Magazine article Business Credit

Better Communication Can Keep Productivity Up during Down Cycles

Magazine article Business Credit

Better Communication Can Keep Productivity Up during Down Cycles

Article excerpt

Most supervisors know that frequent dialogue with employees is a critical component of effective management, especially during periods of business uncertainty. But "knowing" something is not always the same thing as practicing it. Nearly half of executives (48%) interviewed recently by Robert Half International cited better communication as the best remedy for low morale. Yet one-third of respondents also acknowledged that the failure to openly share information tops the list of management missteps.

These findings suggest the need for a renewed commitment by managers to improving communication with staff members. By keeping employees better informed, companies can ease anxieties and keep their team members focused on meeting business objectives.

Communicating effectively entails much more than supervisors simply functioning as a conduit for dispensing information to employees from upper management. It involves using various strategies to create an atmosphere of mutual trust and transparency. These suggestions can be helpful in cultivating this environment:

Be a good listener. Although managers know that building rapport with employees is a two-way process that involves both talking and listening, they often forget the "listening" part. If you're only disseminating information to your team but not taking it in, you're not making a real connection with those you manage.

Consider how your employees feel after they've come to you with a suggestion or concern. Do they leave with the sense that their input was valued? If you're a good listener, employees will always feel that a talk with you was worthwhile, even if it didn't lead to an immediate resolution. You can improve your skills as a listener by following some basic tips:

Give your undivided attention. Even if you're preoccupied with other business issues, focus solely on the person with whom you're meeting. Allow employees adequate time to explain their problem or concern without interrupting or trying to rush them along.

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Avoid prejudging. Try to view each interaction with staff members with an open mind. Don't assume that a "squeaky wheel" employee is always going to complain. Even if the conversation opens with a complaint, there may be a brilliant suggestion that follows. If the employee offers problems bur not solutions, turn the table and ask for their recommendation. This will challenge them to be solutions-oriented.

Offer feedback. Show that you're engaged in what an employee is saying by making eye contact, nodding your head and asking an occasional question to clarify what you're being told. At the end of the conversation, give some type of feedback, even if it's just to thank staff members for their input.

Set clear expectations. Saying what you mean--in a clear, unambiguous manner--goes a long way toward preventing misunderstandings and helping team members meet performance expectations. With this in mind, be as specific as possible, especially with new members of your team who may be still trying to ascertain your management preferences. If you want something done, such as a weekly status report, ask for it, rather than suggesting that it would be helpful to have the information.

Make meetings work. Meetings are sometimes viewed as time wasters, but they don't have to be. When they're conducted effectively, meetings can be one of your best tools for motivating your team to higher performance levels. …

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