Paul J. Meyer once wisely said, “Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.”

Known as the founder of the ‘self-improvement industry,’ Paul J. Meyer’s quotes and contributions have stood the test of time and passed with flying colours.

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If that statement from Meyer wasn’t convincing enough, then let’s look at what stats say about the importance of effective employee communication in the workplace.

↠ According to McKinsey, a business with well-connected teams witnessed increased productivity of 20% to 25%.

↠ According to CMSWire, 97% of the employees say that communication impacts their task efficiency everyday.

↠ According to HBR, employees working in companies that follow effective communication practices and minimize the silo effect via centralized communication systems are 3.5x more likely to perform better than their peers.

Without the right communication strategy, solution, and synergy, it is hard to align multiple organizational stakeholders.

This begs a crucial question: What are the key drivers of effective employee communication? When you start to ponder this million-dollar question, as an employer (leader), 'listening' must always take precedence over speaking. With that said, here are five pillars of effective employee communication that every company must stick to.

5 Pillars of Effective Employee Communication in the Workplace

At its core, effective communication in the workplace is about understanding and empathizing with your audience. To make your communication strategy, solution, and synergy aligned with each other, make sure to focus on these pillars: listen, engage, connect, inspire and guide.

pillars of effective communication in the workplace

1. Listen

The HSBC Exchange meeting (internally called ‘Shut Up & Listen’) stands as a testament to brands executing a successful communication program.

On the surface, it may seem like a program for the employees, but it was instead made for the senior management members.

Asking the leaders to put a sock in it, the program's motive was for the leaders to listen to the employees. So the internal communications team opened a direct line of communication between the leadership and the staffers.

In a much-needed program to regain employee trust, senior members were not allowed to interrupt, correct, deviate or counteract the employees. The leadership members were only allowed to listen, take notes, and provide an update over the internet after the program.

In an exercise with less than ten people in each team, every employee got a chance to directly raise their concerns & grievances without the fear of retaliation or repercussions.

Classic deployment of a ‘skip-level meeting,’ employees discussed compensations to grievances in the canteen directly with senior leaders of HSBC.

Why is it important to listen?

A simple answer is that all employees deserve to be heard. When you listen to your employees, who are, undoubtedly, your biggest asset, they feel valued. A sense of belonging accompanies the feeling of being valued, and employees immediately operate more efficiently.

You may capture employee feedback by organizing skip-level meetings (mentioned in the case study above), reverse townhalls, open discussions, leadership chats, Q&A, polls, and surveys.

As a leader, getting first-hand knowledge and perspective of your employees’ personal and professional lives is helpful and critical for the company.

Further down the line, you may measure the change in sentiment via periodic pulse surveys, counting employees who return to the exercise and keeping tabs on public posts on Glassdoor and others.

You may use this listening experience and quantitative data to improve and guide future communications efforts.

2. Engage

Barclays, the banking & financial services company, has set an excellent example of robust customer engagement via training and communication.

The company launched its banking app for Android & iOS but realized that its employees didn't know how to use it. Hence, they could not serve the customers effectively. Being aware of the importance of technology and their native app, Barclays doubled down by launching the Digital Eagles program.

The program would fully engage with Barclay's staffers on using the app, getting the most out of the internet, and serving the customers thoroughly.

Turning novices into experts, employees received unparalleled training via the Digital Eagles initiative, and results showed a staggering increase from 18 Digital Eagles to 18,000.

A classic example of leaders resolving a pressing issue by engaging with the employees, the Digital Eagles initiative shows communicating with employees is vital.

Why is it essential to engage?

If you take the case of Barclays, for instance, the leaders were steadfast in ideating and solving the problem at hand. It is critical to engage with the issue in step one without overreacting or taking drastic measures.

When brands test, teach and learn along with employees on the go, you will not only solve the current problem but also future-proof your company.

To come up with such ideas or deploy them effectively, you may involve your employees, crowdsource ideas, and create a sense of unity within the organization, which is yet another way to engage your employees.

It pays to remember that not everything needs to flow from the central management. It fosters a culture where two-way dialogue across all hierarchies is the easiest way to resolve issues of all scales.

3. Connect

Connecting with the employees may seem similar to engaging but wait until you read the mess created by the disconnect between leaders at PayPal and their employees.

David Marcus, the former president of PayPal, made an erroneous judgment of giving an ultimatum to his employees. Upon learning that many of his staffers were not using the PayPal app, David took the megaphone approach of asking his staffers to use the app or quit.

“If you are one of the folks who refused to install the PayPal app or if you can’t remember your password, do yourself a favor, go find something that will connect with your heart and mind elsewhere” — David Marcus.

After the memo above was leaked to the press and became a public spectacle, PayPal went back to the drawing board to discover why their employees did not use the PayPal app.

David and the rest of the senior management members learned the hard way that people need to feel connected and be a part of the conversation in order to be motivated at work

Why is it vital to connect?

