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Communication Strategies to Improve Employee Engagement and Connection

Strategic Comms
Employee Engagement and Communication programs

Does everyone in your organization understand why they do what they do? Do they know how it adds value to all stakeholders? Do they align with the short and long-term goals? Do they feel engaged and ‘connected’ to the organization, their team and the job they do?

Hybrid work structures necessitate a fundamental re-evaluation of employee engagement and how organizations communicate with their employees. 

In this blog, we will discuss a few ideas and programs to build a more ‘connected’ organization with clear and open communication. 

Employee Engagement Evolves to Connection

There is enough research that indicates that effective employee engagement is good for business. New research by Better Up indicates that ‘connection’ is just as important. Employees need to feel connected – to their colleagues, their manager, their company’s purpose, and even their job roles. This helps to create meaningful bonds that help define them as humans. This feeling has a direct positive impact on their mental health, job performance, ability to innovate and physical well-being. The research indicates that employees who are connected at work experience 34% higher goal attainment and 92% higher professional growth.

The Ingenuity Connections Study found that workplace connection is highly valuable not just because of the positive outcomes it brings, but also because most employees want it. They want to feel connected with their coworkers, work, and direct manager. Hence, organizations need to take this seriously and find ways to build these connections. 

However, keeping employees aligned and connected is not easy in the new office set-up. The Covid-19 pandemic has fundamentally altered workplace dynamics, especially with the rise of remote or hybrid working. As organizations transitioned to remote work, the ability to convey core values and objectives has become a challenge when maintaining a coherent culture and employee experience. This has led to a more disconnected, disengaged, and disloyal employee. 

How to Build a ‘Connected’ Organization?

The Microsoft Work Trends Index suggests that ‘Clear communication and goals unlock better employee engagement’ which can directly be linked to an increase or decrease in company performance. 

Open communication plays a vital role in ensuring that all team members, regardless of their physical location, are aligned with the organizational ethos and goals. Unfortunately, many managers and leaders lack the skills and tools to communicate, mobilize, and engage people effectively and those skills and tools are essential to build stronger connections.  

So our first suggestion is…

Train Managers in Effective Communication

If communicating and building a connection with a full-time in-office team was difficult, the challenges are amplified manifold in a hybrid workplace.

The Harvard Global Leadership Development Study showed that 76% of respondents say that there is a need for leaders to learn skills such as communicating with empathy and demonstrating high social and emotional intelligence. This is essential as just like organizations, employees too are facing several disruptions and uncertainties in their lives. These need to be acknowledged and handled with care.  

Managers are many times the first and last interaction an employee has with the organization. In a hybrid set-up, this may end up being completely virtual and that they may never meet them face-to-face. Hence building a culture where managers are sensitized on how to address the needs of their team with empathy in a virtual set-up is important. 

They also need to become better listeners and help promote more opportunities for employees to interact with each other outside the work environment. They need to ‘invest’ in small talk and build real relationships with their team. 

Managers need to be able to share company information and enforce policy without sounding high-handed or dictatorial.

They need to learn to do all of this while learning the nuances of communication in a hybrid world. 

Foster Opportunities for Spontaneous Interactions

The Better Up report highlights the need for deeper and real interactions among employees. An important aspect of any interaction is spontaneity and unfiltered open dialogue. This spontaneity may be lacking in most hybrid set ups as there is only a set time to have a conversation. This time usually ends up just being about work. 

Spontaneous interactions include:

  • A casual conversation by the coffee machine where employees discuss weekend plans or share ideas.
  • Impromptu brainstorming sessions happen when colleagues run into each other in the hallway and start discussing work-related issues.
  • A quick chat on a messaging platform where team members exchange thoughts on a project or ask for immediate feedback.
  • An unexpected video call from a coworker to resolve a pressing issue or to catch up.
  • A group at a lunch table, leading to a discussion on various topics, both personal and professional.

For these to happen, the organization needs to invest in unplanned as well as planned internal programs. 

Perhaps, publishing a calendar that highlights the schedule of teams in the office might help. Whatever the tactic, the objective should be to replicate the clarity and impact of face-to-face interactions in a hybrid setting, ensuring that the quality of interactions is maintained. 

Fun and informal interactions are important and can also help create opportunities for spontaneous interactions. 

Leverage Transparent and Honest Communication At All Levels

Leaders who communicate openly about the organization’s direction, challenges, and the reasoning behind decisions help foster an environment of trust and respect. This approach includes acknowledging uncertainties, listening to employee feedback, and engaging in meaningful dialogues about the company’s future. Transparent communication helps employees feel secure and informed, which is particularly important in times of change or crisis, thereby enhancing their trust in leadership.

Transparency does not mean that all employees need to know all the details of everything. But whatever is shared with them needs to be in the spirit of honesty and engaging their sensibilities. They need to be allowed to ask questions and share feedback. 

Feedback mechanisms need to be looked at closely in terms of efficacy and traceability to actual implementation or responses. Employees have become sceptical of employee experience surveys that do not deliver on the suggestions given. 

An organization needs to not only invest in building programs that enable transparent communication but also build mechanisms to regularly audit and track the effectiveness of such programs. 

Build Communication That Enables Connection

In the hybrid work environment, traditional face-to-face communication methods are no longer viable. Hybrid work environments demand clear, concise, and frequent communication to overcome the lack of physical presence. This can in turn lead to communication fatigue. Companies need to rethink and adapt their communication strategies to ensure that their employees thrive. In turn, this will lead to employees feeling connected, which will help in keeping them productive and happy.

Organizations must find ways to virtually replicate the informal conversations and serendipitous interactions that need to occur naturally. This could involve more regular check-ins, virtual team-building activities, and open forums for sharing ideas and feedback. The possibilities are endless. 

Communication initiatives and programs need to focus on building real connections. Managers and leaders must re-learn the art of building meaningful relationships and having conversations that build ‘connections’. 

Reach out to us, if you need help reimagining your employee engagement and communication programs. 

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