Worked Up At Work

How to handle sticky office situations

Inexpensive Organizational Fix: Two-Way Communications

This just may be the best money you don't spend on your business or organization

I’ve found that most organizations can benefit significantly from a simple, low-cost change in their operations: Two-way communications.

I realize that, for busy managers, time can be among their most valuable commodities. But even a few minutes each day to foster better communications with their staff can pay big dividends.

One recent worker survey noted that less than one-third of employees report their boss listens to them. This is a significant problem on several levels.

From the employer’s perspective, employees know most, even all of the problems associated with their work and workflow. If they are not encouraged or inclined to communicate with supervisors, then supervisors will miss that information. Although managers probably will receive some off-the-wall or less than helpful ideas, they will also gain some valuable insight into problems both large and small that can be fixed to help improve the workplace.

There’s also a workplace environment issue that communications can help. A respected organizational management consultant notes that only about 25 percent of employees are engaged, and the rest are disengaged and apathetic. But when management is accessible and sharing its most valuable commodity—time and attention—more people can be encouraged to join the engaged group.

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The engaged group is the extension of management as they are the ambassadors, role models, and can be counted upon to consistently produce at the highest levels. Managers and owners should take a minute to imagine this: without spending a penny more on payroll, imagine what it would be like to have 60 percent to 80 percent of your employees engaged and none disengaged. The potential is staggering.

From the employee’s perspective, there is also a need to be informed and a part of the organization. By specifically seeing the connection between what they do and the bottom line, their contribution becomes real. This is the technical part of becoming and remaining engaged. The other side is the interpersonal part: employees need to feel an interpersonal connection to the owner and managers. They need to feel appreciated.

If good employees are denied the ability to have some kind of legitimate say in what happens in their work’s orbit, they will become apathetic. The logic behind this attitude is “Nobody seems to care what I have to say, so why should I care about what they (management) are saying?” You may have some unhealthy employees for whom nothing will be enough, but they are another issue. Take care of the healthy workers, almost certainly a majority, and your organization will see a benefit.

Steve M. Cohen, Ed.D., C.M.C., is the president of Labor Management Advisory Group and HR Solutions: On-Call, and the author of Mess Management: Lessons From a Corporate Hit Man.

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