Are you concerned with the level of engagement and productivity of your employees? Are you finding it difficult to attract and retain top talent?
If your answer to any of these questions is “yes,” chances are you could stand to make substantial improvements in company culture, and creating employee communication channels will go a long way toward accomplishing that goal.
In a recent study, 60% of employees expressed feeling “less than enthusiastic” about internal communications, citing among the top reasons for this that the internal communications channels offered by their employers are stagnant.
Poor, stagnant, or all-around insufficient employee communication channels have a ripple effect that can be felt in all aspects of the company organization. From recruitment, to marketing and sales, when employees are dissatisfied with the communication channels available to them, it is unlikely they will form a positive impression of the company they work for.
In this article, we will take a closer look at why creating employee communication channels is important for your company, how that impacts company culture and the benefits you stand to reap.
Current Problems in the Workplace
Both the US and the UK are struggling to come out of an unprecedented labor shortage. In some sectors of activity, there are approximately two job openings for every one job-seeker. To further exacerbate this problem, many companies, big and small, are reporting unusually high quit rates and evidence of a serious lack of engagement from their employees.
These problems have become so widespread that new terms have been coined to describe them: The Great Resignation (also known as The Big Quit) and quiet quitting.
While there are a plethora of factors that have contributed to these negative trends, undoubtedly, poor communication or the lack of clear and effective communication channels has played a significant role.
When a workplace is plagued with poor or insufficient employee communication channels, the consequences are multiple and inevitable.
- Confusion in the workplace
- Lack of oversight and accountability
- Employees feeling voiceless or underappreciated
- Redundancies and inefficiency in task completion
On the other hand, clear and effective employee communication channels lead to positive outcomes, such as:
- Increased employee engagement
- Higher employee retention rate
- Greater efficiency and productivity
- An increase in innovation as employees can inspire one another
- Stronger, more dynamic company culture
What Is Company Culture And Why Is It Important
Companies in all sectors of activity are experiencing unprecedented difficulties attracting and retaining top talent. In today’s job-search environment, word gets around quickly. There are many platforms that allow employees and candidates to review companies – platforms such as Glassdoor and Lensa. And that’s only the tip of the iceberg of sites where you can find employee reviews.
Today’s job-seekers are looking for (and demanding) more than just a good job at a good salary.
Today’s job-seekers are looking to contribute to something they believe in, they identify with, and that will provide meaning to their lives, while confirming and expressing their values and priorities.
This is at the heart of company culture – a shared set of values and priorities that make up the work environment of a particular organization.
Company culture informs the recruitment process
By placing an emphasis on company culture – starting with the recruitment process – companies seek to build teams that are likely to work well together, hire employees that are likely to stay longer with the company, and invest in the long-term career prospects of their recruits.
This is why soft skills have taken on a higher priority in recent years than they did in the past. Recruits who know how to leverage communication skills for career readiness offer a significant boost to company culture, provided they are given the right communication channels to express themselves.
Company culture is a recruitment tool
Job-seekers know which companies have the reputation of having a good company culture and which ones do not. Company culture is a high priority among today’s job-seekers, and companies that have earned the reputation of a positive company culture experience a much easier time attracting top talent.
Company culture is a sales tool
Today’s consumers share many of the same values and priorities as today’s job-seekers (of course they do, in many cases, they are one and the same people). Today’s consumers seek to confirm and express those values and priorities with the products and services they purchase, and the brands they are loyal to. Companies that have earned the reputation of having a positive company culture are far more likely to attract and retain customers.
The Signs of a Positive Company Culture
Company culture is not a nebulous thing. In fact, to a certain extent, it can be quantified. Companies that claim to have a positive company culture will have hard data to back up their claim.
- A high employee retention rate
- A high percentage of internal promotions
- Increased productivity and innovation
- A high participation rate in facultative programs and events (such as additional training, optional conferences, seminars, or company parties)
There are outward signs to look for as well. For example, companies with a diverse workforce are more likely to also have a positive company culture. Diversity in the workplace can be expressed by the physical makeup of the team (ethnicity, gender, background, etc.) as well as by a variety in work methods and leadership styles.
Positive company culture is expressed by an investment in the company’s employees. Types of Investments in employees range from:
- Continual training
- Employee benefits (healthcare, childcare, etc.)
- Recognition and reward programs
- Internal promotion
- Regular performance reviews
Why Communication Is Essential to Healthy Company Culture
Communication, in the sense of contributing to healthy company culture, consists of giving a voice to the individual members of a team. This means providing channels of communication that are clear, accessible, and effective. It also means encouraging communication, which means acknowledging that the voice has been heard.
