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More Than Just Talk, Employee Communications Delivers Real Benefits

Construction employee communication image

Construction company owners and executives are juggling serious challenges in a notoriously cyclical and competitive industry. The industry is struggling to find qualified workers during an ongoing talent shortage. Kroll’s Global Fraud Report shows fraud and theft are rising, while Gallup’s 2017 State of the American Workplace report shows 51% of employees are actively looking for a new job or watching for openings. Risks to employees are both external (safety) and internal (the industry ranks near the top among highest-risk for suicide).

A Low-Cost Productivity Booster

One employer tool that’s often overlooked can help address many of these issues by increasing employee engagement and productivity: clear, compelling, and consistent employee communication. This low-cost and very effective way to spur positive change in the workplace might seem too good to be true, or perhaps too “soft” an approach to make a difference with issues as thorny as turnover and safety. But numerous surveys identify employee communication as a key factor in increasing employee engagement. A Gallup survey found that the top 25% most engaged teams experienced results such as:

  • 25% lower turnover (in high-turnover organizations)
  • 65% lower turnover (in low-turnover organizations)
  • 37% lower absenteeism
  • 20% higher customer metrics
  • 21% higher productivity
  • 22% high profitability

Employee Engagement Improvement

Research by HR consulting firm Watson Wyatt identifies communication of corporate strategy and goals, the importance of the customer and the value of the total rewards package as a critical driver of employee engagement. Quantum Workplace, which handles the surveys in many “Best Places to Work” community awards, lists two communication-related factors that contribute to employee engagement: setting a clear, compelling direction that empowers each employee, and engaging in open and honest communication.

How to Communicate Effectively

While employee communication is generally low-cost and effective, to make it deliver these kinds of results, the communication must be consistent over time, and deliver a message that aligns with the organization’s mission, vision, and culture. It must also be delivered through channels the employee trusts and pays attention to, and speak to the employee as an important part of the organization, not as a pair of hands to be told what to do. And it’s especially important during big transitions – for example, when a company is going public, or going through layoffs. That’s when, if the organization isn’t communicating clearly and well, rumor and innuendo will take over.

Employee communication is also much more than the company newsletter. It occurs formally and informally through all kinds of channels and in all kinds of situations, ranging from performance evaluations and recruitment/orientation to mentoring, formal presentations from leadership and informal feedback after a meeting. It even extends to tools such as social media, where employees may read about the company’s stance on a particular issue, or how to talk about a new product or market area.

Another feature of employee communications often overlooked is that it shouldn’t be a one-way street. No leader, regardless of how effective and informed, can know everything that’s going on in the organization. Encouraging – and rewarding, rather than penalizing – sharing both good and bad news keeps the door open to information that can give you a critical head-start on responding, whether it’s to a possible safety violation, suspected fraud, or a talented employee struggling with opioid addiction or depression.

Employee Communication Channels

In the case of information employees may not want to share with a manager, implementing an anonymous online or phone hotline can be a useful way to encourage employees to report fraud, harassment, concern about safety or co-workers, or other types of risks that should be addressed. Allen, Gibbs & Houlik, L.C.’s OurWorkplace confidential employee communications channel has helped a number of employers identify and intervene to manage situations in which inappropriate or unsafe workplace behaviors were occurring. The Association of Certified Fraud Examiners’ 2016 Report to the Nations on Occupational Fraud and Abuse highlights employee tips as the most common way fraud is detected in an organization.

Summary

Communication may be considered a “soft skill,” along with other skills such as teamwork and problem-solving – as opposed to technical skills such as programming or accounting. But effective employee communication’s results can be anything but soft, delivering real benefits to the bottom line. Instead of calling communication a soft skill, let’s call it a success skill – a useful one every company can benefit from mastering to earn its substantial benefits. For more information about employee communication, contact Carrie Cox, senior organizational development consultant using the information below.

Carrie Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP

Senior Organizational Development Consultant,
Organizational Development & Family Business Services
Carrie has experience in a variety of human resource functions, including labor laws, compensation structures, employee classification, benefits administration, performance management, and human resource best practices. She has served clients in a number of industries including manufacturing, construction, banking, and not-for-profits. Carrie is a member of the national and local chapters of the Society of Human Resource Professionals (SHRM) and serves on the Wichita chapter board of directors.

She is a certified practitioner for the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator® and the Hay Group’s Emotional and Social Competency Inventory. Her additional certifications include Professional in Human Resources (PHR) from the Human Resource Certification Institute and SHRM-CP designated by the Society for Human Resource Management.
Carrie Cox photo
Carrie Cox, PHR, SHRM-CP
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