Optimizing Employee Communication Skills

Businesses today have a problem on their hands and it is about to get worse!

I hear about this issue often. Employees are getting less and less comfortable with direct person to person communication without the use of technology.

Direct feedback, real time communication, and conflict resolution are being replaced by smiley faces, texts and passive aggressive memes.

These communication challenges can have a lasting impact business on performance. Human Resources has an opportunity to proactively identify and fix these issues – which will provide great value to the business.

The Business Impact is Clear

The skills needed to communicate directly without the use of technology are deteriorating. All employees need to be adequately prepared to have open discussions to resolve issues, review job performance, provide feedback, etc. Lack of effective communications with external customers may result in lower levels of customer satisfaction and reduced profit. Lack of effective communication skills internally can result in misunderstandings and incomplete or ineffective feedback, which can ultimately impact employee satisfaction, productivity, engagement and retention.

What Has Changed? Why Did We Stop Speaking to Each Other?

The workforce has always been made up of multiple generations, each with its own perspectives and values. In the past, this didn’t pose a large issue as things didn’t change greatly from one generation to the next. Today, each generation grows up with a different set of (technical) tools, each of which impacts many aspects of how the generation works, communicates and views the world.

The younger generations (millennials and soon GenZers) joining the workforce are different than their predecessors. They are the first generations to grow up with technology and are better able to adapt quickly to technology changes. Their communication (via technology) is more open and transparent and they look for these transparencies in other parts of their lives. At the same time, they are regularly communicating via technology and often, they are less comfortable or less willing to speak directly without the use of technology.

Millennials and GenZers spend an overall higher percentage of time in technology-based communication than anyone else in the workforce. Disagreements often go back and forth via text or more passive aggressively through any one of the various apps on their phone. Some of these digital conversations are only between two people and sometimes they are collaborative and others can also join the conversation. Other times, there may be one or many friends in the room with one of the arguers, coaching them on how to respond. These disagreements escalate and sometimes they take hours to resolve.

Where older generations prefer to pick up the phone or walk over to have a face to face conversation, younger generations find more comfort in communicating via technology and this preference of communicating carries over into the workforce. The use of technology-based communication is more efficient, but excessive reliance on communicating via technology can result in people who are timid about providing criticism, conflict resolution and more.

The Solution(s)

There are many different ways Human Resources can fix the communication challenges businesses currently face. Each of the solutions below are effective separately, but together provide a comprehensive plan for improving communications and increasing job satisfaction, engagement and retention.

Implementing Customized and Adaptable Professional Development. All employees can grow from learning or honing their communication skills – whether it be about conflict resolution, how effective communication impacts the business, and/or collaboration with or without technology. Providing adaptive learning solutions, based on individual needs and competencies instead of a one size fits all solution is a way to greater the chance for an effective transfer of knowledge and ability. Further, employees who believe their company is investing in their professional and personal growth are more likely to be engaged and stay with the company for a longer period of time.

Supporting a Culture Which Uses Real-time and Appropriate Feedback (Positive and Constructive). Employees who have managers that provide both positive and constructive feedback in a timely and appropriate manner tend to have greater job satisfaction and engagement as they believe their company is making a personal investment in their career and success.

Training Managers to Coach. The difference between a manager and a coach is intent. The manager wants business results while the coach also wants the employee to grow. Managers who are also coaches have higher performing teams, employees with greater job satisfaction, and higher levels of retention.

This is a time of transition in both people and technology. In the next 10-15 years, many of the baby boomers will be leaving the workforce but until that happens, the differences between the generations, especially between oldest and youngest workers will continue to exist. Now is the time to resolve these communication issues because as the workforce continues to evolve, communication preferences and skills will have one of the largest impacts on business effectiveness.

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By Being Proactive, Human Resources
Brings Value to the Business
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By evolving into an entity which identifies and provides business solutions, HR can effectively impact the bottom line. Surprisingly, many employees never stop to think how the effectiveness or ineffectiveness of their communication skills impact anything outside of their job, group or department. More surprisingly, one of the most important yet most overlooked ways to fix this is to educate all employees about how their communication effectiveness has a lasting impact on business success. It doesn’t matter if it is about how to speak to unhappy external customers, how lack of communication can limit productivity or how effective communication can lead to greater job satisfaction, better engagement and higher retention – all of these need to be addressed.

The ability to effectively communicate is critically important for business success. It is time for HR to be more proactive in fixing business issues. Resolving communication issues is a good place to start. Take action to fix this now!

Photo credits: Pixabay

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