As a business owner, you dedicate much of your time to communicating with your clients. While this is crucial for your business, equally important is communicating with your employees. Internal communication touches every aspect of your business from announcing the onboarding of a new client, to introducing a new product to your business line. No matter the size, industry, or type of company you own, I recommend having an internal communications process embedded in everything you do.
An internal communications process allows for the exchange of information between all members of your organization, which will save you time and money. In fact, companies with effective internal communications processes experience 47% higher total returns than those that are not effective at communicating.
I’ve outlined below 3 key elements to help you establish an effective internal communications process.
- Have the Right Mechanisms in Place to Keep Employees Informed
Your internal communication mechanisms must be strategic, in order to be targeted and the most beneficial. Consider your company’s current mechanisms, from the methods of communication it uses, to the way your company engages with and seeks feedback from your staff, to the way it measures if the mechanism is successful and identifies any issues for future change.
Choosing what mechanisms to use depends on your size and budget. If your company has multiple locations, you may decide to invest in passive, large-scale communication options to disseminate information. Creating an intranet (a private network only available to a company’s staff) is one great option. If your business is smaller, consider using more conventional communication channels such as an internal newsletter, e-blast, Director’s blog, or notice board. I have even seen some companies benefit from using social networking sites as their primary means of internal communication. More directed options could include Breakfast Briefs for front-line staff, a monthly Director Communications Day, scheduled Director Q&A drop-ins, or Lunch & Learns.
No matter what mechanism(s) you choose, the bottom line is that employees have access to a platform where they can receive important company information so they stay abreast of the information they need to do their job.
- Creating a Two-Way Loop
Having great communication mechanisms in place is vital, but ensuring that they consistently generate engagement between management and employees is a key step. It is imperative that business owners and managers actively respond to feedback received and ensure a loop is created, as opposed to a top-down form of communication. By acting on the honest feedback reported by employees encourages more of the same – staff telling it “like it is”.
- Measuring the Mechanisms
To ensure that the communication mechanisms you choose are working effectively, incorporating measurement indicators, such as scheduled weekly face-to-face meetings with actionable items reported for follow-up, anonymous employee surveys offered at quarterly or annual company all-staff meetings, or through specific activity surveys through the intranet, could help identify gaps, what is or isn’t working, and what methods of communication work best for your employees.
Regardless of which avenues you choose, the main goal is to ensure employees have several effective paths available to them where they can communicate with senior management and feel heard.
Communicating with your employees is essential for the productivity of your business. Does your company have an internal communications process in place?
As a business owner, you know how important it is to keep things fresh and innovative in your workplace, but when making changes, you’ll need to consider how your plans might impact your employees.
If you are in the process of job redesign where employees are assigned new roles that play into their strengths and contribute to a more successful business, these changes can be stressful to your employees. If someone has been hired for a particular job and then he or she is suddenly expected to perform a different role in the organization, tension and stress can result.
A recent report found that 46% of 1,018 Canadian employees recently surveyed had taken time off work or noticed other employees taking sick leave following workplace changes, a common symptom of a stressed-out workplace.
I’ve outlined below a few tips on how you can shift roles in your organization without contributing to employee stress:
- Share your vision.
Why are you doing this? What is this change going to accomplish for your organization? Sharing this vision with employees will allow them to understand exactly why this is happening, and help them find their part in it.
- Keep the lines of communication open in regards to role change.
Ask employees how they feel they can contribute to a new role and encourage conversation. By doing this, you can evaluate each employee’s strengths and weaknesses, while giving them an opportunity to work in a new role they would truly enjoy.
Make sure employees stay up to date as things begin to shift. For example, when you have made some final role decisions, send out an email to all staff informing them of the new structure. Keeping everyone in the know will ensure a smooth transition process.
- When your employees begin their new role, make sure they feel supported.
Assuming a new role can be challenging, especially if the employee doesn’t have a lot of previous experience in the position. Positive reinforcement can go a long way, as employees are less likely to experience stress when they report a positive and supportive workplace culture.
In today’s workplace, you need to keep things fresh, but maintain a balance against a backdrop of inclusiveness and communication. Learning how to handle change effectively is what will keep your team on the right path to growing your business.
How have you successfully restructured your business?
For many small business owners, the idea of group health benefits is not even on their radar. Many would rationalize this as a “large company” benefit and too expensive for a small business. However, with the ever-present issues of employee recruitment and retention, employee benefits, from a small business perspective, is not a human resources issue, but rather a business decision worth considering.
As a business owner, it’s ultimately your decision if you want to offer group health benefits or other benefits to your employees, but I’ve outlined a few key questions you might want to consider when reviewing benefits for your employees.
- Is this part of an employee recruitment/retention strategy? Employee group benefits have become a standard part of an employee contract for most mid- to large-sized businesses as they can make potential and current employees feel they are valued and taken care. It can therefore play a key role in the decision-making process when candidates are deciding to work with or stay with you versus your competition. By offering groups benefits, are you evening the playing field in this regard?
- What is the demographic makeup of your employees? Take a look at the make-up of your employees: if they are mostly single, or millennials, they might be less likely to need or want health benefits. However, if they are older, with spouses and dependents, they may want, or even need a group benefits package. You may also want to consider the type of industry you are in; an office environment with full-time staff might have very different expectations than a construction company with seasonal, part-time, or contract staff.
