Elevate Your Communication...Elevate Your Culture

by Jason Richmond, CEO and Chief Culture Officer at Ideal Outcomes, Inc.

As featured on the Oracle Fusion Cloud Human Capital Management blog

We all communicate every day with multiple people in multiple ways. But how effective are those communications with members of our teams? They might not be as effective as you think.

Research by Grammarly and The Harris Poll estimates that U.S. businesses lose a staggering US$1.2 trillion a year because of poor communication. While 93% of business leaders concur that effective communication is the backbone of their business, 72% admit their employees struggle to do so, losing a day a week of productivity.

What can you do to improve your employee communications and enhance your workplace culture? Here are eight key strategies that can help.

1. Word from the top

Senior leadership needs to take a pivotal part in the overall messaging strategy. It carries a lot of weight when workers see that the C-suite has made a commitment to transmit company updates and policies. At the same time, it is essential for managers to reinforce the messaging and make it applicable to their teams. Salesforce, for instance, says that 75% of its employees put the most trust in the information they get from their managers.

2. Tell it straight

Employees place a high value on authenticity and transparency. They know when a leader is a genuine straight shooter and, conversely, when someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes. You build their trust when you tell them the truth and don’t sugarcoat it, an approach that is particularly significant during times of change.

3. Perpetuate purpose

Reemphasize the vision and strategy that makes your organization unique. Every communication is an opportunity to reinforce your company’s mission. Let employees know what they do and how they do it is a meaningful contribution to that mission. 

4. Make it relevant

Don’t blast emails to a generic all-employee list. Send specific, targeted information to the workers who need it. Including everyone in the same messages can be overwhelming. This leads to messaging fatigue, causing employees to ignore essential updates.

Instead, use an HR-managed platform connected to workforce data to ensure that the right message gets to the right employee at the right time.

5. Make it regular

Consistent communication indicates stability and reliability and lets employees know they can depend on you.

During the pandemic, Benco Dental, one of the nation’s largest dental supplies and equipment distributors, was forced to furlough a third of its 1,500-person workforce. Managing director Chuck Cohen says his regular email updates—at least once or twice a week—kept employees loyal.

“At the end of the day, partly because of our communication strategy, we got every single person back that we wanted to,” he says.

6. Across the board

Use every mode of communication that you can to keep your team updated. Personally, I hold a bi-weekly “all-hands” Zoom update with all members of the team to share potential client news and project progress reports. We record the meeting for those who have a conflict.

Smaller scrums are held weekly or as needed for specific projects, as are frequent one-on-one phone/Zoom meetings with direct reports. Project documents are stored on an intranet that all can access.

Recently, I embarked on a three-week coast-to-coast “grand tour” because key personnel are spread across the United States. I visited 18 team members in seven states to spend quality personal time with each of them.

7. Make it two-way

Communication works both ways. Don’t talk at employees—talk with them. Hold “ask me anything” sessions and forge an environment in which employees can raise contentious issues and are appreciated for speaking up. Don’t be the only one to talk; embrace the silence until someone speaks up or ask pointed questions to get your team talking. Act on any concerns and follow up with communications explaining what you have done to satisfy their concerns or what roadblocks you are working to overcome.

8. Find out what’s working

Is your messaging to employees hitting home? Chances are that it is not. An Axios HQ survey found that 74% of communicators think they write concise and effective communications, but 60% of their employees say they don't. In the same survey, 66% of communicators thought they knew what to say to their employees, but only 31% of employees agreed. Take time to reflect on your communications and survey your employees to assess if it meets their needs and expectations.

In summary

Communication is key to keeping employees engaged and motivated. An informed workforce is likely to remain committed, loyal, and productive. Communication needs to be regular, honest, and always reflect the company’s purpose. It should also be multi-dimensional and give employees the opportunity to be involved. Finally, it’s important to conduct surveys to check if your communication achieves the results you want.