There’s a famous quote commonly attributed to George Bernard Shaw: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” How often have you felt that way in your professional (and personal) life? Someone thinks they’ve communicated a message, or assumes that the message is implied, but there’s a complete disconnect with the person on the receiving end.
Better internal communication could prevent so many obstacles, frustrations, and failures at work. And the more frequently that miscommunication occurs—plus the resulting obstacles, frustrations, and failures—the more likely an employee is to become disengaged. Companies often look at the symptoms of disengagement without getting down to its root cause, which is, typically, miscommunication.
So, let’s dig down and examine five reasons why better communication can boost employee engagement.
Communication = Stronger Manager-Employee Relationships
Managers account for 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores, according to Gallup research. Why? Because managers are the face of leadership for their direct reports. The best managers create an environment where employees feel comfortable talking about goals, challenges, issues, and feedback. Gallup found that “among employees who strongly agree that they can approach their manager with any type of question, 54% are engaged. When employees strongly disagree, only 2% are engaged.”
Gallup also found that employees who hold regular meetings with their manager are three times as likely to be engaged as employees who don’t have consistent one-on-one meetings. These one-on-ones are the ideal setting to discuss work priorities and performance goals, which also have shown a direct link to employee engagement.
Communication = Unity Around Shared Goals
In sports, a team’s goal is simple: Win. In business, an organization’s goals are less simple. Obviously, companies want to increase revenue, but quarterly, annual, and long-term goals are constantly shifting and evolving. And too often, employees are left in the dark about what exactly the organization is trying to accomplish.
That’s why communicating organizational objectives is vital for employee engagement. If employees don’t see a direct connection to the big picture—a purpose in their day-to-day tasks—then it’s easy to lose interest or feel that all their hard work is for nothing.
Communication = No More “Telephone” Game
Remember in school when you used to play “Telephone”? A whispered message would get passed along through an entire group and gradually change until it became completely unrecognizable. Do you ever feel like that happens at work?
When company leadership is clear about the message that needs to be communicated and sets up a platform to deliver that message directly to every employee at every level of the organization, they eliminate the risk of miscommunication and misinterpretation through word-of-mouth.
Communication = Effective Crisis Management
This is directly related to the “Telephone” game. In times of crisis, or potential crisis, leaders need to quickly and clearly communicate the nature of the situation and their strategy for how to respond. If the company’s reputation takes a hit, and/or employees lose trust in leadership, it’s likely that engagement will dip and turnover will soar. Communication could be the difference between a full-blown crisis and “crisis averted”.
Communication = Better Collaboration
In the 2018 Deloitte Global Human Capital Trends report, 70% of executives surveyed believe that workers will spend more time on collaboration platforms in the future. No matter how much time employees spend collaborating, their productivity will still be determined by how effectively they can communicate. That’s why nearly half of those surveyed “cite the productivity of the hyperconnected workforce as a very important issue.”
Don’t forget that Shaw quote: “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Collaboration relies on communication. You want collaboration to be a smooth, synergistic process, not one that leaves employees feeling frustrated or misunderstood.
A Guide to Asking Your Boss for Feedback the Right Way
Nearly 3 in 4 workers surveyed by Harvard Business Review said they believe their performance would improve if their managers would provide corrective feedback. And another survey found that almost 85% of Millennial employees would feel more confident if they could have more frequent performance-related conversations with their managers. So, it’s clear that employees want more feedback. The problem is that too many of them are afraid to ask for it.
If your manager isn’t providing enough feedback, or the right type of feedback, you should be proactive in seeking it out. While it may be daunting at first, the more often you solicit feedback, the more comfortable you will become with the process. This will not only provide the insight you need to improve your performance, it will also show your manager that you’re eager to learn and willing to listen. And, hopefully, when the time comes to decide on raises and promotions, you’ll be the first person that comes to mind.
The following are some tips on asking for feedback from your manager:
There’s a Time and Place
Instant feedback is great, but sometimes it’s not the right time to ask your manager. You don’t want to interrupt them or put them on the spot in front of colleagues. Feedback conversations should be private, between you and your manager, so it’s best to schedule a short 15-20 minute meeting ahead of time. Let your manager know that the purpose of the meeting is to discuss feedback regarding your performance on a specific project, client, etc.
Or, if your company uses feedback software, you can instantly ask for feedback (and track it over time).
You also don’t want to bombard your manager for feedback on every single project or presentation you’ve ever done. It’s more manageable—and more effective—to have a laser-focused conversation about one area.
Avoid vague questions like, “Do you have any feedback?” Instead, opt for more specific questions like, “What’s one thing I could have done better on that project?” Or, “What’s one topic that I could have covered to make that presentation stronger?” If you’re unclear on something, don’t be afraid to ask for concrete examples.
Being specific in your questions will help your manager be more specific in their feedback—and make it more actionable.
Turn Feedback into Action
Speaking of actionable, the purpose of these meetings is to improve your performance. So, don’t simply sit on the feedback you receive. Be sure to take notes during the discussion, then set a goal specific to that feedback and implement it into your next project.
Send a follow-up email to let your manager know what worked and what didn’t. Don’t be shy about highlighting your successes or asking for additional guidance if one approach isn’t working. Ultimately, during your next performance review, you want to be able to point to specific changes and improvements that resulted from your manager’s feedback.
Make Feedback A Regular Process
Ask your peers for feedback as well. You probably work with them more closely on a day-to-day basis, so they can provide a unique perspective from inside the trenches.
Again, the more often you ask for feedback, the better you will become at implementing it. And once your manager knows that you’re eager for feedback, the more likely they will be to provide it in real-time. Ideally, you’ll get to a point where you don’t even need to schedule feedback meetings because the conversations are happening regularly.
Next up, get tips on communicating company culture with employees!