How Can We Help Company Leaders Strengthen Their Communication?

HR Question:

I’m hearing that some of our employees feel disconnected and not “in the know” as a result of our current hybrid work environment. How can we help our company leaders and managers strengthen their communication?

HR Answer:

Our expectations of leaders and managers look different in 2021. What were once considered to be the most desirable management traits have evolved. For example, it’s not enough to be a dynamic or servant leader. In 2021, companies have been forced to re-evaluate their strategic plans, their organizational design, their ability to maintain a productive remote workforce, their budgets, their need for diversity and inclusion, and the need to include mental health as a part of the work culture. In the current zoom-fatigued, pandemic-fatigued business world, one thing has not changed: the need for strong, socially and globally aware leadership and enhanced communication.

Employee Engagement

According to Gallop’s recent State of the Global Workplace Report, 85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. In order to become a more effective leader, today’s managers and supervisors need to actively engage their hybrid (onsite/remote) teams while maintaining social distancing and remote communication.  It’s no longer solely the responsibility of HR to drive ongoing communication from leaders to employees through newsletters and announcements. Now more than ever, all company leaders need to play a part in regularly communicating with and engaging employees.

Leaders and frontline managers can engage their in-person and remote teams by connecting (remotely or face-to-face) via similar tactics: gathering feedback through frequent and meaningful touchpoints; building trust in team relationships; seeking out new ideas; aligning on job expectations in this environment, and providing specific direction. Additionally, while communicating with transparency, leaders can enable employees to have a voice in their jobs and their career development. We are in a moment where frequent and open communication from leaders is not a “nice to have” rather, it’s a “must-have.”

While these tactics may seem easy to implement, such efforts can fall flat should leaders fail to practice enhanced listening skills. Leaders and managers need to be sure to employ such skills and utilize keen senses to keep checking on the mental health of their team(s) to provide appropriate support and resources as needed.

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion

When faced with difficult conversations and topics, employees naturally look to their leaders to set the tone – and topics surrounding diversity, equity, and inclusion (DE&I) are no different. Tensions can be high, and leaders must build cultures that allow for difficult conversations and respectful dialogue to address these and other arduous topics. Remind team members that diversity, equity, and inclusion awareness and practice are paramount to foster collaborative teams.  Be sure to model desired behaviors and support HR and other management in initiatives that promote DE&I – not only in communicating with and managing staff – but also in recruiting, hiring, training, promoting, and compensating employees.

A Flexible and Empathetic Mindset

Inflexibility and rigidity were not valued in the workplace in a pre-pandemic world, and that certainly remains the same today. Employees need autonomy, support, flexibility, and work/life balance. While some employees may be apprehensive to seek new employment during the pandemic, the Citrix Talent Accelerator report found that 88% percent of workers surveyed said they would look for complete flexibility in hours and location when searching for a new role.

Employees seek flexibility to support childcare, to support family health conditions, and they also desire flexible schedules that enable mental health breaks. Along with a flexible management mindset, employees also desire empathy in regard to COVID fears and frustrations.  Now more than ever, employees’ personal lives are deeply meshed into their work world, and leaders must adapt to new ways of balancing both work and home.

Technology to Enhance Communication

Virtual meetings, training, and presentations are a staple in pandemic era business operations.  Leaders must invest in communication tools and platforms that facilitate cybernetic connections, and they must ensure their teams know how to effectively utilize these resources in order for them to be valuable communication tools.  Automated new hire onboarding that enhances the employee experience, dashboards to measure KPIs and productivity, shared project management cloud tools, as well as data-driven decision making are essential in today’s highly connected and interactive organizations.  While these options have been around for some time, the effects of the pandemic have pushed organizations forward in investing in these capabilities.  Additionally, some organizations have invested in equipment that monitors employee computer usage and downtime.  We recommend that you tread carefully on the last piece. Leaders must decide if what may be perceived as an invasion of privacy or an unwelcomed form of micromanagement is necessary and a fit for the company culture.

The key takeaway is that the only constant is change. What is expected of us in 2021 will be quite different than what was expected last year. Leaders must continue to grow and adapt as organizational needs continue to shift, and this will inevitably require that we use all of the tools at our disposal to ensure frequent, transparent, and authentic communication.

Special thanks to Angela Dunaway, SPHR, SHRM-CP for contributing to this edition of our HR Question of the Week!

Sign up for our newsletters to stay in the know!