How Companies Fail at Open Communication

by Kayla Matthews

In a study of 1,072 Americans, researchers found just how greatly employees suffer from disconnected communication systems. Around 50% of workers are stressed out by the ineffectiveness of company communication policies. About 33% of them want to quit their job because of it.

Here are some areas where companies could improve:

1. Talk to their workers more

The first step toward an open communication policy should be gathering employee input. Management should ask them what system elements work, where communication breaks down, or where talking fails. Are they getting enough feedback from their department heads? What would be a better system for ensuring everyone is heard?

Leadership has good reason to pay attention to employees’ ideas. After all, they are the ones on the front lines every day.

2. Learn employees’ career goals

When workers feel their managers care about their role in the company, they tend to be more engaged. Employees become about 59% less likely to look elsewhere for a job when they’re more engaged. They also stay at their jobs longer and are happier overall. Businesses should create internal promotions and training opportunities for current staff to rise through the ranks. One-on-one meetings are also a good gateway toward ongoing conversation.

3. Stick to scrum meetings

Too much communication can be a disadvantage. If you can get your point across in two words, you don’t need to talk for two hours. Talk to your leaders about having short stand-up meetings to get everyone on the same page. There’s no need for lengthy meetings that take up most of the day. Instead, think about the info people need to do their jobs most effectively. Share only what is needed.

4. Offer accessibility

Managers must be trained to listen to employee concerns. If you go to their department head with an issue, do they truly hear you out and work with you toward a solution? If you’re afraid of retribution for complaining or feel like management only sees you as a whiner, you’re much less likely to share concerns.

You should feel free to step into the manager’s office and ask if they can talk. Leadership should then work with you to improve operations, settle personality disputes or reassure you they value your best interests. Does the company truly care about employee problems—both at work and on a personal basis?

5. Implement appropriate technology

The way we do business has changed drastically in the last 10 years. Mobile devices are a must in today’s world. Technology allows employees to tap into databases while on the go. They can text their team important updates or use project management software to update client meetings.

But that doesn’t mean a bunch of apps are going to make everything easy. Not all software is the same — neither are all teams. If the tools and apps you use at work are hindering you, you’re probably not alone. It might be time to reassess the technologies you use. It might even be a cost effective change, given the vast number of free tools out there.

6. Give recognition freely

When employees say they aren’t appreciated, they don’t always mean lack of pay. They might just mean lack of praise — no one gives them praise for a job well done. Managers don’t have to spend a lot of money to show their appreciation. Short appreciative notes, free lunch or peer nominations boost employee confidence and improve business communications. Look for a company that treats its workers well—you’ll find they also give generous recognition.

7. Practice listening skills

For both employees and managers, it is much more important to listen carefully than talk. Truly hear others’ concerns and ask thoughtful questions. Then, you will be much more likely to leave a positive impression. You’ll also discover solutions to tough problems.

When listening, try to take feelings out the equation. It can sometimes feel like feedback is a personal attack, or that listening is competing with hearing. These are things that even the most seasoned professionals have trouble with. They’re also things that can be improved with practice, often through corporate training.

Image caption: Image courtesy of Alex Andrews.

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