Low employee comm scores? Here are 4 root causes.

Your employee engagement survey indicated your company isn’t communicating enough.

You feel like you’re communicating, so why aren’t employees feeling the same way?

Are you left wondering if you should email more often, start a newsletter, or post more news to the intranet?

In most cases when employee or culture surveys indicate “poor communication,” it’s actually an indicator of opportunities in several areas. Here are four common root causes for employees’ perception that communication could be improved at your company.

1. Uncertainty

Most employees want to know where the company is going and how their jobs fit in to helping move the company forward.

Try to share your strategic plan with your workforce. Some companies are afraid this will leak to competitors, and that’s a fair concern. Even if you disclose the overall direction of your company without being too specific, it could be a big help.  Engaged employees need to feel that they are contributing to something bigger.

Uncertainty can also mean confusion.

If messages aren’t clear or they conflict with what employees have been told before, it’s impossible for employees to understand what you mean.

2. They’re not hearing news from you

The grapevine is a powerful force.

It goes into overdrive when things are happening and no “official” word has been released by leaders. The more serious it might be, the stronger and faster the grapevine becomes.

Employees tend to get resentful when they have to learn about things through unofficial channels.  Trust is eroded because it looks like leaders were hiding the information or didn’t think the employees were important enough to tell.

This becomes even more dangerous if the media becomes involved. The last thing you want is for information to leak to the media and have employees learn about important company information from the news instead of from company leaders.

This is the opposite of transparency and it’s a huge blow to your personal and professional integrity.

A note of caution about gossip: In the absence of data, employees will make it up. It’s a human need to be able to justify or explain things. It’s also a human need to be seen as a valuable source of information, so this situation gives your gossipers ripe opportunities to pump information into the workplace regardless of its accuracy.

3. Late release of information

To avoid having the unofficial, unapproved version of your story becoming the “truth,” get the information out quickly.

And if it’s really bad news? Get it out even earlier. The earlier you can communicate about an ugly situation, the more quickly you’ll be able to recover trust. From David Lee of HumanNature@work whose list of “15 cold, hard truths about genuine employee engagement” appeared on Ragan.com: “Uncertainty breeds fear. Fearful employees don’t focus on their employer’s goals; they focus on their fears. Eliminate the uncertainties caused by poor communication.”

4. Employees don’t feel understood

Communication requires both talking and listening, so be sure to include plenty of 2-way communication channels.  When employees don’t feel that you understand them, their jobs, or their struggles, they’re likely to feel like you’re disconnected.  When they feel like you don’t understand or you don’t care, they don’t give you as much of their energy.

That can be a rather easy – and fun – thing to fix. Consider shadowing for a few hours in departments your employees wouldn’t expect to see you in.  This helps them feel like you understand the challenges they face.

And, although it may not seem like a big deal to you, having lunch with a group of employees is huge.  Just a breakfast or lunch with a senior leader and a small group of employees will give them the opportunity to be heard.  Simply listening will go a long way.

You can also consider having lunch with some members of the department that interacts most with the rest of your company.  Maybe this is the facilities crew or a team that delivers mail or packages between departments or locations.  They hear more than you’ll ever learn from an employee survey and can be a valuable resource to help you understand what is truly going on throughout the company.

Here’s the best part –>

The biggest change you’ll see from this is an increase in support for your decisions.

Enjoy it and have fun!  If you’re not having fun, they probably aren’t either.


© 2016 Jessica Walter, MS, APR

All content provided here is for informational purposes only and does not necessarily reflect the opinions of any organization with which the author is involved. Although the author makes an extensive effort to provide a complete representation of facts, there may additional helpful information provided by other sources. Whenever researching your own situation or devising a strategy, it is recommended to gather information from many sources. The author sincerely hopes that you find this information helpful and urges you to be inspired, to inspire others, and to be gentle with yourself as you continue on your path.

About the Author

Jessica Walter is a Communications Strategist with a passion for inspiring companies to live into their full potential.  She’s found that the essential equation for long-term success includes Marketing, Culture, and Leader Development.

Jessica has been a marketing executive for a regional bank, a communications director for a health system, a public affairs officer for a Dept. of Defense command, and the assignment editor for a TV newsroom.

She holds a master’s degree in Leadership & Business Ethics from Duquesne University, a bachelor’s in Mass Communication from Towson University, and the Accreditation in Public Relations (APR) from the Universal Accreditation Board. She is also a Certified Lean Systems Leader.

You can reach her at Jessica.walter.apr@gmail.com.

Published by Jessica Walter, MS, APR

Speaker, Consultant, and Certified Leadership Coach

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