Communication: A Benchmark of Employee Engagement

Under the comprehensive topic of employee engagement is the more specific discussion of employee/employer communication. Many managers struggle to find a comfortable balance between being a manager who merely sets expectations regarding employee performance and being a true leader and mentor to their team members. One reason for this challenge is not knowing what or how much to tell employees, as well as how to communicate adequately with them.

I am often asked by clients, “Should I tell my employee __?” Usually, the answer is yes; transparency is important, and employees are perceptive enough to know when an employer is not being genuine or open with them. That being said, managers should be careful about what and how they communicate to employees. There will always be certain things that need to be kept confidential. In a recent example, I was consulted in a situation in which a more “mature” employee was asked whether they had considered retiring. Asking such a question, when you are planning to outsource the employee’s job or are not happy with their performance—apart from being illegal—is an example of poor communication. Transparency would have been the more advisable approach.

Anytime there is a change, however large or small, employers should ensure that there is plenty of communication in all directions, throughout the organization. Employers need to understand that when things are changing, employees want to know: “What does this mean for me?” “How will it impact my job?” and “Why has this decision been made?” Many employers are afraid to be this transparent. But transparent and frequent communication will minimize employee fears and will go a long way in sustaining employee engagement. Conversely, fear or lack of transparency can sabotage employee engagement.

Many managers believe that their casual, day-to-day communication with employees is adequate. However, employees do not view those discussions as true communication. Managers need to spend dedicated time with each employee, focused on them and their work.

Marcus Buckingham, author of First Break All the Rules and his latest book, Love + Work, recently spoke about employee communication being pivotal. He stated that research shows managers only need to spend fifteen minutes a week with each employee on their team to be effective. Real communication with employees requires having intentional conversations about the work, but also about how the employee is doing, their performance and development, and any obstacles that might be jeopardizing their ability to get the job done effectively. Intentional questions to ask include, “What are you working on this week?” and “What help do you need from me?” Astute managers will draw out the employee by prompting them to actively participate in the conversation. This conversational dynamic signals to the employee that the organization cares about their well-being and creates a communication climate in which the employee is more inclined to receive feedback and be actively engaged.

According to Buckingham’s research, making the time to have such conversations with employees drove up team member engagement by 77%! Voluntary turnover over a six-month period decreased by 67%. These percentages are noteworthy and highlight the point that a manager who makes it a priority to spend fifteen minutes a week conducting meaningful conversations with employees shows themselves to be a leader and mentor. Employee engagement is a reciprocal response, further supporting that a manager’s effort is pivotal.

Unfortunately, many managers do not spend that much dedicated time each week with each employee. Oftentimes, the reason offered is that they are too busy. This could indicate that the team is too large for one manager or that the manager has too many other responsibilities. Another possible reason why managers do not make time to communicate with their employees is their own lack of training in the importance of communication and how to do it effectively. This lack of training and failure to communicate tends to be compounded if the managers are managing remote employees. If any of these apply, the company should be looking at whether they are setting their managers up to be successful in that management role.

The answers are plain: Employer communication is critically important, transparency is key, and managers are pivotal to that communication. It cannot be done enough, and it is a key benchmark of employee engagement.
Having an outsourced HR partner who understands the pivotal role managers play in communicating with their employees makes a big difference. Ross Insight Solutions can help.

#employeeengagement #communication #transparency #dedicatedtime #fifteenminutes #communicationclimate #pivotalcommunication






Carolyn Ross

Carolyn Ross


As the world of work is changing at an ever-increasing pace, it is crucial for small and mid-sized companies to stay informed and keep up with the latest HR trends and practices. Doing so can help keep the business compliant, viable, healthy and growing, and make it a better place for all to work in the process.  


Attract, hire, and retain quality employees with Ross Insight Solutions.