Effective Workplace Communication Helps Align Perceptions with Reality

February 20, 2020 by  

Many of us grew up with the age-old adage of “don’t judge a book by its cover.” We were taught to see past the surface level and look for beauty beyond skin deep. However, our initial judgments often ignore pleasantries when evaluating first impressions. It is part of why dress codes are important in the corporate world. Effective, honest, clear workplace communication helps managers better understand employees and look beyond initial perceptions.
It takes less time to gauge others by how they look than by what they can contribute, but we all know looks can be deceiving. In the workplace, we need to remember that critical evaluation beyond appearances is more than just an issue of manners; it is vital to company success. We might judge others on perceptions but reality brings results at the end of the day.

The tug-of-war between perception and reality can lead to problems of employee efficiency. Robert C. Pozen, senior lecturer at Harvard Business School and author of “Extreme Productivity: Boost Your Results, Reduce Your Hours,” wrote for The New York Times about this “hours over results” problem. More efficient employees might find themselves wasting time just to log the same number of hours as their colleagues. What people notice drives us more than realistically evaluating what we have accomplished.
In his book, Pozen criticized hours-based productivity as a remnant of the industrial age that is ineffective in motivating modern professionals. Playing the game of watching the clock to judge when it is time to quit working conflicts with the specific demands of each task or project. Long meetings are an example of when more is actually less. After too long, attention spans begin to waiver and a meeting can dwindle into unproductivity. It is best to use agendas and assign individual tasks with specific deadlines.

Taking a more regimented approach to structuring meetings requires increased communication. Leaders have to plan ahead, communicate with employees before the meeting and follow-up with individuals after the meeting. Following a communication process will help keep perceptions in check with reality.
Sometimes efficiency comes from looking for big ideas, not the intricate details as when reading long articles and reports. Communicate with your employees the purpose behind what you send them to read. Employees should also ask questions about materials and determine their relevancy.

When you want to judge an employee’s workplace efficiency, look for objective measures of success. These can help managers move beyond their perceptions. Many managers prefer certain employees simply because they worked long hours, but had little substance to show for all of their time spent at the office. Workplace communication should occur on multiple levels, including knowing how to best manage each employee. Managers need to recognize potential and help employees to fulfill that potential through support, encouragement and even training.

Even if you choose to pursue results over hours, you still run the risk of perception overruling the reality of your efficiency as an employee. Communication drives employee performance. Managers and employees should work together to define efficiency by ranking tasks and taking objective measures to determine the particular priorities of their office. Efficiency is not the same as being quick. An efficient employee may still have to work overtime on some projects.
Assessments can help take some of the guesswork out of communicating with employees. The projects employees produce should be the real test of their effectiveness. Workplace communication takes more effort than relying on only our perceptions. We run the risk of destroying employee efficiency if we forget the lessons we learned as children to look beyond the surface.

Effective and successful managers are excellent communicators because they have learned what motivates their team members, what concerns them, what particular skills they have, areas where improvement could occur and are able to mentor employees or offer them appropriate training opportunities to enhance the skills they have and gain new ones. They have learned this because they are excellent active listeners, accountable for what they do and encourage employees to ask questions and contribute ideas that will make projects more efficient and everyone more productive. When they manage in this way their team will be better able to complete projects on time in an efficient and creative manner and all common goals can be achieved as well. In addition, modelling this sort of behaviour encourages the rest of the team to be honest and clear in their communication with each other and that makes teamwork easier.

5 Ways to Keep Your Millennial Workforce Engaged

February 6, 2020 by  

With an ever-increasing growth in the composition of Millennials in the workforce, understanding their needs and applying strategies for their retention has become extremely critical in the business world. Employee engagement is, after all, a real problem for high performing teams.
So many Millennials have quit their jobs that the statistics are shocking. 21% of millennial workers had left their jobs in the last year to do something else. Employee engagement means more to this biggest job-hopping generation, as compared to the baby boomers. Millennials want to be engaged in their jobs which means they want to feel a sense of profound connection to the work that they are doing. This has to come along with high levels of well-being and a healthy work-life balance.

Companies with highly engaged work forces outperform their peers by 147% in earnings per share.
Given this generation owns a fair share of the total work force population; organizations need to find what it is that they want in order to have a truly enriching employee experience for them.

