By Claudine Kapel
There’s an old adage that employees don’t leave a company – they leave their boss.
Of course, there are many factors that influence whether employees choose to stay with an organization or seek opportunities elsewhere.
But how relationships unfold day-to-day, particularly between managers and their direct reports, can dramatically impact how employees view their organization – as well as influence their intent to stay.
And the cornerstone of these relationships is the manager’s approach to communication. The communication practices of those in people management roles can greatly shape the work experience of their employees.
When managers are effective communicators they are well positioned to create a positive and productive work environment. They are adept at sharing information, soliciting input and delivering feedback. They know how to probe for unspoken questions and test for understanding. And they understand the value of timely praise.
While most leaders understand the value of management communication skills, many organizations still grapple with how to hone those skills.
A recent Accountemps survey of Chief Financial Officers, for example, identified a lack of communication between staff and management as the top mistake companies make in managing their employees. Second on the list was a lack of recognition and praise.
Accountemps identified five things managers should say to employees on a regular basis:
- “Here’s what’s happening.” Keep staff up-to-date on organizational information that affects them and their responsibilities.
- “Do you have what you need?” Get input from employees on whether they have the right resources to perform their work effectively.
- “Thank you.” Acknowledge and praise employees who go above and beyond.
- “What challenges are you facing?” Check in with employees on how they’re doing and whether they need any help in dealing with problems or issues.
- “How can we improve the company?” Invite employees to suggest ways they can help achieve business objectives or enhance how work gets done.
Although these may seem like obvious conversation starters, the reality is some managers are not proficient communicators. To enhance the lines of communication within your organization, it can help to consider what gets in the way of open dialogue.
For example, managers may be reluctant to share information about what’s happening in the organization because they are unclear what information is confidential, or are uncertain they will be able to respond appropriately to employee questions.
Similarly, managers may be reluctant to talk to employees about needs and challenges because they may not know how to address issues that could arise.
If you want open and effective communication to be an intrinsic part of your organization’s culture, you need to take steps to support it. This can include providing managers with tools and training to support them in their role as key communicators. And ensuring managers know what resources they can turn to for help in answering employee questions or addressing resource constraints.
It may take some time to build management capabilities around communication. But the benefits can be significant with respect to both productivity and the organizational climate overall.
Claudine Kapel is principal of Kapel and Associates Inc., a Toronto-based human resources and communications consulting firm specializing in the design and implementation of compensation and total rewards programs. For more information, visit www.kapelandassociates.com.