Enhance Communication (Employee Engagement Strategy, Part 3)

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In this article you’ll learn 7 company communication tips that will help your staff avoid frustration and stay motivated.

  1. Establish Key Performance Indicators
  2. Clarify Priorities, Rewards, and Impact
  3. Break Projects Into Smaller Goals
  4. Listen to Employees
  5. Provide Feedback
  6. Get Feedback
  7. Train Your Managers

1. Establish Key Performance Indicators

Key Performance Indicators (KPI’s) are the quantifiable measurements that reflect the critical success factors of your business. They give your employees and company stakeholders an opportunity to measure progress and react accordingly.

Your KPI’s can help your business enhance communication, keep your management team updated, diagnose problems, learn from behavior, make decisions, and keep everyone motivated.

For every business goal you have, you should determine 1-3 KPI’s that reflect the important aspects of that goal. For example, if you set a goal to achieve 200 billable hours per week, your KPI’s might be paid hours worked and bills sent.

Everyone working on a goal should understand the KPI’s associated with that goal. Without this mutual understanding, your employees can end up working toward the wrong goals or competing with each other instead of working cooperatively.

Visix put together list of example KPI’s for different industries. Do some further research online to find the best KPI’s for your industry.

2. Clarify Priorities, Rewards, and Impact

Your employees need to know what their priorities are, how they’re being rewarded, and how their performance impacts the company’s bottom line.

Make sure to set your employees’ priorities so that they always know what tasks are most critical. Your employees should know what you’re counting on them for, as well as what they can expect from you or from other employees.

Establish a reward system. What gets measured gets done, and what gets rewarded gets done again!

Finally, fill your employees in on how their performance impacts your bottom line. Your profitability is based on how well your employees perform critical activities. Showing your employees how their work has a meaningful impact on the organization as a whole is one of the simplest and best ways that  you can connect your employees with your company’s mission and profit objectives.

3. Break Projects Into Smaller Goals

Create realistic and actionable SMART goals for your employees to help them stay focused.

SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and timely. In short, they’re incremental.

Setting goals in small increments gives employees the opportunities for small wins, which helps them stay positive and excited to continue.

Set SMART goals for your employees. (Infographic by New Found Balance)

Allison Beard, HBR Editor, recommends having employees commit publicly, create a plan of action, recruit support, and set milestones.

4. Listen to Employees

Your employees will become more engaged when they know they can speak openly and that their opinions matter to the company.

To open communication, encourage employees to share their ideas and input during 1-on-1 meetings and team meetings.

Take notes during these meetings to show you’re listening, and always end meetings by thanking your employees for their input.

You should communicate early and often, and always aim to arrive at democratic decisions through discussion rather than authoritative decisions through dictation. As an example, avoid stating what you believe a project’s timeline should be. Ask your employee, listen to their view, then share how you see it and collaborate to arrive at a timeline that makes sense to both of you.

Engaged employees will have great ideas to contribute. Try implementing some of your employees’ ideas to encourage continued involvement.

5. Provide Feedback

70% of employees say they could improve their job performance with more feedback.

Praise employees when they do well. When you see someone providing great customer service or doing something well for your company, make them feel special and appreciated.

While being sensitive to people’s feelings, let your employees now right away when you notice something they could improve.

Avoid putting off feedback until an annual review. In fact, many companies have decided to cancel annual reviews, since they found that managers held back feedback until it came time for a review.

Jos Zamzow, Chief Operating Officer at Catalyst, asks his employees to always start by asking, “Can I give you some feedback?” According to Jos, “Even if the boss is asking, she needs to keep in mind that the person being asked can always say ‘no.’ ”

Jos teaches his team that the purpose of feedback is always to raise the person up, never to tear them down. Remembering this establishes trust that the person giving feedback has a good motive. This makes it easier for the person giving feedback to share difficult information and for the person receiving the feedback to listen. “The person giving feedback has a tremendous responsibility to never violate that trust with their feedback. That responsibility includes wordsmithing the feedback so that it is uplifting to the receiver.”

While most employees have good intentions, their behavior can sometimes have negative impacts that they don’t realize. To combat this, Jos teaches his team to express their feelings when they share feedback. For example, try saying, “When you do ____, I feel _____.” This empowers the listener to understand the impact their behavior has on others.

The way you provide feedback is one of the most important ways you can define yourself as more than a boss to your employees. If you want to be a positive leader and not just a “boss”, then coach your staff (don’t just direct them), ask them to make changes (don’t command), give credit (don’t take it), and show how they can improve (don’t just tell them what they did wrong).

