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Communication plays a critical role in business success. Effective communication can enhance company culture while poor communication can destroy culture and impact employee engagement and retention. The frequency and level of detail of the communication often ebbs and flows based on the current circumstances of business operations and the needs of the individual employees. Some employees need lots more communication than other employees. It’s no wonder managing communication in a business can be hard work.
I am often asked by business owners about how much information should they share with their employees. Is it appropriate to share some or all of the financials of the business? Should you let employees know how the business is performing? Do you communicate significant matters/issues to employees up front or should you keep them quiet until you have a solution or an outcome? The other thing I am regularly asked is how to address rumours amongst employees.
I’ve observed various responses to these situations by business owners or managers and often it comes down to their own personal preference. Some just don’t say anything at all until they absolutely have to. Others choose to say some things to some employees but not to all employees. Then there are the business owners/managers that share as much information as soon as it is appropriate to do so with their employees.
The problem with not saying anything at all or only disclosing some information to some employees is that typically (and it’s human nature), employees will fill in the gaps. No one likes to be kept in the dark. While you might argue that a piece of information doesn’t impact the job of the employee and isn’t specifically relevant to them, keeping information from employees can be detrimental to productivity, engagement and negatively impact the overall culture of your business.
Our employees aren’t silly. They will observe changes or reductions in production/work output, they see the reduced stock levels or reduced jobs in the sales pipeline or on the flip side the increase in work coming through and the unrealistic deadlines that might need to be achieved. They see the casual employees having their hours cut. Sometimes in a regional city like Ballarat, employees hear more about the business they work for outside the business because of the small talk of suppliers, customers and external stakeholders. When we say nothing at all or only some things to some employees we throw fuel on the fire to the rumours and small talk and our company culture quickly deteriorates.
When your employees are kept in the dark, they spend more time worrying about what’s going on and less time actually doing the work, hence the reduction in work output and productivity. They feel uncertain, and a lack security can be extremely detrimental to employees. I have often been contacted by people wanting to look for other work opportunities because their perception is that the business they are working for is not doing well. They worry that their job will be one of the first to be cut because the work has slowed down. As business owners we know the work might have slowed for any number of reasons and that there might be a big contract just around the corner that we need to gear up for but through lack of communication our best employees can already be of searching for another job because of our lack of communication.
You can guarantee that while you might not be communicating to your employees, your employees are doing a lot of communicating between themselves and are filling in the gaps of what they don’t know. Situations get exaggerated, different people perceive situations differently and before you know it the rumours are abounding and the employees perception of the situation is worlds away from the reality of the situation. Hence, it’s better for you to be driving the communication and the key messages you want to flow throughout the business. Sharing information is good for business.
You might not choose to let your employees know your entire financials but you might communicate to them the monthly sales targets and how the business is tracking to budget. When we all have a common goal and shared purpose we can work together to achieve it. When our employees don’t know how the business is performing they don’t know if their contribution is effective or how they can help. How you communicate the key messages you deliver is critical to how the communication is received.
From my observations, open, transparent and genuine communication is a consistent theme in high performing businesses. While we might have the best intentions to shield our employees from situations or issues, often no communication and trying to keep issues under wraps is detrimental. Nobody likes being kept in the dark. As business owners and managers, when we have information we make better more informed decisions and I think this goes for our employees as well. What information will you share with your employees today?
Angela Connor is the Founder and Director of Inspire HQ, one of regional Victoria’s leading recruitment, human resource and career coaching companies. She understands the significance of having the right team of people in a business and is passionate about helping business to attract, recruit and engage the right people so those people can inject their talents into the business; creating an environment where they can do great work and love what they do. Find more useful information and advice at www.inspirehq.com.au or by following Angela on LinkedIn.