Communication Sounds Easy, But Isn’t
Communication is an action that appears so simple and obvious, yet it’s almost always what employees and leaders alike most identify as missing or insufficient in organizational assessments. Early in the pandemic, communication seemed to improve dramatically as leaders were keenly aware more interaction was needed when working virtually. Most of our clients increased the frequency of one-on-one touchpoints and both sides said that although these additional meetings took more time, people felt more connected than ever before.
It seems, however, that once people got comfortable with a new way of operating, the pendulum started swinging back the other way. As the workload increased and staffing shortages ensued, the time spent on communication slowly dwindled. Many leaders assumed people had the information they needed, so leaders shifted their focus to other things and those one-on-one touchpoints tapered off in frequency.
While in many organizations the pendulum of communication is back to where it was prior to the pandemic, it doesn’t have to stay there. By understanding the role of communication in meeting the needs of followers and taking specific actions, change champions can improve communication throughout their organization.
Focus on Two Purposes of Communication
As we lead organizational change, communication is paramount for success and must satisfy
- The needs of the organization
- The needs of the followers
Which do you tend to focus on? Usually leaders are most concerned about what they want employees/volunteers to do or think in order to help the organization thrive (or survive in some instances).
I want to turn our attention to the needs of the followers, because that is often overlooked. Once those needs are met, people are more receptive to hearing and meeting the organization’s needs.
Meet the Needs of the Followers
Gallup has found that engaged employees share four basic needs that are being met by the organization. Specifically, how well are you:
- Showing compassion?
- Building trust?
- Creating stability for the present?
- Speaking into hope for their future?
If you mull over these four items and what it takes to achieve each, you will realize this isn’t a list you check off once and you are done. All of these require many conversations over time. It’s like when my dentist said the best way to use an electric toothbrush is to divide my mouth into 4 sections and brush each for a period of time. I don’t think she intended for me to check the section off never to return!
Conversation is the key word. These needs aren’t achieved in emails or “talks with the troops.” They require ongoing listening by the leader plus an exchange of ideas, thoughts, and especially feelings. While the head of the organization can and should speak and act in alignment with these elements, each employee’s direct leader needs to focus their conversation for the employee’s needs to be met.
Does it take time? Yes. Is it worth it? If you want 22% higher productivity and lower turnover, yes.
In part 2 on Communication, we will look at specific actions to aim at each of these needs of followers.