Maintaining clear and open communication between managers and staff helps maintain a positive and harmonious working environment. This is needed for employees to feel happy, focused and motivated while at work, and for managers to support their team when required. If good communication is missing in a company, problems can arise which end up costing in terms of both time and money.
To keep effective lines of communication flowing between you and your employees, consider doing the following:
Almost without exception, the one part of communicating that we all need to improve is listening. In fact, recent research showed that less than 2% of people have had any formal education or training on how to listen during a conversation. You could easily get ahead of this curve and improve communication within your organisation by spending some time practising listening exercises (which you can even find online), and encouraging your staff to do the same.
Talk in person
It can be very easy when you are in the middle of a task to send off a short email asking a staff member to do something for you or letting them know some new information. Whilst, this is convenient for you, it can become very frustrating for the recipient if they are receiving constant messages from you, which interrupt their work flow.
Instead of sending a message every time you need something doing, compile them into a list and schedule a time to talk it through with your staff member one-on-one. This could actually save you both time because they can then ask questions and you can answer them in less time than an extended email chain.
Maintain regular contact
As a manager, you may find yourself becoming fixated on ticking things off your long ‘to-do’ list. It is important you complete these tasks but it’s perhaps more important that you take time to connect and offer support to your staff.
Your staff understand that you are busy, but they will appreciate you taking 10 minutes or so out of your day to say “hello” and ask them how things are going.
If possible, have an open-door policy and let your staff know that they can come to you at any time to ask questions or raise concerns. If this is not possible in your workplace, consider having an "open-door hour" every day, or if you work remotely, actively encourage your staff to communicate with you via email or text messaging.
Pick the right time to speak
The time you choose to speak to your staff can determine how well the conversation will go and if it has the desired outcome that you hoped it would. Times that you should avoid are 9am (when are staff have just arrived and are preparing themselves for the day ahead), lunchtime and around 5-5.30pm, when people are heading out the door to go home. It has been suggested that the best times to hold meetings are mid-morning or 3 pm.
Create a communicative environment
Is your office environment set up to encourage and facilitate communication? Take a moment to survey the office to see if you can identify any barriers that may be preventing open communication between you and your staff. For instance, is the layout of desks or office furniture stopping you from communicating face to face? Are some members of staff seated in another part of the office where they may feel separated from you or the rest of the team? It might be that having your team situated in one area of the office or having an open floor plan makes communication easier. Or could you have a corner of the room that has a sofa or more comfortable chairs that could be used just for quick and relaxed conversations that will encourage more communication?
Observe what is being said
This involves listening to what your staff are saying and observing how they are saying it. What is their body language telling you? Does it match what they are verbally saying? How somebody says something can have more meaning than what is being said. This list by Study Body Language details different body language signs and their meanings.
We often subconsciously match our body language to others. If you are looking down at your desk when people are speaking to you, they will do the same when you are talking to them. To show your staff that you are taking in an interest in what they are saying, try standing or sitting with a straight back, maintain eye contact and respond when needed with appropriate comments or feedback. And of course, listen, listen, listen!