You might consider yourself a master communicator or be convinced that nothing gets past you in your business, but the honest truth is that without a formalized communication structure, you’re missing out on one of the greatest revenue-driving and culture-building opportunities there are.
In today’s blog, we’re discussing just how crucial it is to create and maintain formal communication lines between all elements of your business in order to drive productivity, team cohesion and essentially, profits.
THE CHANGING WORK LANDSCAPE
In today’s brave new world of millennial-led startups and quirky innovative business, the culture has largely shifted towards a more horizontal type of organizational structure. People are more and more inclined towards blurring the lines between formal and casual. You might know the CEO on a first name basis and can approach him directly, skipping the normal chain of command.
While this style of communication might work for smaller companies and startups in their early stages, there are some distinct disadvantages to operating this way.
When meetings, interviews and one-on-ones are sporadic and ad-hoc – it can negatively affect both morale and team culture. How can you be across the concerns of your team if you only touch base when you have a cancelled meeting? Similarly, if you only ever meet with your direct reports to chastise them or vent about poor performance, your employees might start avoiding you.
So, what exactly are these formal communication structures?
These can take many forms. You have your formal, written communication via email and print to your direct reports, team meetings, regularly scheduled one-on-one meetings and end-of-year performance reviews.
So, what are some of the advantages to setting up these clearly defined communication channels?
ADVANTAGES OF FORMAL COMMUNICATION STRUCTURES.
1. YOUR DIRECT REPORTS FEEL HEARD
Your one-on-ones should largely have the same agenda. “What are your pain points? And how can I support you?” In fact, your one-on-ones shouldn’t be about you at all. Doing this for your employees not only gives them an emotional outlet but it’s a great way for you to demonstrate leadership and compassion. Great leaders use one-on-one meetings to show employees that they care personally about them, are willing to listen to their problems and want to help them grow. At the end of the day, employees that feel supported are more inclined to be loyal and work harder for your business.
2. BETTER EMPLOYEE RETENTION & PRODUCTIVITY
Employees that regularly meet with their managers are almost three times as likely to stay with your company during difficult times. They’re also roughly twice as effective in their roles if these meetings are consistent and productive. But it's not just their productivity you’re hacking in this scenario. Studies have shown that when employees have regular meetings with their managers, they ask less questions during the week. Your staff will instinctively begin to hold their questions till their weekly or bi-weekly meeting with you.
3. YOU’RE IN THE LOOP
There’s no better way to keep your finger on the pulse of your team and your business as a whole than getting direct feedback from the people that work underneath you.
According to a study commissioned by the Harvard Business Review, 58% of executives believe that their current performance management approach is not beneficial or useful. This generally occurs because most managers wait for quarterly reviews to ask their employees about their issues, or expect employees to raise issues as soon as they occur.
That’s why companies like Google, Apple, Dell and Microsoft are replacing annual performance reviews with consistent check-ins between managers and employees. They’ve seen the marked difference being in constant, structured communication with your direct reports.
4. RUMOR CIRCUIT BREAKER
If you’ve ever been part of a large corporate restructure, you’ll be familiar with the rumor mill and Chinese whispers that goes along with the uncertainty. It makes perfect sense though, people can become quite emotional about the future of the company, their role and where they fit in moving forward.
Regular one-on-ones act as the circuit-breaker for the fear and uncertainty floating around the water cooler. As a manager, it's your job to keep your team informed, calm and focused on the big picture. If they’re distracted about whether or not they’ll have a job in six months, this is going to affect productivity, morale and team culture. There’s nothing slower than an employee who is convinced he’ll be redundant by Christmas.
Even if you’re in a position where you have no information, be completely honest and transparent. This will go a long way to your employees feeling like you’re on the same side.
5. COACHING AND MENTORING
One surprising and counterintuitive fact about one-one-one meetings is that employees are much more likely to reveal their career ambitions and request specific mentoring when they are supported in this way. Some employees have reservations about asking for help from their colleagues or don’t want to create competition by talking about a promotion they are eyeing off.
These meetings are a great place to recognize your employee’s hopes, dreams and shortcomings – while actively helping them achieve and overcome!
6. MAKE YOUR EMPLOYEES FEEL LIKE PART OF THE TEAM
If you’re the kind of manager that sporadically meets some of your team some of the time, you could unintentionally be creating a toxic work environment when you’re not around. Despite how “fair” you think you might be, we all play favorites and your team will soon notice if one team member gets the lion’s share of your attention and praise.
When everyone has their say, everyone has their equal time with you and their voice is equally as important, it goes a long way to making your employees part of the team.
HOW OFTEN SHOULD I MEET WITH MY DIRECT REPORTS?
A lot of that is going to depend on the nature of your team. How many direct reports do you have? Are they all full time? Are they all in one location or does a portion of your team work remotely?
As a general rule, you should set aside at least half an hour per week or hour per fortnight for each employee. This can obviously be tweaked depending on a few factors, but this is the benchmark you should be aiming for.
You should also make a habit of not cancelling. I know some things are unavoidable, but regular cancellations can give the impression that they aren’t worth thirty minutes of your time, especially if they see you keeping your commitments to others.
Make an effort to manually reschedule and confirm a new time with your direct report so they know how important they are to you.
REGULAR MEETINGS AND CLEAR COMMUNICATION CHANNELS – A NO BRAINER
When you formalize and consistently schedule lines of communication between managers and their direct reports, everyone wins. Your employees feel supported, free to express their ambition and able to call out areas they need support in.
In return, they’ll reward you with higher productivity, loyalty, retention and a level of respect you can’t get from annual performance reviews.
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