No matter which way you slice it, the foundation of any good relationship is healthy communication – and relationships in the workplace are no exception.
When it comes to communicating with employees, there's a huge difference between simply talking to employees and truly connecting with them. Forging real connections can have a tremendous impact on employee engagement and retention – and in turn your company's success – so fostering good internal communication is key.
A recent study by Gallup revealed that only 17% of employees strongly agree that "there is open communication throughout all levels of the organization." Without open communication, engagement wanes, so let's explore how we can improve employee engagement through an effective communication strategy.
Elements of effective communication
As a manager, you know that constructive two-way communication makes life better for everyone. But since every employee is different, you also have to know how to adjust and connect in a way that works for each person on your team.
Here are some elements that contribute to effective communication and increased employee engagement:
- Honesty: It's easy to spot when someone is being dishonest and it can tarnish an employee-manager relationship. If you're aiming to improve your communication, speaking your truth is always a good idea. It fosters trust and also encourages employees to reciprocate their honest thoughts and feelings.
- Transparency: Often bundled with honesty, transparency is about making important information accessible to relevant parties. If something directly concerns an employee or their work, you should make them aware in a timely manner. It's always best for employees to hear things from their managers first, rather than through the grapevine.
- Openmindedness: The best communicators are those that are open to discussing anything and everything. Employees' backgrounds, experiences, personality types, ways of thinking, and perceptions of the world may be different than yours. But approaching conversations with an open mindset is sure to spark valuable dialogue.
- Clarity: Leaving an employee feeling confused or unsure about something following a conversation can cause unnecessary stress and anxiety. It's therefore crucial to be clear and concise, and always avoid beating around the bush. If you think you may have left too much room for interpretation, or potentially caused confusion, be sure to offer clarification.
- Frequency: A common cause of poor communication within a team is simply not communicating enough – whether in person, through video calls, or even messaging. The good news is that this is an easy fix. Spotting opportunities to say hello, check in, or recognize someone are great ways to up your communication frequency. With time, speaking with your team often will come naturally.
We've put together our top 10 tips to encourage effective two-way communication so you can improve employee engagement on your team.
Tips on how to improve communication with employees
A functional, positive work environment is one with an engaged workforce where employees feel comfortable connecting with one another. Leaders can improve internal communication with employees by fostering a healthy two-way flow. Let's take a look at 10 ways you can do just that.
1. Engage on a personal level
It may be business, but it's also important to be personal. Whether working remotely or at the office, employees spend hours interacting with each other everyday. Getting to know teammates and engaging on a personal level can make all the difference when it comes to feeling heard and understood. It can also do wonders for your company culture and employee engagement levels.
Everyone wants to feel valued, so it's all about showing a genuine interest, asking questions, and remembering the details. So go ahead and check in, share stories, and even make plans with team members outside of work hours. Whether shy or outgoing, we're all social creatures at the core, and nobody wants to feel like they're just a number. Engaged employees are ones who feel like they matter to their peers.
🥶 Icebreaker activities are a great way to get through any awkwardness and build personal relationships with our peers.
2. Build trust
Without trust, we can't expect honest communication, so this might be one of the most essential ingredients in the mix. When employees feel that they can trust their managers, they're far more likely to have more open communication, feel engaged on a more meaningful level, and even report problems when they arise.
As a manager, you should always try to foster an environment where employees can freely share their ideas and concerns. While building trust doesn't happen immediately, it's worth the investment in time. By speaking openly with employees about anything from goals to concerns, you'll encourage others to do the same.
When you establish trust, you forge a better connection and create a safe space for this kind of transparency. Trust is a two-way street that plays a vital role in ensuring long-term communication and improving employee engagement.
3. Give meaningful feedback
Put simply, employee feedback is essential to employee satisfaction and an engaged workforce. When an employee knows that their manager is invested in their professional growth and development, they feel engaged in their role and more likely to strive towards reaching their full potential.
Managers who offer specific feedback and meaningful employee recognition support a company culture of ongoing talent development. So say it like you mean it, and watch the magic happen.
👉 Jumpstart your team's feedback loop with these 20 impactful employee feedback examples.
4. Set clear expectations
When you set a clear goal, you're far more likely to achieve it. So if you want to be on the same page as your employees, you must learn to set clear expectations. From concise and achievable business goals, to tasks on a project, to accountability in a role, managers should clearly outline everything for their employees so that they feel realistic and attainable.
By setting clear expectations, managers can help support employees in their daily tasks and long-term objectives, while improving team alignment. Once you've clearly communicated these expectations, it’s also crucial to manage them with regular meetings. This is where your team can ask questions and you can give clear feedback. After all, aligned employees are engaged employees.
✅ Keep your meetings organized and on-track with this one-on-one meeting checklist.
5. Communicate the company vision and mission
Communicating the broader "why" behind your team's work is key to boosting employee engagement. When people share a common goal and know how to achieve it, they can rally together to get there.
