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5 Ways to Foster Open Communication in the Workplace

Quick look: Employees who feel their thoughts are heard and valued are more likely to remain at their company and are almost five times as likely to feel empowered to do their best work. But developing open communication in the workplace isn’t as simple as it may seem. These five helpful tips will guide SMB employers as they design or revisit their office communication strategies.

Happy and engaged employees are the cornerstone of a successful business. One of the best ways to improve employee happiness is to ensure that their thoughts, concerns, and ideas are heard. Yet all too often, this accidentally gets overlooked by the organization’s management.

Open communication is defined as a situation when people can openly express their thoughts and ideas to each other. Having a company culture that’s centered around open communication can result in several organizational benefits:

  • Increased employee engagement: Feeling comfortable sharing their thoughts encourages workers to engage more with their employers, which can strengthen their commitment to the organization and result in increased productivity.
  • Stronger diversity, equity, and inclusion: Everyone deserves to be heard. Encouraging workers to speak up and share their thoughts helps more people feel included and more likely to share constructive feedback. It also helps staff build trust with their organization, which almost two-thirds of workers say directly impacts their sense of belonging at work.
  • Higher productivity levels: When employees feel like they are valued and respected, they tend to be more motivated. In fact, research has shown that those who feel heard on the job are 4.6 times as likely to be empowered to do their best work.

In contrast, not having an open line of communication in the office can have negative repercussions for a business. Low morale, negative reviews on sites like Glassdoor (which can hurt a company’s brand), and eventually, loss of staff are some of the outcomes of not giving employees a way to communicate.

5 ways to encourage open communication in the workplace

Luckily, implementing a strategy encouraging staff to speak up isn’t as difficult as one might think. Here, review five tips to foster open communication in the workplace.

1. Be honest, respectful, and invested in employees’ goals

Open communication requires honesty from everyone involved. Business leaders should ensure all corporate communications uphold the highest levels of respect and that employees know this is expected of them, too. If someone communicates otherwise, remind them that their feedback is important but must be respectfully submitted. This is a critical step to creating open communication in the workplace.

Another way to show respect is by understanding and prioritizing workers’ goals. When people join an organization, they often learn about the company’s mission, values, and vision. However, usually, it’s a one-sided communication, and employees’ goals and aspirations aren’t discussed then.

Understanding team members’ ambitions is a great way for leadership to tailor learning and development that will have the most value for employees and the organization. Additionally, developing a mentorship program and encouraging participation can help ensure their career goals are met, provides mentors the opportunity to grow their managerial skills, and can even have a positive impact on company profits.

2. Check in regularly

Over half of workers wish their companies surveyed them more often, and a weekly, one-question survey designed to provide anonymous feedback can help managers stay in touch with their teams. Organizations can use an inexpensive survey system, or a performance management platform with surveying capabilities, to ask workers a new question each week and send management the feedback to review. This will help business leaders address employee concerns before they become a bigger issue.

Organizations must ensure their surveys are properly administered to take full advantage of the benefits that they can offer.  When designing an employee survey, business leaders should strategize how they will design and implement it, analyze the data, and develop an action plan based on the results.

3. Ask for anonymous suggestions

In addition to sending workers surveys, having a permanent, judgment-free place for them to share their opinions can be useful. Organizations should consider implementing an online suggestion box system that enables employees to submit anonymous feedback and ideas. This reminds staff they are empowered to provide ideas for improvement in their workplace. It may also encourage them to bring subjects to management’s attention that they aren’t otherwise comfortable addressing.

4. Act on feedback

Responding to employee feedback is critical to maintaining open communication in the workplace. After all, communication is a two-way process, and your company culture relies upon workers knowing they are being heard.

Business leaders should implement a system to acknowledge and digest all the feedback received. This could include discussing survey results in company-wide town halls or team-specific meetings.

Every idea doesn’t have to result in change but should be acknowledged and considered. This will increase the likelihood of employees contributing to the open communication culture.

Once your company provides the means for open communication, you may be surprised by how many insightful comments and ideas you’ll receive. Some of the suggestions will inevitably be negative. Business leaders should remember to acknowledge and address those concerns and understand that it’s healthy for employees to have a system to communicate their thoughts.

5. Measure the success of your open communication plan

Asking for feedback and reviewing responses isn’t enough to confirm you’ve successfully developed an open culture or identify areas to improve. You must collect and analyze relevant qualitative and quantitative data to do that. The Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM) provides the following example data points that business leaders can consider measuring:

  • Qualitative data, including anecdotal evidence of employees’ opinions and attitudes improving after implementing an open communication strategy
  • Quantitative data, including metrics like turnover, productivity, and employee satisfaction rates

A partner to help you promote open communication

Small business leaders are busy and focused on growth, and having an unbiased third-party organization weigh in on or help develop your communication efforts can be very helpful. A professional employer organization (PEO), like ExtensisHR, can do that and more.

For example, in addition to providing comprehensive human resources, employee benefits, and risk and compliance services, ExtensisHR also offers the following:

  • Dedicated HR Managers to guide small businesses as they develop open communication plans, mentorship programs, and employee survey strategies
  • Affordable access to 15Five, a leading performance management platform that facilitates engagement surveys, feedback gathering, weekly employee check-ins, one-on-one meetings, performance trend tracking, and more
  • A robust learning and development knowledge base with training topics including communication, collaboration, team building, and addressing disengagement

The time is now to establish or revisit your company’s culture and communication. Connect with the professionals at ExtensisHR to get started today.

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