personality, demeanor or other issues. In addition, during the meeting, the supervisor needs to listen and allow the employee to:
- Present his or her side of the issue;
- Ask questions; and
- Make comments.
Disciplining an employee enforces an employer’s business goals, increases the disciplined employee’s awareness of work rules and ethics and minimizes the potential for greater liability due to employer negligence. Addressing performance or behavioral issues quickly also gives employees the opportunity to learn and develop with the guidance and support of supervisors and managers. When handled well, it can be a positive experience for an employee and result in improved engagement and motivation in the organization overall.
Has your company implemented communication goals and initiatives to improve engagement and performance in the past? What challenges did you face? What was the outcome? Please share your experiences by leaving a comment below.