We have all seen people at work sipping on their smoothie of choice. The flavors may differ or the location where the smoothie was purchased may differ, but the effect that the smoothie gives the individuals are pretty much the same. They are filling and refreshing. Very seldom does an individual change their flavor, unless they have a few different flavors that they like, and they feel like certain flavors go with the flow of the day.
Now let’s get away from the smoothie and move back into the work place. At work, sometimes our productivity will suffer in times of great change, because employee stress dramatically increases due to the universal fear of the unknown. Like staying with the same smoothie, because we know that particular flavor works for us. In these times, communication becomes more important than ever. Often senior executives genuinely believe they are communicating with employees when it comes to matters that affect them. Unfortunately, they often underestimate the number of matters that will affect employees in one way or another. So how do you know what is important to employees and what to tell them? Well, you need to put yourself in the position, the mind, and the heart of each employee. If you were that person in the current situation what would you be worried about right now? What would be important for you to know? What is the worst thing that could happen, and would you want to know about it in advance? How would you want to be told? Of course, you can’t answer those questions yourself. You need input from the very people you are trying to understand. Depending on how much you can discuss or how much is already known, you might ask a few individuals what the grapevine is saying, and what people are worrying and wondering about. Now, armed with this information, draft the answers to the questions. Of course they must be truthful answers, for insincerity is easily recognized and will deal a death blow to your communication efforts. Then they must be communicated back in terms that are clear and uncompromising, but also considerate and compassionate. It’s worth spending some time on this part—lack of commitment to your message is also easily read and will automatically raise the suspicion level among employees. The next step is letting everyone know the correct information. There is, as we all know, no shortage of communication technology in the business world. However, the way a person receives news can dramatically affect how he or she feels about it, so you need to choose the medium very carefully. E-mail can be perceived as cold and unfeeling in many cases, although it is useful for routine updates that don’t have emotional overtones. Some messages are better spoken, either by managers to their groups or by the CEO to the whole organization. If the messengers don’t have highly developed communication skills, it’s worth engaging the services of professional speech writers or presentation coaches to help them, but be sure the message remains honest, clear and compassionate. And above all, follow through on your commitments and promises. Nothing turns employees off more than empty words. Sincere, caring, ongoing communication can form the basis for building employee engagement even during times of change. The key is to keep giving the business smoothie of choice, which is communication.