An inspiring company vision makes people feel part of something special, and that their individual work contributes to a larger purpose. So be sure to communicate the organization’s mission and values so that you can encourage employee engagement by rowing in the same direction as a team.
6. Listen attentively
A little listening goes a long way, and active listening goes even further. Most of your conversations with employees should center on their thoughts, feelings, aspirations, and points of improvement. By listening carefully and taking note of their sentiment, you'll be able to better coach employees and help them perform at their best.
A great way to practice your listening skills is by encouraging employees to give feedback, actively responding to it, and taking action promptly. When employees feel heard and know that their voice makes a difference, they're far more likely to use it.
🙅 Don't let employee feedback go unaddressed. These tips will help you respond to feedback effectively, whether it's positive, constructive, or critical.
7. Give clear context for tasks
It's one thing to assign projects and tasks, and it's another to explain the context of the request and the purpose it serves. How does this project impact the company? What value does the employee's contribution bring to it? While it may make perfect sense to you as a manager, the reasons may not be as clear to your employees.
That's where context comes in. When people understand the impact of their responsibility, it gives them greater purpose. Establish that from the get-go and be sure to maintain that same communication from start to finish.
8. Learn employee communication styles
When it comes to communicating with employees, one size doesn't always fit all. The most effective communication happens when you understand what each employee is most receptive to, and how they approach communication themselves. Everyone's communication skills are unique, meaning managers need to take time to learn and adapt to each individual's style.
Some employees prefer in-person conversations, while others may feel more comfortable expressing themselves via digital channels like email or Slack. Some are comfortable being direct, while others take more time to express themselves. Lean into that and take it into account when addressing them.
9. Avoid assumptions
Jumping to conclusions and making assumptions indicates a barrier in internal communication. If an issue arises, managers should strive for more open lines of communication, rather than deducing how the issue came up and figuring out how to resolve it on their own.
If you're ever caught in a situation, give your employee the opportunity to explain themselves so that you can find the best resolution. Scheduling regular check-ins as part of your employee communication strategy is a great way to avoid poor communication and see things from your employee's perspective.
😕 Are you facing a sensitive issue with an employee? Navigate the conversation with this one-on-one meeting template for tough talks.
10. Check in regularly
As we touched on above, constant communication is good communication. Make a habit of setting aside time into your schedule to interact with each team member and give them your undivided attention. Having a regularly scheduled time to connect and talk opens the doors to conversations about recent challenges, concerns, and accomplishments, and gives you the opportunity to address them in a timely way.
It's a key part of an effective employee communication strategy, so no matter how busy your schedule is as a manager, be sure to carve out the time.
What does "regularly" mean for you, though? Follow these 5 tips to determine your ideal one-on-one meeting frequency.
Ways to keep internal communication going
Now that we've explored ways to boost internal communication and improve employee engagement, let's explore the tools you can use to take both even further.
Regular one-on-one meetings are one of the most effective ways to boost employee engagement and make sure everyone on your team is aligned. Being aligned helps keep employees motivated, which works wonders for long-term retention. What's more, one-on-ones are also key to build trust and connect on a human level.
Learn how to make meetings more efficient and productive with our ultimate one-on-one meetings guide.
While one-on-one meetings give managers and employees the opportunity to connect on a personal level, team meetings give everyone the chance to come together and align on shared objectives. They help get everyone on the same page, build trust and rapport, drive understanding of objectives, goals, and responsibilities, and encourage employee engagement. This also helps individual team members understand how they fit into the bigger picture and how they can best contribute.
When's the best time to have a one-on-one meeting vs. a team meeting? Learn when to use each type.
Employee engagement surveys
Employee engagement surveys (also known as pulse surveys when sent frequently) feature questions that are designed to measure employee engagement metrics like alignment, employee satisfaction, ambassadorship, happiness and wellness, and relationships with managers and peers. They're a great way to encourage transparent communication, especially when done anonymously.
Engagement starts with letting employees share how they feel and quickly acting on your findings. But what's the best way to collect insights? This employee engagement survey guide covers it all.
Monthly town halls
Town Halls are an effective way to bring all your employees together and update everyone on what’s going on inside the organization. They offer an outlet for people across all departments to receive the same information simultaneously, like the organization's goals and accomplishments. They're also a great way to communicate key employee engagement results. These types of meetings are often led by senior leaders and are typically less frequent than the other methods.
Encourage an engaging work environment
Good communication really is key to improving employee engagement, keeping employee morale high, and boosting employee productivity. Healthy communication plays a critical role in ensuring employees feel connected to their organization.
Start small by taking a pulse on how employees feel about your communications skills with a manager communication survey template. If you want to go a step further, seek external support and try an employee engagement solution.
The Officevibe employee engagement platform offers a range of tools and resources to help keep communication open, frequent, and effective for all team members, helping you keep employees engaged for the long term.