As seen above, the employees at PayPal clearly felt a significant disconnect between the leadership and themselves, which is never good news.

A disconnect that paved the way for the president to send a memo of ultimatum to the employees, the problem can be entirely mitigated with just enough effort and insight.

Efforts such as providing a social platform for the employees to connect, celebrate events, speak to peers, reach out to superiors, and share grievances go a long way. Creating community groups for people with similar interests (related and unrelated to work) can do wonders.

4. Inspire

Once upon a time, a small town footwear brand ‘Clarks’ hit big by deciding to operate globally. With a significant turnover of over 1.5 billion and four major branches, Clarks was gearing up to become a global contender with a ten-year plan.

A plan that may be easily foreseen by visionaries, but small-town employees at Clarks struggled to fathom this magnanimous growth. What Clarks did next was nothing short of ingenious—they made a movie.

Taking care of two problems at once, this movie made it easy for the employees to visualize the organization's future and worked as a marketing campaign to start a global conversation.

The beauty of this campaign is that Clarks’ employees participated in making the movie, breaking away from the corporate routine. Creative teams made props, other staffers recorded voiceovers, starred as leads, and the in-house intranet and DVDs were also used in the making.

Why is it necessary to inspire?

Clarks stands as a classic example of inspiring employees by aligning them collectively with the company’s ten-year vision. As employees return to either hybrid or full-time office hours, they may feel a lack of motivation or inspiration. Reinviting employees to join the journey may seem like a complex undertaking, but it is necessary.

By getting creative, leaders may put up a compelling case and inspire the workforce to fall back in line with the brands’ purpose and goals. If the leaders manage to tap into employees' emotions, you have truly inspired them.

5. Guide

Employees who are logically and emotionally invested in your company often ponder ‘what’s next.’ This is especially true when your workforce is returning to the office post-pandemic. It is the leader's responsibility to handhold the employees and navigates them with the help of the company’s principles and values. Providing them with the necessary guardrails in the due process may also help.

Why is it crucial to guide?

Giving direction is a behaviour that not all are good at. Leaders influence their workplace environment—and every member of the organization—through positive behaviours. They share guiding principles for reference and prepare the managers for effective communication. And that's the starting point and the foundation of healthy company culture.

Many global giants defined clear sets of guidelines to shape the future of their organizations as they returned to work. You may make the most of the situation and realign the brand’s vision if need be.

Effective Communication is the Key to Employee Engagement

For every employer, EVP (Employer Value Proposition) is one of the big priorities and to get this right, every company invests millions every year. This could be anywhere from learning & development programs to total rewards to strengthen the employer-employee relationship. And this investment is increasing year on year.

Yet, this Gallup’s study says that 74% of the employees are either watching for new job openings or actively looking for other employment opportunities. Despite employers' increased attention and spending on EVP, employees aren’t still recognizing the value.

So why is there a major disconnect between a company and its employees? Well, the answer is simple: the message is not getting through.

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According to the IDG survey:

↠ Three-quarters of employees participating in the survey said that the communication about compensation, benefits, and HR-related policies was not easy to understand or engage.

↠ More than 60% said their company’s employee communications weren’t easy to access.

↠ About 65% of employees said their company’s communications were not sufficiently comprehensive. And 72% of them said that they weren’t happy with the level of personalization.

Employee communication is broken, and the reasons are apparent

Today, the way we work, and the workforce itself, have changed dramatically. There are 5 generations at work. Interestingly, millennials will make up 75% of the global workforce by 2025, and they are already the largest cohort. (Don’t forget: Gen Z is hot on their heels)

Consumption of information has changed. Traditional workplace communication methods no longer work in modern workplaces.

Today, the way people want to receive information is different. They expect communications to happen whenever and wherever they want it. Also, they want it in a format that’s familiar, easy to consume and not overwhelming.

Bring your workforce together on a common platform. Use a tool that has robust features to address multiple problems at once—one that streamlines your communications, engages your employees, improves productivity, and aligns with your company values.

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The solution: Have a tool that drives employee engagement via communication

A company's success entirely depends on its employees' understanding of the value it provides. Hence, an effective communication strategy is vital to accomplishing that.

Employee communication today demands meeting your people where they are—which means reaching them in a format that resonates with them. By understanding company-to-employee communications better, you can make your workplace more productive.

This infographic breaks down effective employee communication into four groups, and when done right, it can drive engagement.

Conclusion

With everything said and done, companies of all scales and industries require a comprehensive employee communication strategy. While the key drivers to it mentioned in this article will undoubtedly come in handy, they are just the tip of the iceberg.

A cohesive work culture where both a fresher and the company's CEO has the same vision in mind is a dream, and effective deployment of communication strategy is the easiest way to achieve it.

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Mary Madhavi Reddy

Mary Madhavi Reddy LinkedIn

Mary is a content marketer with 20 years of experience. Her career spans GE Money, Google, and some growth-stage startups. At Empuls, she handles product messaging and positioning.