Nonprofit and small business leaders alike point to data and software as drivers for success. However, strong employee-leadership communication is just as, if not more, valuable for driving your organization toward its goals.
Strong communication leads to strong employee engagement, which benefits your organization in a variety of ways. Let’s look at a few statistics cited from HR Cloud:
- Teams that are highly engaged have 21% higher profitability and 17% higher productivity.
- 85% of employees are motivated to become more engaged in the workplace when internal communications are effective.
- U.S. companies lose up to $550 billion each year due to employee disengagement.
Strong, open, and effective communication is the best way to foster increased engagement, and the numbers speak for themselves—employee communication is crucial for organizational success. Improving communication within your organization doesn’t have to be a complicated issue. In this guide, we’ll explore five intuitive ways to improve your employee communication:
- Establish a foundation of trust.
- Check-in regularly.
- Pay attention to communication styles.
- Listen, don’t assume.
- Take feedback into consideration.
From establishing yourself as a trustworthy source to being receptive to employee feedback, there are a variety of ways to improve communication with easily accessible resources. And the benefits—improving productivity, decreasing turnover, and just generally improving employee wellness—are well worth it. Let’s dive in!
Establish a foundation of trust.
If your employees are going to communicate openly with you, they need to trust you first. Let’s look at the idea of a “foundation of trust” in two contexts:
- Establishing yourself as a trustworthy source.
- Establishing yourself as someone who is open to discussing concerns, questions, and suggestions.
This is a crucial part of being a leader because both are integral to improving communication between employees and your organization’s leadership. Check it out:
ESTABLISHING YOURSELF AS A TRUSTWORTHY SOURCE.
When staffers run into a conflict, they need someone who can help. That’s where you enter the picture. They should come to you when they need guidance, whether the problem is getting past a kink in your nonprofit’s strategic plan or navigating employee conflict.
Establish yourself as the one with the answers. And, if you don’t have the answers right away, make sure your employees know you’ll hunt down a solution expediently (or at least equip them with the tools they’ll need in the meantime). The best way to do this is to truly become an expert in your field and your organization’s operations. Do your homework and outline clear guidelines for later reference.
ESTABLISHING YOURSELF AS SOMEONE OPEN TO DISCUSSING CONCERNS, QUESTIONS, AND SUGGESTIONS.
Staffers won’t come to you with their concerns if they’re worried about punitive responses.
When a problem arises, listen to your staff members before making judgments. Gather a complete picture of what happened or the perceived issue that needs solving, and then react with a level head. If you need to, avoid reacting immediately. Think about what is truly the best way to respond to the situation, rather than what may seem like the best manner at the moment.
This doesn’t mean avoiding addressing employees that aren’t meeting expectations. Rather, ensure those staffers feel comfortable coming to you with questions, concerns, and suggestions knowing that you will respond in a reasonable manner.
There are few communication tactics less productive than once-a-quarter braindumps from your employees. Holding on to conversation topics for such a long time prevents you from taking immediate action to solve problems or address concerns.
Further, if any wins worth celebrating arise, they might have been so far in the past that they’re no longer relevant.
Normalize regular check-ins with staff members to create a continuous dialogue. Set up consistent one-on-one meetings with staff members. You’ll stay in the loop if concerns arise and establish clear procedures for handling communications when they do. This type of meeting has quite a few benefits:
- Improves productivity. These meetings drastically decrease the time spent writing internal emails, holding ad hoc conversations, and hunting down information. It’s all condensed into one short, usually weekly, meeting that covers all issues that arose the week before.
- Acts as a conduit for meaningful feedback. Talking with an employee 1:1 is the ideal situation to deliver feedback. Without the distraction of other staffers, you can communicate feedback clearly and in a respectful manner.
- Allows for aligning organization and staffer goals. These meetings give you a continuous look into your staff’s progress on a team and personal level. If your progress on any goals is falling behind, you can catch it early on and help guide staffers in the right direction.
- Builds relationships between staffers and leaders. Regular face-to-face communication shows your employees that you’re truly invested in their engagement and performance. When they see you taking the time to hear their successes and concerns, they feel validated.