- Can you afford this benefit? Group benefits can be costly to a small business, amounting to thousands of dollars per employee per year. How do you rationalize this benefit against potential pay increases, bonuses, etc.? Look at your bottom line, and specifically your recruitment costs and what you perceive as the “benefit” to offering this benefit to your employees.
- How can you define a benefit? In a smaller company with only a handful of employees, you may want to consider offering a benefit, but not a group health benefit plan. I have heard of several business owners who offer employees an annual lump sum cheque to cover medical or dental benefits or have their employees submit receipts for medical or dental expenses that are then paid for by the owner.
- What do they want? Decide on a couple of scenarios that you can afford and logistically implement and then speak to your team and get their opinions on group benefits packages vs. other benefits options. You may find that some employees want a benefits plan, or your employees would prefer to have a small cheque made out to them to cover medical expenses, or they may come up with an entirely different type of benefit.
The point of this exercise is to decide as business owners how you can show your current employees and future employees that your company is one that values employees by offering them what is valuable to them in terms of a benefit.
As a small business owner, have you ever considered offering benefits to your employees and if so, what type of benefits? What has the response been like?
When we hear the term “staff turnover,” we immediately think it’s a bad sign that a business is not doing well, or they don’t follow the best hiring processes. As a business advisor to small businesses for over 30 years, I can assure you that staff turnover can also be a good thing for your business.
Pros To Staff Turnover:
- Fresh Ideas: When you hire new employees, they can bring fresh perspectives, new experiences and energy that could lead to innovative ideas. When they are not attached to the old ideas nor to the “way we do things” attitude, they can bring you insights you didn’t have before.
- The 20% Rule: You know the saying: “20% of your staff do 80% of the work”. When you reward the 20% for their efforts, this can energize your workforce and strengthen your role as the leader and the balance of staff will either improve their performance or move on.
- Avoid Complacency: When staff feel what they did yesterday is “good enough,” they have become complacent and this can be the enemy of every organization, fostering an environment of “status quo” and an aversion to risk-taking only leads to poor employee morale and increased employee sick time and poor job satisfaction.
Cons For Staff Turnover
- Dismissal: It is never a pleasant thing having to dismiss an employee, but once you have determined employees are no longer fulfilling the role you hired them for, and you have given them ample opportunity to improve, it is time to save your business and let them go.
- Rehiring: Hiring new staff ultimately costs money and time. To ensure you hire the right people from the start with the right skills who fit into the company’s culture, make sure you have a clear hiring process, with written job descriptions and defined roles and responsibilities. You should have an onboarding process and internal measurement and evaluation matrix to ensure they are performing the role you hired them for.
- Train and Communicate: Invest time in training and communicating your expectations of them in their new role. Sometimes smaller businesses have a tendency to hire a person to perform a specific role, but then start loading them with responsibilities and tasks that are outside of that role. For example, asking the new sales person to design your brochures or write content is not realistic.
Your new hire will not know everything about the job in the first week, so do not set them up to fail – rather, give them clear examples of what you expect from them in a measurable and manageable document. Bearing that, if an employee has been with you for many years and is still not able to meet your expectations, then the right thing to do for both you and the company is to let them go.
Regardless of your hiring process, every business needs to have staff turnover as roles change and your business evolves. Don’t see it as a bad thing, or a good thing, but rather a “chance to grow.”
Do you think employee turnover can help or hinder your business?
Employee turnover can be challenging, and for many business owners, an ongoing issue. As difficult as it is to terminate an employee, we often forget how difficult it can be to find ways as a business owner to retain good employees.
Business owners know they must offer competitive compensation packages, benefits, incentives, and bonuses in order to attract strong performers. Retaining them will require some creativity. Here are some suggestions you can use in your business to keep one of your greatest assets from leaving:
Today, particularly with millennials, there is a need and desire to have a sense of being part of a community. Make your office an open and inviting one. Make sure you host regular meetings, ask for input, share good stories, applaud good work and allow them to work collaboratively. Give them a sense of belonging and nurture that with open communication.
Share Your Plan
Make sure your employees understand the big picture, and the purpose they serve in your business. Set aside time to set goals and expectations with them. If your employees understand your plan and know where their future is headed in this position, chances are they will be motivated to stay and reach the goals you’ve set. By doing this, you are showing them opportunity and giving them a role to play in creating the future of your business.
Recognize & Reward
To recognize and reward your employees does not mean doing so just once a year at their annual review. It means continually recognizing achievements by calling them out in a team meeting, sending them a personal letter or card or taking them out for lunch. If you know that employee is a huge concert-goer, make a point to buy them tickets to a concert they’d like to attend. Communicate your gratitude and never let hard work go unnoticed.
A flexible work schedule, and creating a ‘fun factor’ could also prove a beneficial incentive for your employees. Every workplace is different, so discuss with your team some ideas of what they would like to have as a fun factor and then you can decide which idea is feasible and appropriate for your business.
Do you have any other tips for employee retention you would like to share? How important have you found a sense of community to be in your office?