When employees trust that your goal is to lift them up, they’ll generally appreciate your honest feedback and coaching.

6. Get Feedback

If an employee shares critical feedback, actively listen and take action if needed. Remember that a good portion of all communication is nonverbal, so always be attentive to people’s emotions and body language when listening to feedback. 

Make sure to also read the reviews employees leave anonymously on your company’s Glassdoor profile.

Glassdoor is a great free resource for honest feedback.

In addition to getting feedback from your staff every day, it helps to have a few formal feedback opportunities to make sure you don’t miss any important information.

  1. Survey new hires to ask them about their needs and wants.
  2. Run an employee feedback program to get big-picture insights.
  3. Conduct exit interviews to find out why employees chose to move on.

Jos Zamzow recommends that whenever you receive feedback, always listen without interrupting and then respond by saying “thank you.”

7. Train Your Managers

Half of employees say that their manager is the most dissatisfying aspect of their work. Top complaints include:

  • Managers not recognizing employee achievements
  • Managers not giving clear directions
  • Managers not making time to meet with employees
A Harris poll shows employees’ top frustrations with their managers.

You should aim to transform every manager into your company into a leader who employees enthusiastically follow because the manager takes time to recognize achievements, give clear directions, and provide employees with regular constructive feedback,

Training a team of managers to be great leaders is no easy feat. ProService Boise Human Resource Director Kay Walter faces this challenge every day. She believes strongly in the combination of delegation and coaching. “Delegation is a powerful way to allow a new Manager to practice and develop their skills, with the supportive coaching of seasoned managers.”

ProService Boise teaches new supervisors how to do one-on-one meetings by first having new supervisors observe experienced managers. Later, the new supervisor delivers their one-on-ones under the observation of an experienced manager, who follows up with feedback.

Pro Service Boise uses a similar process for teaching new supervisors how to confront a conflict or performance issue. Kay explains, “We review the process with them beforehand and often role play prior to their first delivery. We mentor and prepare them to alleviate their fears. Then we do a post-mortem review of their execution to give constructive praise and feedback.”

In addition to the ongoing training that supervisors receive, ProService Boise also develops in-house training events. Kay is currently preparing to launch a “Leadership Bootcamp,” which will give the company’s leaders a chance to introduce managers to new software and to teach how to improve processes throughout the company.

“For example,” Kay explains, “HR will train managers on proper legal documentation methods, corrective action processes, and the importance of doing performance reviews honestly. We’ll also show managers how they can maximize the tools in our human resource information system.”

Global healthcare company Grifols breaks down complex subjects into smaller lessons, and teaches these to managers via recorded videos that managers can watch at their convenience. Director of Operations Kris Jonas likes this approach, since the recordings can be shared repeatedly and analyzed when needed.

Part of Catalyst’s strategy for surviving the “retail apocalypse” was to upgrade customer service. COO Jos Zamzow feels that every company says they prioritize customer service, but part of actually delivering on that promise required training his management team more effectively than competitors. Jos begins his training programs by sharing this purpose with managers so that they know why the training sessions are important.

Training managers enables the managers to provide better customer service as well as train their own staffs to deliver better customer service. Jos says that when people understand they will have to teach what they’re hearing, they also tend to engage more fully. “I remind them each time we meet that the task is to learn so that they can go and teach these skills to others.”

Jos conducts trainings by having managers sit in a round table format so that each person can see everyone else. Jos avoids using slide presentations or handouts, preferring to use games and interactive exercises instead. He frequently asks people questions, especially if he sees their attention fading.

Jos encourages employees to be proud of what they’re good at, and at the same time aware of their weaknesses. “This authenticity,” he says, “not only reduces stress but also gives other employees opportunities to shine.”

Jos teaches managers to minimize their weakness by delegating to others or using other resources. For example, if someone is exceptional at gathering and reporting information but not exceptional at delivering presentations, they’d be better served by preparing facts and studies and collaborating with a gifted presenter to deliver the information to clients.

After training managers, it’s important to evaluate how well they’re training their own teams. To do this, Jos regularly follows up with managers by providing feedback and celebrating wins.

Of course, even with the best training, not all managers are going to instantly become effective leaders. “As long there isn’t chaos or crisis,” Kris Jonas says, “people should be allowed the space to lead their teams with gentle guidance.”

Kris recommends working with struggling managers and putting them into situations where they can have small successes. “Many times, they’re able to build upon these.” Kris recommends asking questions to see how the manager views the situations where they’ve had difficulty and offering guidance on how to improve.


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Enhance Communication (Employee Engagement Strategy, Part 3)

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