How to effectively communicate with employees

Communicating with your employees is easy. You simply talk and they listen, right? That’€™s true, but effectively communicating with your employees is much more involved. As managers and leaders, we oftentimes forget that we don’t know everything and are tempted to jump right to the resolution. In order to effectively communicate with your employees, you should follow a simple checklist, beginning with yourself.

When you need to communicate something to an employee, you first have to evaluate your current state of emotion. If you are angry, tired, upset, or depressed, it will show in your communication. If you are able to completely separate those feelings from your work life, then you can proceed with your communication. However, don’t be afraid to reschedule, even if you are the one that is dealing with an external issue.

Sometimes, rescheduling a communication session is much more beneficial to both parties, than to continue when one party is experiencing negative emotions. Next, you have to determine the importance of what you are trying to communicate. This will facilitate your choice as to your method of delivery. For example, if you need to tell an entire workforce about a new policy, the most effective methods of communication might include a conference call or priority email. If the issue is localized to one section or person, especially if it is urgent, a phone call or face-to-face would be more appropriate. Each method of communication holds its own set of parameters, which you should focus on.

Emails should be short and to the point. Don’€t confuse the issue with the information that isn’t relevant? Sometimes people feel that the more information that is given, the better another will understand it. Often times, however, the opposite is true. Many of your direct reports only want to know the situation and what they personally need to do regarding it. Also, keep in mind that everyone learns in different ways and on different levels. Studies found that many employees in a certain job sector were leaving the company due to not understanding the value of their benefits package. It was later found that the package was written in such a way that, if you weren’t in the benefits department, you couldn’t understand it.

Phone calls should be short as well. This is typically used when you have a high priority item that requires a particular person’€s attention. Remember to remain professional and positive during the conversation, as negativity can often be picked up in the tone of your voice. It has been proven that thirty-eight percent of the emotional messages of verbal communication is received through paralanguage€™ or the use of voice and only seven percent is the actual words you use.

An important part of any verbal communication, but even more so when you are not looking at the other person, is clarity. When communicating with another person, paraphrase what they are saying to you, and ask them to clarify for you what their understanding of your communication is. This will ensure that you both fully understand what was accomplished, what was said, and how the other person feels, without superimposing your personal feelings onto the conversation.

Face-to-face is the most difficult. When speaking with an employee face-to-face, you must be conscious of internal and external factors. Some internal factors include how you or the employee are feeling about the upcoming conversation, how you or they feel due to something unrelated to your conversation, but relevant to work, etc. Some external factors are the placement of furniture, lighting, posture, noise, etc. You should always strive to make the communication session as comfortable for both parties as possible.

This can be accomplished by taking the other person out to lunch, going to their office, or something as simple as sitting on the same side of the desk while talking. You must also take care to check your non-verbal communication. Anywhere from fifty to seventy percent of our communication takes place nonverbally. Such things as facial expressions, your posture, where you are sitting in the room, etc, will affect how the other party receives your communication. If you are sitting with your arms crossed over your chest, for example, that is a sign of defensiveness. Maintain an open posture when with others, lean forward a little to show interest, don’€™t use your hands excessively as this will show that you are excited.

Make sure to practice active listening. Active listening is much more difficult than it sounds because managers and leaders tend to believe they understand the nature of a problem within the first ten words or so. Active listening will help to get to the root cause of the problem, and a good tool for active listening is the Five Why’€™s. Here is an example:

There was a problem with the Lincoln Memorial, where the stone was eroding quickly. The caretakers came together to resolve the problem of the erosion. They asked €œWhy€ the stone was eroding. They found that they were washing the monument too much, so they asked Why they were washing it more. The answer was that a massive amount of birds were defecating on the Memorial. So they asked €œWhy€ there were so many birds around and found out that it was due to the lights being shined on the Memorial at night. That was the root cause, and once they shut off the lights, the problem solved itself.

Lastly, follow up. You have to inspect what you expect. Even the best-intentioned communication can go awry if someone doesn’€t follow up to ensure that what you talked about getting done.

Effective communication is an art, that when followed, yields better results than the older, more one-sided forms of communications. If you focus on the fact that you and your employee are two sides of the communication equation, you will obtain a higher quality result.

Effective communication

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