When employees are encouraged to express themselves, and they feel they can do so easily and without fear, a snowball-like effect of positive results will invariably follow.
The employee is now more likely to take initiative (which leads to an increase in employee engagement and innovation). Keeping an eye on and measuring the engagement of your employees with key metrics allows you to gain insights into what is working and what is not.
Types of Employee Communication Channels
We can divide our list of employee communication channels into two subsets – physical (or traditional) and digital (or online). While some communication channels are clearly better than others, it’s important to offer employees a variety. After all, the key to building a good company culture is to acknowledge, encourage, and celebrate the diversity of your team. And different employees will favor different communication channels.
Face-to-face meetings can and should be held both individually and collectively. The huge advantage physical face-to-face meetings have (over digital or online communication channels) is that a lot of communication is non-verbal. In face-to-face meetings, the employee can express himself or herself through body language and facial expressions.
Online Collaboration Software
Since the growth in popularity of remote work, online collaboration platforms such as Slack or Trello have experienced a tremendous surge in usage. They have proven to be an effective means of linking remote workers and part-time employees with the on-site team. It’s no surprise that the top 4 project management tools of 2023 place a significant emphasis on communication that unites remote and on-site workers.
While it is just as easy to send a written message through online collaboration platforms, emails carry with them a certain gravitas. They don’t necessarily have to be formal, but Emails have been used in courts of law as evidence, and in contract disputes. They have the added benefit of being difficult to delete, as both the sender and the recipient have an easily retrievable record of when they were sent, to whom, and what they contain.
Telephone and Video Conferencing
Some people are better at verbal communication than written. It is important to offer both possibilities. However, telephone calls and video conferences are rarely recorded, and communication that cannot be corroborated by a physical record or referred back to does present a certain disadvantage. While it is technically possible to record telephone calls and video conferences, there remains a stigma associated with that practice. It’s important to get consent before recording such communications. But, even in those cases, the stigma remains.
Memos and Internal Publications
While, admittedly, this form of communication is largely one-sided, it is important to have the whole team on the same page. Issuing regular internal memos and internal publications can achieve that goal, provided other two-sided channels are also readily available.
Surveys and Bulletin Boards
It is not uncommon for some people to find communicating with their peers or their bosses intimidating. To accommodate those people and not be deprived of their valuable input, it is important to also make some forms of anonymous communication available. You’d be surprised what your employees can say when they are confident no one will know who said it. Those instances are often catalysts for truth-telling.
Qualities of Effective Communication
Effective internal communication can increase employee engagement, productivity, and innovation. Effective external communication can attract and retain customers – not to mention avoiding damage to your brand reputation with crisis communication. Both effective internal and external communication share the same characteristics.
An effective communicator knows who is listening. The effective communicator will make a concerted effort to adjust or stylize their communication to make it more accessible and relatable to the recipient. This can only be done when a significant effort is made to understand the recipient. This can only be done through empathy.
Respect, courtesy, and consideration are all components or expressions of empathy.
Focus and Clarity
I’ve chosen to combine these two attributes as I don’t see how they are inextricable from each other. An effective communicator knows precisely what the aim of their communication is. And their communication is so focused that there is no doubt as to the aim from the recipient’s end either.
Clarity is a more nebulous affair (pardon the pun). Clarity does not end with the recipient understanding what has been communicated. Instead, when there is clarity, the recipient understands how the communicator feels about the information presented. They understand the stakes involved and the emotional and professional implications. In this way, clarity requires emotional intelligence.
An urgent message is useless if delivered too late. Similarly, it loses its gravitas when delivered too early. Appropriate timing is essential to effective communication. This also implies understanding when the recipient is most likely to be receptive to the message (when this luxury is available).
Some things may need to be said, but they don’t necessarily need to be said by you. Appropriateness is determined by who delivers the message and which communication channel they choose. To avoid confusion or abuse, the channels of communication available to employees should be clearly delineated. For example, some channels are reserved for non-work communication (this, then, should clear all other internal communication channels of non-work-related topics).
Building a positive company culture is a high priority for all successful companies. A positive company culture encourages and celebrates diversity and the expression of individuality – all within the framework of shared values and priorities.
There is a strong correlation between company culture and the company’s ability to attract and retain top talent, employee retention rate, employee engagement, and a host of other metrics essential to the company’s success. Likewise, there is a strong correlation between the communication channels available to a company’s employees and company culture.
Employee communication channels are vital to the development of company culture. Employees should have access to a variety of communication channels – physical and digital; verbal and written; formal and informal.