Organizations large and small are challenged with the right approach for how best to communicate within their workforce. How personal do we make the communication? How do we communicate important information timely to a large group of individuals? Do we send a mass email? Do we have all hands meetings? The answer to these along with many other questions regarding workplace communication is that it depends; it depends on the workforce, the information, the timing and the culture of the organization.
All leaders will have a different approach to communication, whether the organization is 5 people for 50,000 people. The worst thing any of us can do is not communicate with the workforce, delivering less than positive news is not always easy but for an employee to learn about it on social media or through another channel of communication is not acceptable.
Below are 6 avenues for improved workplace communication:
- Know Your Organization: How communication has and has not worked in the past within the organization. If you were an employee of the organization how would you want to hear about good and/or bad news? If you are unsure of what avenue of communication to use, ask the workforce. Can you please everyone? Probably not, but it will make it easier and much more efficient to communicate with people knowing this information.
- All Hands Meetings: This is a great approach to deliver information to a large group of employees. They hear the same message from the same person, there is no second or third hand information delivery. We found success with all hands meetings quarterly; we developed an agenda and each department leader presented on metrics. The downfall to this approach is employee’s not asking questions in front of peers or a larger group. Be open to suggestion or questions ahead of time to help prepare the information.
- Bulletin Boards or Intranet Communication Walls: Bulletin boards have existed in organizations for decades. Keeping a bulletin board updated in a breakroom or near a timeclock is a great way to communicate information, if you consistently update the bulletin board with new information. If you have a memo that has not been changed in 1 year, employees will stop looking at the bulletin board. Remember the labor posters as well! The intranet is a new trend in organizations, a great place to update information and communicate, if all employees have access to the intranet. If you do use the intranet and it is updated, there should be a mechanism that alerts all employees of the update via email, text message, etc. so they know to review the new information.
- Newsletter or Paychecks: Organization have had tremendous success with newsletters, we wrote a newsletter monthly, printed it and sent it out via email throughout the organization. Newsletters work if you are consistent, add a personal touch and have relevant information within the publication. I always added birthdays, new births, pictures of the shop and any upcoming meetings with 401k, health insurance etc. I also asked for input from employees within the organization. If someone wanted to write an article I was happy to add it, if the article was appropriate. Many organizations are now adding workplace communication memos on paycheck or direct deposit stubs. This is a great idea to communicate small amounts of information to the employees or the employee’s spouse.
- Crew Meetings and Roundtable Discussions: Managers and supervisors will meet with a team prior to the start of a shift. The benefit to crew meetings or shop huddles is the manager/supervisor is familiar with the workforce and the group might be more comfortable asking questions in a smaller setting. Roundtable discussions are discussions held by managers and leaders of the organization with small groups of employees. Organization might choose to ask the employees questions or they might leave it as an open ended discussion. I have seen this work, if it is done consistently and if organizational leaders follow-up on questions or concerns with employee’s directly. Do not say “let me get back to you” and never get back to the employee.
- Memos or Suggestion Box: Memos will work for small amounts of information, this is usually communicated by a manager or supervisor in a crew meeting, sent via email, posted on a bulletin board or updated on the intranet. Memos will work if they are short, relevant and timely. In past organizations we have found success with a suggestion box program, where other organizations have not had success. Is your organization ready for a suggestion box? Do you need a suggestion box? Is there value to adding a suggestion box? Will you or the leadership team follow-up individually with each employee on the suggestion good or bad to close the loop? Implementing a suggestion box program will take time and resources, research options prior to rolling out a program and ask the workforce if it would be valuable.
- Decision Making Trees:
These are just a few of the many avenue’s organizations use to communicate within their respected organizations; email, memos home, safety meetings, safety councils, workplace communication teams, phone calls, text messages, training sessions, policies and procedures are other avenues of workplace communication. Knowing your organization and the workforce will help you as a leader develop a communication process and communicate information consistently and timely. As mentioned earlier, the last thing you want is for an employee to find out good and/or bad news through social media, on the internet or through the gossip mill. This is a negative for employee morale. If you do need assistance developing a communication plan or process, ask for help. Communication is critical to the success of any organization, large or small. If you commit to following up on a question or concern, ensure that you follow-up.