Regular check-ins also provide opportunities for integrating other employee engagement programs into your weekly schedule. For example, establish an employee recognition program and have managers spend part of their check-in recognizing recent accomplishments. Not only does this provide an opportunity to give positive feedback on employee work, but you will also show employees that you’re genuinely invested in their performance.
If this is a new concept to your organization, consider bringing on a business coach to keep yourself accountable. This team member will ensure you’re checking in regularly with yourself and living up to your highest potential.
Pay attention to communication styles.
If you’re part of a nonprofit, you know that not every donor likes to be communicated with in the same manner. Some prefer more limited communication, such as email newsletters and personal thank-you notes. Others prefer public outreach, such as through social media posts maybe even donor recognition walls,
In the same manner, not every employee will want to be communicated with in the same way. It’s your job to discern which communication styles your employees respond to best and act accordingly. There are many ways to communicate with employees, including:
- Ad hoc conversations
- One-on-one meetings
- Open meetings
- Visual presentations
- Instant messenger tools, such as Slack
- Phone conversations
Pay attention to the different ways your staff prefers to communicate with you, and reach out to them accordingly. Do you have one staffer who habitually reaches out via email but rarely drops by your office or schedules a meeting? Use email first when contacting them next.
Also, use a strategy similar to audience segmentation to communicate more efficiently with teams. For example, does a specific department retain information best when it’s given in a presentation? Craft your message in a presentation to reach your employees more effectively.
Listen, don’t assume.
You might have heard this phrase before: “If it’s not broken, don’t fix it.”
While this may be true in many scenarios, it doesn’t really apply to how your organization’s staffers complete their daily tasks. Avoid falling into the rut of never improving your nonprofit or small business’s processes just because they’ve worked in past years.
The world we live in is constantly evolving! From emerging nonprofit fundraising software to ever-changing digital marketing best practices, the landscape is changing at lightspeed. What worked yesterday might still work today, but there’s a decent chance there’s a better approach out there.
Each day, your staffers are completing work on behalf of your organization. Pay attention to employees when they note what’s working and what’s not, and make changes as you see fit.
Maybe your nonprofit’s staff wants to do more for their communities or work for an organization that promotes corporate philanthropy. Double the Donation recommends starting a matching gift program to engage your employees and improve your company’s reputation. Or, maybe your small business staffers are losing track of lead information and need a solution, ranging from a rundown on data entry best practices or a new CRM to fill with contact information.
When staff members see that you’re receptive to their feedback, they’ll be more likely to continue providing that feedback. Further, being receptive to change, and even investing in new tools for your staffers, will keep your organization in line with the times. It’s a win-win!
Take feedback into consideration.
Often, employees are nervous about providing feedback about their managers and your organization’s internal processes.
Can you blame them? Providing professional criticism to your boss is scary!
However, eCardWidget’s guide to motivating employees points out that employees are motivated by having opportunities to be part of the office’s decision-making processes. This includes providing critique and suggestions about current processes.
If your leaders aren’t meeting the needs of your organization, you need to know. When staff members are open enough to provide candid feedback, listen to them. That staff member has done the organization a service by raising concerns or perceived problems to leadership.
Take their feedback into consideration. As a leader, are they making a good point about how you’re guiding the organization? Or did they suggest ways that your overall process can be improved?
If you see it fit to change things, do so. If you don’t, follow up with that employee to provide reasoning as to why. Similarly to how listening to staffers’ concerns about their own work process will make them more likely to continue communicating, listening to their concerns about your process will have the same effect.
Whether you’re a nonprofit or small business, strong employee communication is crucial for success. Improving employee communication is simple. In fact, it comes down to five key strategies.
Employees need to trust you as their leader, and you should check in with them regularly to prevent backup. You should pay close attention to their communication styles and when they point out issues in their daily work procedures. Finally, be receptive to their feedback on your leadership style and your organization’s management overall.
Each of these strategies can be implemented right now, without any major investment from your organization. When your staff feels heard, acknowledged, and encouraged to speak, you’ll notice them being more committed to and engaged with your organization.