Here are some of the things employers can do to ensure they do not suffer from the statistics mentioned above.

Relook at your recruitment process
The biggest brands get thousands of applications on a daily basis for various positions. Most of them go unnoticed, as they can end up tracking back to spam box. But one bad experience might mean companies losing out on a talent for the future. Candidates do not want to go through gruelling levels of selection, only to not even get notified about the results. This is why companies are thinking more about how to create market experiences for employees, throughout their application process.
The presence of online employer review sites such as Glassdoor has increased the transparency of company culture and the hiring tactics at a global level. Nearly 66% of job seekers have had a poor candidate experience and 72% of them have shared their experience on Glassdoor. This is why companies have started focusing on updating candidates who apply for a job about the process from time to time so that they do not feel discouraged or will feel urged to give a bad review.

Say yes to the freelancing economy
The world is moving towards a “contract” economy as the Freelancer’s Union predicts that at least 40% of the workforce will be freelancers in the next few years. One of the major reasons why Millenials quit their jobs is the lack of flexibility offered. They want to be a part of a “gig” economy which means having the freedom to work from anywhere and harness the power of technology to interact and communicate. They prefer using mobile devices to stay updated and connected to their peers.
This is the new reality because and now 93% of companies already identify the blended workforce as they are seeing freelance workers teaming up with employees to work on projects together. This means organizations should no longer impose strict regulations when it comes to office timings or work schedules and open up to a remote workforce. As long as deadlines are being met for projects, it should not matter where they are doing their part or when as long as their portion is ready at the appropriate time and made available to the rest of the team.

Ensure continuous feedback and mentoring
Another critical transition that is required is to have performance management become an ongoing and continuous process in organizations. Managers will play a critical role in achieving that as their interaction and contribution is key to making continuous performance reviews a success. 54% of millenials have reported having frequently felt that their manager is unprepared to give feedback during performance reviews. Such a system will not work anymore as feedback is so important to Millenials. They want to know how they are performing and what is needed for improvement. Hence, performance reviews need to move from being a once a year event to regular review meetings, pulse surveys, and the like. Managers also need to be held accountable for their contribution in bringing about behavioural changes in millennial employees. It is the role of a manager to try to help each team member fulfill their potential and to acknowledge their contributions to the team effort. That is why they must get to know the team members and what their gifts are so that everyone can benefit from what they bring to the table and feel appreciated for their input.
A traditional system like annual reviews and ranks will definitely not work for Millenials. They want to know how they are performing and what is needed for improvement. Hence, performance reviews need to move from being a once in a year event to 360-degree reviews, pulse surveys and more regular constructive criticism, support and encouragement. Managers also need to be held accountable for their contribution in bringing about behavioural changes in millennial employees. They need to be given the opportunities to be able to contribute to the professional development of their subordinates and do so in a personal manner.

Give emphasis to overall employee wellness
There is a massive rise in the use of wellness programs in companies to lower absenteeism, attract talent and save on health care costs. Fewer than half of American workers say that their company supports employee well being and helps them maintain a healthy lifestyle. Workplace stress has increased which has led to a massive decrease in employee engagement and motivation levels.
This is why companies need to implement ways to eradicate the massive rise in workplace stress and invest in creating a holistic work experience which helps employees maintain a healthy work-life balance. To create an enriching employee experience, strategies need to start right from on-boarding the new hire to exit interviews. Everything that impacts the daily life of the employees, within and outside the workplace should be explored well and help to enable a positive impact.

Offer avenues for continuous learning
The Millennials want to grow continuously in their professional career and they want to be involved in organizations which understand this aspiration of theirs. 87% of Millennials say development is important in a job. Career growth is the biggest contributor to higher retention levels for this generation. With the massive rise in the manufacture and use of mobile devices and the internet, knowledge can be accessed at the click of a button. Millennials want to be actively learning and on-demand training and access to a pool of rich content are what can keep them satisfied and engaged. Training delivered across mediums and devices which enhances or updates the skills that they already have and also offers them new ones, along with flexible learning opportunities can give them the assurance that their organizations deeply care for their professional development.

As Millennials enter the workforce, they have certain expectations as they are educated, well aware, technologically savvy, and full of choices. It will be interesting to see how organizations will strategize their employee engagement programs and make it suitable for the Millennials.