Listening is the key to better employee communications

To facilitate a more substantive dialogue with workers, use surveys, encourage email exchanges with leaders and establish an ongoing FAQ page.

Internal communications professionals work hard to produce engaging content.

Then they push that content through an array of communication channels. Unfortunately, that’s only one-way communication.

In any conversation, it’s important to listen. Have you ever had a conversation with someone who talks constantly and never lets you get a word in edgewise? How about that person who barely listens to what you’re saying because they’re thinking so hard about what they want to say next? After a while, you feel they don’t care much, if at all, about you or what you think.

If we don’t ask employees what they think, it doesn’t mean they don’t have opinions. Leaders often remain oblivious to employee concerns, issues and questions simply because companies often lack the channels (or the desire) to solicit and receive meaningful feedback.

Those annual or biannual employee engagement surveys fill an important role, but they’re not an ongoing, substantive conversation. Try the following tactics to get a genuine dialogue flowing:

1. Pulse surveys

These are a great way to get bite-size feedback from employees. Whether via email, on the intranet or an employee app, pulse surveys make it easy for employees to respond anonymously to crucial questions.

Quick surveys offer an opportunity to measure morale and discover troubling issues.

2. Leadership email

One simple way to facilitate employee conversations is to invite people to email the CEO or another top leader directly. Of course, there’s risk involved here. If employees send emails and don’t receive a response, that’s the opposite of what you want.

You might set up a special email address for these leadership questions and have them reviewed and organized by someone in communications. However you do it, make it easy for leaders to respond—authentically but efficiently.

3. Question and answer page

This can be particularly useful in times of major change. On your intranet or a separate microsite, provide a page where employees can ask anything they want—with a promise that the appropriate person from the leadership team will respond in a timely manner.

You’ll probably get many similar questions. If that’s the case, you can post one response for that specific topic. Generally, only a few questions will require an individual email response. Most questions will apply to a wide range of employees.

Of course, the trick with all these methods is implementing a reliable response mechanism. You don’t want employees to feel that they took the trouble to engage, only to have their question or response dropped into a black hole.

That’s how conversations die, and that’s when people tune out.

Elizabeth Cogswell Baskin is the CEO of Tribe, an internal communications agency based in Atlanta. A version of this post first appeared on Tribe‘s blog.

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