Schade: Six tips for better communication


By Jenny Schade, Guest Columnist

Jenny Schade discusses how and why to launch a communication protocol
Jenny Schade offers tips for effective communication; photo by Light Design Photography


Thanks to the growth of the Internet and other communication technologies, business owners are bombarded by information on a continual basis. Yet their own communication with workers can fall through the cracks impacting the company’s performance.

What is the cost of employees not receiving timely information? Consider the consequences if a restaurant chain introduced a new sandwich without telling employees the cooking temperature it required. Customer dissatisfaction and health department issues might ensue.

Communicating effectively with employees needn’t be costly, but it should be deliberate. It involves developing a protocol so employees know where they can obtain necessary information on a timely basis.

 Consider the following guidelines:

Ask supervisors to deliver important information to employees. An employee supervisor generally is a trusted source.

Remember the human side of communication. Instead of reading an e-mail, employees will appreciate hearing voicemail updates from company executives sharing earnings information or conveying support and encouragement to workers.

Be careful with the tone you use  in e-mails. While e-mail can be efficient, it also can come across as terse and abrupt. Some messages, particularly those pertaining to negative feedback or sensitive information, such as management changes or reorganizations, are best delivered verbally so the recipient can hear your tone of voice and ask questions or respond.

Ensure employees have access to communication. Provide tools for timely communication, and educate employees on how to use them. Consider distributing a protocol document providing guidelines. For example, voicemail or text messaging are most effective for urgent, brief updates, while e-mail is ideal for providing detailed information such as directions and meeting agendas.

Ask for employee input when developing a communication protocol. Consider surveying employees to determine how they are currently communicating and to identify problems and opportunities. By involving employees, you will gain understanding of their communication needs while also boosting their sense of involvement in the process.

Communicate the protocol after it has been developed. Encourage questions from employees so you can clarify the guidelines. Then set a good example by following them yourself.  

Developing a communication plan is well worth the effort as it can save time and money, while boosting employee engagement. A retail sales representative I interviewed once explained that given how rapidly the world changes, communication is critical.”You have to react quickly or you can lose your shirt,” the sales rep said.   “All I m asking for is the information I need to do my best.

Jenny Schade is president of JRS Consulting Inc., a Chicago-area consulting firm dedicated to helping organizations efficiently build brands, attract customers and motivate employees. Schade also publishes the JRS Newsletter.