A Too-Familiar Story
Let’s say you’re trying to buy a jacket online. There’s a problem with your purchase, so you call customer service, and they put you on hold. (Waiting…) Finally you reach a robot voice informing you that the call center is closed. You really want the jacket, so you persist.
Hours (or perhaps even days) later, you connect with a live representative who is unable to offer the assistance you need to resolve the problem. What seemed like an easy problem to fix has become a headache, a time-suck, and a shadow over your relationship with the company. Not only is this jacket transaction in jeopardy, but the next time you’re in the market for clothes, you’re likely to shop somewhere else.
What’s Wrong With This Picture?
So, what really happened in this scenario? The company failed in a critical way — it did not provide clear pathways of communication and support to resolve your issue, at the moment of need. The brand has lost credibility with a “ready-t0-buy” customer, the company has damaged its relationship with you, and the outcome will translate into lost revenue now and perhaps in the future.
How does this customer experience story translate to the human resources side of business? The audience may be different, but the takeaway is identical: For both customer and employee engagement, communication is vital — especially when issues arise. Just like customers, employees want the ability to ask question, discuss problems, offer constructive feedback and propose suggestions. They want to feel that their concerns and ideas are heard and addressed.
These are the fundamentals of employee engagement. It is HR’s job to support engagement in the workplace, from end-to-end, and clear lines of communication are the most effective way to accomplish that.
4 Workplace Communication Strategies
When I think about my own experiences, both as a customer and as an employee, it’s easy to remember the times when I felt I was heard — or not. Based on those experiences, here are my top four communication strategies for boosting engagement:
1) Be Available: To improve the way an organization works, employees need a champion — someone on the inside to share suggestions with. It doesn’t matter whether this ambassador is a manager, an HR representative, a colleague, or event a group of peers. What matters is that there is clearly a door through which individuals can bring questions, concerns and opinions.
2) Listen To My Needs: Don’t be too quick to dismiss new ideas. Every employee has a unique perspective, and although every suggestion won’t be feasible, each one should be valued. Suggestions reflect your employees’ individual experiences, and therefore, represent part of your company’s culture. Validate ideas by acknowledging contributions, as well as the spirit behind them.
3) Be On My Side: Every team needs a leader whom they can trust to represent their best interests. And every employee needs a champion who will be their advocate, even in their absence. When you demonstrate support for others, you reinforce their value within the organization. No one likes to feel unimportant — from there it’s a short step to disengagement.
4) Find A Solution: Not all feedback can be put into action — sometimes for very good reasons. However, leaders and employees can work together to examine the root causes of a key issue, or to integrate appropriate elements of a suggestion, or to brainstorm and investigate other solutions. This follow-through shows employees that their voices matter.
Have you tried these or other communication techniques to improve employee engagement? What worked for you? Share your experiences in the comments area below.