The Editorial Board was planning to discuss the need for continued communications throughout the summer to support employee commitment and engagement. As the economy and the job market warms up, employees who have failed to consider employees, and especially key employees, as a vital stakeholder group worthy of focused attention, might find their best and brightest talent leaving for what seems to be greener pastures. But with the Rolling Stone profile of “The Runaway General” McCrystal and his inevitable resignation all the news last week, we decided to discuss communications from a 360 degree perspective.
Undoubtedly, one of the most important of HR jobs is to communicate with employees, sharing the general state of the business, changes to business and people strategies and new programs and platforms that will enhance the workplace and employee performance. But that kind of “top down,” broad based communications, although important, is secondary to one-on-one communications between supervisors and subordinates that can expose concerns and problems and reassure anxious or disgruntled employees. For most supervisors, attentive listening is a far more important skill than is speechifying.
Employees have the right to complain about management and about the workplace. In fact, suggestion boxes, 360 review, employee hotlines or whistleblower laws would not exist if this were not the case. And companies that find ways to provide employees with the unfettered ability to speak their piece can identify and resolve problems well before they become crises. But employees and supervisors also have the obligation to be respectful of one another. Toxic comments about management, the company or the workplace can undermine otherwise effective management practices.
Many companies also use a “calendar year” for HR planning purposes, with performance and bonuses tied to a January-through-December period. The summer, being the mid-point for the performance year, is an ideal time for supervisors to meet with subordinates to informally review performance and take the pulse of employee satisfaction. The once a year annual review is not the time and place for workers and supervisors to hear things for the first time. In fact, the best time to communicate with each other is in real time; that said, a mid year review is better than nothing.
Soliciting input from employees, and listening carefully and thoughtfully to their concerns whether directly or indirectly expressed and then acting on those concerns can help avoid problems as disparate as the loss of key talent or embarrassing publicity. Supervisors, executives and even Presidents who fail to listen to the concerns of subordinates would be wise to add Shakespeare’s “Julius Caesar” to their summer reading list.
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