We all know that we need to communicate better. The vast majority of dysfunctional relationships are the result of (or breach) in communications. In all organizations, communication plays a central role in a well-functioning (or poorly-functioning) relationship. Leaders need to communicate their visions for the company to employees, and managers and employees need communication skills and infrastructure to successfully execute their work and the company’s mission.
Communication is a cornerstone of engagement (step 4 of our 10 steps of engagement, to be precise), and the foundation of work relationships, particularity between the boss and employee.
A robust and healthy relationship in the workplace often includes transparency in our communications. But sadly, over a 30-year career, I too often have felt that communication falls outside the job description of most employees. Healthy communication – the stuff that really counts and helps employees feel and stay engaged – is not the stuff of performance appraisals and staff meetings. I’m talking about those one-on-one or small group discussions where managers find out what makes employees tick, and employees discover the human behind the ‘boss veneer’. However, these conversations often fall in the camp of ‘should do’ and not ‘must do’s – and as we know, ‘must do’s’ almost always trump ‘should do’s’. Meaning, healthy and frequent communications between a manager and an employee is either not taking place or taking place less than it should be.
Unfortunately, there are very few institutional vehicles that encourage communication in a way that managers and employees universally like. Most companies point to their performance appraisals process (which focus on goals, accomplishments, and future development) to check this box, but in reality, they do not focus on what is important to the employee.
This challenge is exasperated by the fact that in most cases, people who are good at their skills-based jobs (i.e. accountants, engineers) are promoted to managing people in those same skills-based positions. And as many of us has experienced, just because a person is technically skilled in an area does not mean that they were blessed with the people stills to become a good manager.
Fixing the problem
Most managers are busy people. They were given staff to manage in addition to the actual work they have to do. Who has time to dive into what makes each employee tick? Our newest creation, which we feel is filling a huge communication void is The Engagement Accelerator. This quick assessment’s 13 questions and discussion points provide talking key points to help a manager have a meaningful conversation. Imagine a simple conversation to better understand an employee’s work preferences, or work style, or what gets them going in the morning. This simple tool is filling a void, allowing managers and employees to skip through uncomfortable or awkward conversations in get to the meat of what will drive the employee to perform and thrive in the workplace.
How it works
- An employee takes the 13-question (about seven minutes) assessment.
- The results are tabulated into a reflective summary of key engagement drivers and work preferences that is immediately sent to both the employee and his or her manager.
- The manager schedules a sit-down with the employee to discuss the results. The manager’s report includes key talking points, which provides the manager with easy conversation starters around how to communicate, engage, and maximize the employee’s contributions.
This conversation about what drives the employee – all guided and prompted by the employee’s Engagement Accelerator results – is a conversation that should be taking place that wasn’t. The conversation alone results in a more engaged employee. One user called it a “paint by numbers’ communication tool – one that is simple, easy, effective, and spot-on accurate.”
Where else is this conversation needed?
While conversations such as this should be taking place periodically throughout the year, there are some more specific situations where conversations like this can be helpful as well.
Not just reserved for brand new employees, onboarding should happen whenever your team changes. This could include bringing in an employee from a different department, when a new manager is in place, or when an employee shifts a role within a department or team. This is an ideal time to see what drives a person’s engagement and what their work preferences are.
Is there an employee who might be slowly moving into complacency? Or worse, disengagement? Have they reached a point in their career where they feel ‘stalled’? Introducing this assessment helps a manager better understand the key workplace drivers of their employees – how to re-excite them in their current role; how to help them pursue tasks/projects that will be more engaging; how to determine who is ready for their next step; and/ or how to determine how I feel comfortable being recognized.
The questions and discussion points of the Engagement Accelerator are great fodder for group discussions on how a team can function and grow together. Multi-generational teams may find this exercise particularly helpful, as communication preferences and work drivers vary among the generations.