Editor's Note: The first installment of this article was initially published in June. This is the second, and final, portion of the article. You can read the first half here.
An open line of a communication between an employee and his or her manager is a critical goal in ensuring employee satisfaction. A manager is the key in this element of the retention plan, and ideally he or she should receive training in communication and its importance to retaining employees. In addition to training managers in communication, implementing specific strategies will help facilitate open communication. A few ways managers can promote open communication include:
- Management by wandering around (MBWA). Managers will benefit from periodic, informal day-to-day discussions with employees in order to understand what challenges they face and what can be done to further enhance their short- or long-term experiences with the organization.
- "Hands-on" management. Managers who show a willingness to work side-by-side with employees also demonstrate their compassion and commitment to the team's success. Offering assistance with projects creates a feeling of mutual respect and enhances the relationship between manager and employee.
- Informal meetings. Managers should hold breakfast, lunch or regular meetings with their employees. Hyler Bracey, author of Managing From the Heart, explains that employees want to be heard and understood, and that they want managers to be compassionate and truthful. Meetings where management and employees share time discussing goals and strategies, as well as providing feedback to one another can go a long way in making employees feel valued. An informal lunch meeting helps a manager stay in touch with an employee's day-to-day concerns so he or she can provide assistance as necessary. Managers should encourage feedback, suggestions and ideas - showing employees their opinions are valued.
Develop Employee Surveys. While informal meetings can facilitate open communication, another strategy to encourage communication is a survey. Employee surveys can illustrate how an employee feels about many things such as employee engagement (satisfaction with supervisor, communication with supervisor, performance feedback, career development and growth, and feelings about integration), along with thoughts about geographic location and fellow employees. A leader or manager's role is to develop an understanding of what is important to each employee. What concerns does an employee have, what motivates that person and what are the employee's goals? Surveys can also help managers bridge the generation gap by identifying the motivational factors important to each generation. When preparing company surveys, don't forget to include managers. Surveys designed for managers are another important link to what employees are facing. Managers who have their fingers on the pulse of their team and the job market can provide valuable information with respect to employee morale and challenges.
Other Tips for Success
To further facilitate communication and ensure open, honest feedback, some organizations assign a sponsor who works in a different department or office. A sponsor who works outside of the department can obtain sincere feedback from employees who don't feel as comfortable talking about serious issues with their managers. The employee sponsor, however, must have a direct link with company owners and executives in order to provide solutions. Exit interviews also help managers identify current practices, trends, or challenges affecting the workforce. They can reveal how employees really feel about your company's pay structure, growth potential, benefit plans, culture, etc. This information is critical in understanding what actions are needed to improve an organization's culture.