Have you ever worked for a company where employees say, “communication is awesome here, it just couldn’t be any better?” In our experience this is a rarity, as most businesses we meet feel communication is either a current challenge, or something that is a top priority to remain focused on. One of the biggest mistakes is reflected in George Bernard Shaw’s famous quote…
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
The trend we see in most organisations is a lack of attention to company-wide communication that engages everyone in the business. Communicating with the workforce seems to be avoided or lack the attention it needs to be done effectively. And the most important aspect of all communication – listening to the team at the coal face – is just non-existent.
Based on our experiences at the Manufacturers’ Alliance with a wide range of manufacturing companies, we have 10 ideas that we would like to share with you that we have found to be the most effective when looking to improve communication within your business. We have the luxury of spending our time with forward thinking, progressive people that are making big changes on a weekly basis. These ideas have been tried and tested and will help you build better workplace relationships and break down the barriers to effective workplace communication.
- Daily Work Requirements and Expectations – Have clear visual management in place that highlights daily targets that are aligned with the priority needs of the business. Meet with your team twice per day (at the start of the day and a couple of hours from the end of the day) to discuss expectations and any potential problems. How can you expect people to meet the daily targets if you do not share what is expected of them? Or provide them with the opportunity to share where they need support if you are not making the time to listen?
- Continuous Improvement Meetings – Improvement teams should be at the heart of any business on a growth or change journey. The focus for the meetings should be to work together as a team to solve problems and improve performance. In our experience these meetings are key to sustaining momentum with improving performance and should be held on a weekly basis without exception. We also find that cross functional teams that involve multiple departments are a real game changer. Get people talking across the business, rather than working in silos.
- Weekly Team Briefings – Meet up with your team once per week (best with same day, same time every week) to share news that may affect them, such as, current performance, customer feedback, changes in department/company, good news, things on the horizon, etc. 10 minutes once per week and everyone is up to speed on all events that may affect them.
- Employee Newsletter – Either monthly or quarterly (depending on how much content you plan to share), the best newsletters we have seen have been very personal and employee focused. This is an opportunity to show your team how much you care. Make it ‘for them’ by asking what they would like to be included.
- Communication Ambassadors – Choose a range of people from various functions to act as ambassadors for communication. Preferably people with good communication skills that are well respected members of the team. Their role is to ensure communication channels remain open and to work with teams where improvements are needed. They are there to champion 2-way communication, and ensure people are being listened to as well as being kept informed.
- Visual Management – Most of us are visual learners, so when change is on the horizon or in progress, share what is happening via the notice boards, TV screens and canteen tables. Put up posters, have TV screens with images/graphics loaded up and populate menu stands on the canteen tables. Use every opportunity to communicate with the whole workforce all around the building. The more graphic and visual the better. Too wordy and people just switch off or ignore it.
- Ask the MD – For the brave MD or the most senior person in the business… pull up a chair in a different department each week and allow the team to ask open questions for 15 minutes. Let them ask anything… yes anything! And be honest. This shows the whole business that you are genuine, you want to listen and that you care.
- Coffee Chats – Invite a person or small group into your office once per week to discuss how they are feeling, whether they have any concerns, and answer any question they may have. This is very intimate and will also enable you to get to know your team better. Warning! This is not an opportunity to talk about yourself. This is an opportunity to listen.
- Business Improvement Days – This is a big investment but can pay back some even greater rewards. Shutdown the whole business for a day and spend the day focused on improvement and sharing ideas. Have lots of different forums and agendas around the business and get everyone immersed in discussing improvements and solving problems. You may want to steer the different groups with themes to work on or leave the forums open to explore. Or maybe a mix of the two.
- Informal Gatherings – Christmas parties, family fun days, day at the races, sharing hobbies, plant open days, celebrating success days, team building days, etc. There are so many different platforms that could help to build relationships and improve communication. The majority of people enjoy meeting informally and will talk about some of the funnies for weeks on end.
Using these methods to improve communication and break down some of the barriers with your team will typically bring the following benefits:
- Higher levels of employee engagement
- A positive work environment
- A trusting environment to work in
- Better workplace relationships
- Improved morale
- Happier employees
- Higher levels of productivity
- Teamwork and helping each other becomes the norm
- More improvement ideas
- Higher staff retention levels
Is your business experiencing some of these challenges? What are you waiting for? Choose one or two of the ideas above and transform the culture in your business. And if you need help, feel free to reach out. We love helping people at the Manufacturers’ Alliance.
This article has been written by Founder and Managing Director of the Manufacturers Alliance, Gary Sheader. Gary has supported a wide range of manufacturing business in creating and deploying successful growth / improvement plans throughout the UK and Europe. He has built a team around him with a core strength in strategic facilitation and winning the hearts and minds of people.