between managers and employees is an important issue in
any organization. Employees want guidelines from their supervisors,
and the management wants input from the entire team. Most
companies have little trouble communicating downward, but
getting information to flow upward is more of a challenge.
When employees stay quiet about what they need, the negative
results can include missed opportunities, delayed projects,
and failed initiatives.
reasons for such a communication gap include employees that
think, “I don’t want to appear incompetent,”
and “Who am I to offer ideas to management?”
Additionally, because they know that the management team
is busy with long-term planning and strategic initiatives,
many employees don’t want to interrupt with details
of day-to-day activities. Without that knowledge, however,
managers have a difficult time gauging whether they’re
leading the company effectively.
key to getting employees to communicate better and to keeping
the company’s progress on track is to build a quality
interaction between the employee group and the management
team. Breaking through the barriers and getting employees
and managers working together helps everyone advance a strategic
vision and attain goals. This process includes four elements.
needs. Communication is a two-way process.
Employees have as much responsibility as the management
team for speaking up, setting expectations and requirements,
and communicating barriers and opportunities. Encouraging
employees to communicate with the senior team helps each
group understand the other’s duties and what can be
done given the budget and expectations.
employees to proactively tell the management team what they
are struggling with and how managers can help. Reinforce
the company’s vision and state how current objectives
contribute to it, then explain that the employees’
input is needed to make attaining the vision a reality.
skills and knowledge. While most people are
knowledgeable about and skilled in their own job duties,
many managers are unaware of their employees’ daily
activities. Ask employees to explain what goes into each
project by listing the activities, costs, and time spent
on each. This
dialogue can include reviewing survey results, client satisfaction
ratings, safety metrics, or other factual data. Questions
can spur employees to offer suggestions. Discussing “what
if” scenarios based on suggestions offered enables
employees to see their impact on the bottom line and will
prompt employees to participate in the process.
a motivation cycle. Management input plays
a large part in motivating employees to communicate about
and work toward goals. To make communicating with management
easier, arrange a group conference call so employees can
share their ideas about a particular project or strategic
plan. Set aside a half day to conduct roundtable discussions
with employees that address their concerns. Offer short
one-on-one sessions between managers and employees to discuss
empowerment expectations. An effective work
team must document its common understanding. Like Ken Blanchard’s
One Minute Manager, write a one-minute goal and its requirements
in 400 words or less. Discuss the goals and parameters with
everyone involved before assigning tasks so that the entire
team recognizes and makes any tradeoffs needed to ensure
Keefe is CEO and co-founder of Shared Results International,
a consulting and training firm (www.sharedresults.com).