Are You Falling Into the Workplace Communication Gap?

Are You Falling Into the Workplace Communication Gap?

What do employees want from their employers? It’s not free food in the fridge, Foosball tables or dry-cleaning delivery services. According to a survey by 15Five, the majority of employees would rather have better communication at work than perks.

The poll of more than 1,000 full-time U.S. workers reports 81 percent of employees would rather work for a business that values “open communication” than one that offers perks such as good health plans, gym memberships or free food.

But while almost all employees care about open communication, just 15 percent say they are “very satisfied” with the quality of communication in their current workplace. Only 15 percent believe their managers “highly value” their feedback.

Millennial employees are even more likely than other generations to feel ignored at work. About three in 10 say their managers are too busy to listen to them, a similar number say managers don’t ask for employee feedback, and 17 percent say when they do offer feedback, it isn’t taken seriously.

There is some good news for small businesses in this survey. Since you have fewer employees than big corporations, it’s easier for you to both give and get feedback and foster an atmosphere of open communication. Here are four steps you can take to do so:

1. Increase Frequency of Reviews

The majority of employees in the survey report they only discuss their career goals with their managers a few times a year, at most. Consider implementing quarterly reviews so employees can get and give more feedback. Beyond these more formal methods of communication, consider doing quick “brain dumps” after projects are completed where everyone can talk about what went well, what didn’t and whether things should be handled differently next time.

2. Be Sensitive to Generational Differences.

Older and younger generations in the survey expressed some frustration about communicating with each other. In general, older workers say they prefer to communicate face-to-face, while younger ones would rather text or email. Figure out ways to communicate based on how your employees most like to do so, but also take steps to ensure that everyone is included — even if that means some redundancy in communications.

3. Make Time to Listen.

If you feel a twinge of recognition at the idea of a boss who’s “too busy to talk to us,” it’s time to slow the pace. If you can’t keep an open-door policy all the time, set times of day when you are available to talk to employees who need you. Also keep in mind that much of communication happens in informal moments. Talk to employees as you walk through the office, grab a cup of coffee or ride up in the elevator.

4. Be as Transparent as Possible.

You may not want to share all the inner workings of technology with your team, but sharing as much as is practical will build bonds and make employees feel you’re being open with them. Plus, if you try to keep problems secret, they usually come back to bite you. Being honest about difficulties in the business — such as a big client who’s considering dropping you or a competitor moving in on your turf — can actually ease employees’ worries because they won’t be hearing rumors from the streets. Just be sure to share the information calmly, make time to answer any questions and let your employees know what the plans are for dealing with the situation. Better yet, solicit their ideas too. After all, working together against adversity is likely to bring you closer and build team spirit.

Open communication goes both ways. When you’re truly in touch with your team, you’ll learn about rumors and dissatisfaction early enough to do something about them and head off problems. By providing an environment of open communication, you can not only create loyal employees, but also develop a more efficient and productive workplace.

Communication gap photo via Shutterstock

Rieva Lesonsky Rieva Lesonsky is a Columnist for Small Business Trends covering employment, retail trends and women in business. She is CEO of GrowBiz Media, a media company that helps entrepreneurs start and grow their businesses. Visit her blog, SmallBizDaily, to get the scoop on business trends and free TrendCast reports.