Good communication starts with good listening. When we speak with friends and family, most of us know that it’s important to listen attentively to what the other person has to say. But often, that same level of attention isn’t carried over into the workplace – especially when time comes for managers to share information with their employees.
Internal communication, or the process of disseminating information across an organization, needs to be a two-way street. Yet in many organizations, it’s still thought of as a top-down exercise: managers or HR telling staff members “what they need to know.” The emergence of remote working has aggravated the problem, since the lack of face-to-face contact encourages unidirectional information sharing, primarily through email.
Such arms-length approaches therefore miss a crucial element of the communications process: open dialogue and active listening to employees. If your organization already has internal communication processes in place, you can take steps to encourage the two-way flow of information that can make a big difference. Internal communication platforms can also easily be leveraged to foster greater dialogue both among and between managers and employees.
Why it’s important for employees to be heard
The primary reason is that when employees know their opinion matters and their ideas are taken into consideration, they are more likely to be engaged at their job. We have discussed the many benefits of higher employee engagement in a previous blog post, but to highlight two examples, research shows that organizations with higher employee engagement benefit from 26% higher revenue and 81% less absenteeism.
Another reason is that employees who feel heard are more likely to be happy with their employer and thus to become advocates for the organization. Employeea dvocacy is an increasingly important lever in talent acquisition, public relations, and marketing. According to a study published in Public Relations Review, “employees are becoming the ultimate reputation makers or breakers in a world where every organization sells experiences rather than products.” The study goes on to state that when organizations acquire customers through employee advocacy, both the contribution margins and retention rates are higher.
And finally, managers who actively listen build trust within their organization. This creates a climate where employees feel comfortable sharing their perspectives and concerns without fear of retaliation – an essential component of a happy and productive workplace.
Valuable insights for managers
Two-way communication is beneficial to managers, too. Team leaders who take time to listen to employees can learn important insights. For instance, they can pick up ideas from employees on how to improve specific procedures and processes. This kind of granular, concrete feedback is often overlooked in employee satisfaction surveys, which tend to be broader in scope.
Reading between the lines when listening to staff can provide astute managers with clues as to how to make their unit a better place to work. Criticism, even when constructive, isn’t always easy for employees to give, but a regular, two-way flow of information makes it easier to pinpoint weaknesses in management methods.
And finally, freely flowing dialogue – especially when done in a climate of trust – can help spot disengaged employees and address the problem sooner rather than later.
IC features ideally suited to two-way communication
Platforms like ahead – that are designed to bring colleagues together and foster an open and transparent culture – contain a number of features for encouraging two-way communication, like:
- Social-media-style posts where employees are encouraged to comment and share their opinions and achievements;
- Dynamic content, where employees can enter updated information that managers can assess in real time;
- Quick polls to take the pulse of worker sentiment; and
- Strong storytelling.
Putting your employees at the heart of the communication process and making their voices heard in this way, gives them an opportunity to express their ideas, perspectives, and concerns openly and without fear of consequences. The upshot for your organization will be more engaged employees, more ardent advocates, and stronger, more trusting relationships among team members.