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With current U.S. unemployment numbers as low as 1969 rates––3.7%, according to September 2018 data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics––it’s a timely opportunity to evaluate the importance of good management in staff retention. Good management plays an integral role throughout the hiring lifecycle, and in retaining loyal employees. But how exactly does leadership-style affect employee satisfaction? And what’s transparent communication got to do with it?

While it’s certainly true that people don’t leave jobs, they leave bosses (to paraphrase the familiar adage) it’s important to note that studies have also shown that employees leave because they don’t enjoy their job. Their strengths aren’t being recognized, supported, or used, or they weren’t growing professionally.

What is important to keep in mind is that managers and their leadership style play a large role in enabling, influencing, and shaping a successful environment for employees. There are many ways to enact this, but an often-overlooked component is transparent communication––and cultivating this needs to be led and modeled by leadership.

Creating Meaningful Jobs Through Consistent Communication with Your Workforce

Managers can support employees by making sure they design meaningful roles and work efforts for employees to flex their strengths, work on projects that motivate and energize them, and that lead to professional development and growth.

The role of management also extends to supporting career progression. Exposing their employees to new experiences, understanding their goals and aspirations, and knowing when an employee may need to move on to continue their progression all helps employees feels like they are advancing towards their desired futures.

As Gallup polls have found, communication with managers causes employees to feel more engaged, and that high performance is not necessarily an accurate measure of how engaged employees are. Here, managers can help foster higher levels of engagement by providing clear and frequent feedback on how employees are doing with consistent communication in the following ways:

  • Providing clarity on goals and priorities
  • Sharing information about the company
  • Learning about their employees as people

Employees talk and share stories about their work life, with fellow colleagues and beyond. Whether with friends, or leaving reviews about their workplace, they will share what they are going through. If you have great managers that empower employees, this will be what potential new hires will hear about: this is the true temperature, the “buzz”, about your company.

Don’t underestimate the power employees hold as brand ambassadors––and as brand detractors. We have likely all been in a situation where it was crystal clear that an employee was unhappy. It’s a lasting impression that can be hard to reverse, particularly if the experience is a negative one.

Best Practices for Leadership’s Role in Workforce Communication

Bearing in mind the compelling case for better workplace communication, especially leading in the digital age, there are some best practices to keep in mind from a leadership perspective in terms of transparent communication with your workforce.

  1. Be authentic in your communication delivery. As someone who spends considerable time analyzing data related to creating productive company cultures, optimizing processes, and supporting behavioral development that empowers people to feel and give their best, one core observation that has emerged is that it is quite obvious when communications are merely smoke and mirrors. It’s abundantly clear when employee engagement is simply an item on leadership’s to-do list. When company communications are based on lip service, pacification, or are only one-way, this can cause employees to feel that their opinions and voice don’t impact the company, which can lead to mistrust.
  2. Practice compassion and give your full attention while communicating. Demonstrating transparency in your internal communications does not mean divulging sensitive information, but being authentic in your intention and delivery. If you start with a mindset that you want to share as much as you can, this will help you balance between transparency and what could cause business risk. This also includes how you articulate yourself, the content of your message, and your energy.
    For example, is your language living up to company values? Do you deliver hard messages in a compassionate, upfront, and truthful way? Giving employees your undivided attention also demonstrates care. Answering phone calls, checking emails, or being on your phone––it’s not appropriate to multitask in this case. After all, actions speak louder than words.
  3. Focus on how you can support your employees. For example, even when delivering bad news such as letting someone go, what can you do to help them and facilitate a process that allows them to move on honorably? Help them with their resume, find possibilities for them elsewhere, and be available so that they can discuss concerns.
  4. Give clear, specific, and actionable feedback with frequency. This ensures that there are no “surprises,” for you or your employees. Employees should always know how they are doing and what they need to be working on to progress.
  5. Set up dedicated and accessible communication channels for employees to voice concerns and ask questions, and address them with transparency. One way to facilitate two-way communication is through the encouragement of “ask-me-anything” sessions with leadership. However, the value of these forums is dependent of course on the authenticity of the responses.

Managers need to keep employees updated and informed, and to be available and present. This includes not waiting for formal team meetings but calling meetings when there’s new information to deliver and taking the time to deliver news personally to avoid misinterpretation and create the space for questions to be answered. Enacting meaningful change and improving employee retention starts with a focused, authentic, transparent, and leadership-driven communication strategy.