It’s no secret that employees are disconnected from their work in vast numbers.
Aon Hewitt made that clear with its 2017 global analysis of more than five million employees, which found only 24% are highly engaged at work. Gallup’s figures are even more alarming: a mere 15% of employees worldwide (and just 33% of U.S. employees) are engaged.
The solutions for bridging the employee engagement gap are clear. We need to do a better job of putting people in the right roles, assigning them truly meaningful work, and investing in the development of our leaders and managers so they inspire greater performance from their teams.
However, one solution to the engagement problem seems to be often overlooked: two-way communication between leaders and employees at all levels of the organization. The power of open and frequent communication can absolutely transform your company.
Align and Energize People Behind Your Mission
Successful leaders communicate often about the company’s mission and values. They also invite honest feedback and answer questions. This free and open exchange aligns and energizes employees, makes the company’s mission “real” to everyone, and helps them understand how they contribute to it.
Chief Executive magazine interviewed a number of senior leaders who have an extraordinary commitment to communicating with employees and modeling what they want from them. Bob Leduc, President of Pratt & Whitney, told the magazine, “I am a firm believer that my job is to define the culture we want, model the culture we want and nourish the culture we want.” According to 7-Eleven’s CEO, Joe DePinto, “You’ve got to be around. You’ve got to be visible; it’s important in all businesses, and certainly in our franchise business. Franchisees have to know that the leadership is available. So, we are very open, very available, very accessible.”
Include Employees in Strategic Initiatives
Effective leaders also communicate the company’s strategic initiatives to the organization in clear, simple terms. This ensures everyone understands where the business is headed, why, and how she or he can contribute. In addition, it helps employees better prepare for changes in the company’s direction and possibly in their work. When they understand the rationale behind your initiatives, they’re able to embrace change rather than resist it.
Global telecommunications company, Telefónica, took this concept to a new height by opening strategy discussions to the entire company. “When our employees are part of the discussion…, they internalize and adopt the strategies and work on them with real commitment,” said Luz Rodrigo, Telefónica’s Enterprise Social Strategist.
Listen and Have Conversations at Scale
When it comes to true two-way communication, organizations (especially large ones) often struggle with the challenge of listening to employees. It’s a shame because many of these companies do a great job of listening to customers. They could adopt many of the tools, systems and feedback loops they already have in place and use them to listen more carefully to their employees. Employees are an invaluable source of insights regarding a company’s work environment, roadblocks to productivity, ideas for innovative new products and services, and much more.
Modern technology enables leaders to have conversations even at large scales. For instance, enterprise social solutions such as Yammer allow leaders to interact with even the largest employee populations in a personal way and more frequently, with very little fuss or cost. Plus, these solutions are designed for two-way interactions, which isn’t possible with traditional communication channels.
By having our leaders raise the bar on communicating with and listening to employees, we’ll not only raise engagement but we’ll also empower people to do their best work across the organization.