Employee engagement is a key topic of discussion among business owners, and everybody wants to know how to better engage employees. There are books, magazine articles, TED talks, and entire conferences on increasing employee engagement.
While there are many factors involved in employee engagement, open and consistent communication is a critical one. Yet it’s often overlooked in even the simplest ways. Let’s take a look at how this plays out in many companies every day.
Let’s say that Melissa has an idea to improve the efficiency of her work and the work of a few teammates. It will involve shuffling a few duties around on the team, so she takes that idea to her boss in a weekly one-on-one meeting. Her boss says, “You know, that’s a really interesting idea. Let me talk to the other managers and get back to you.”
And then Melissa waits. But she doesn’t hear anything back. A week later, she sends her boss a quick email asking for an update. Her boss responds that she’s still working on it and will let her know.
Melissa waits some more and still doesn’t hear anything. She doesn’t want to pester her boss about it, yet she’s also growing more frustrated with the lack of efficiency in the work she’s doing. Her attitude changes toward her coworkers and her boss, and she starts to wonder if she should look for another job. Perhaps one where her ideas have value?
This may seem like a minor issue to a manager who deals with major issues every day as well, but it’s a big issue to the employee who took the time to come forward with an idea. The same is true when the scenario involves an employee making a complaint and not receiving a response, though the risk can be even greater for the employer depending on the nature of the complaint.
When you respond to employees in a timely manner, it shows you care. And it can have a huge impact on your employee engagement, both because employees know you care and they know their opinions are valued. Yet it’s often overlooked at companies of all sizes.
Managers get busy, of course. We all do. Sometimes the issue involves an awkward or difficult conversation, so the manager or owner doesn’t do or say anything after the initial complaint. They fall into the trap of thinking the problem will go away or somehow resolve on its own, yet it doesn’t.
Responding to employees in a consistent and timely manner isn’t about trying to please the employee every time. It’s about acknowledging that they had a concern, you heard that concern and thought about it, and you responded to that concern, even if it’s not what the employee wanted.
Back to our scenario from above. Let’s say Melissa’s boss had talked with the other managers and come back and said, “We appreciate your input, but unfortunately we can’t restructure the team in the way you proposed. But, let’s talk about some other options to address the inefficiencies you brought up.”
Melissa didn’t get exactly what she wanted, but she at least got an acknowledgement that management heard and considered her idea. And they went one step further to engage her in discussion about solving the problem in a different way.
Like many other things in business, it’s important to have a clear process for employee ideas and complaints. Perhaps you have a specific email address or online form where employees submit ideas and then a process through which management reviews and responds to them within a set period of time. Or perhaps the process is that such ideas start with a verbal conversation and then the manager enters it into a tracking system. For employee complaints, documentation is critical, of course.
Take a look at your policies and review any that involve communication with employees. Are you clear about how employees can bring ideas, concerns, or general feedback to the table? Do you have a good process for getting back to them? Do you train your managers on how to respond to employee concerns or ideas in a timely manner?
If you need help developing policies and procedures to ensure open communication and a timely response to employees, Why HR can help. Contact us today.