Every company wants to connect with its customers. Establishing and maintaining that bond is tough unless you communicate effectively with those who buy your product and / or services. It becomes even more difficult if management isn’t communicating with its own employees. Their performance is largely dependent on how well you communicate WITH them. Opening and maintaining a regular TWO-WAY dialogue produces some remarkable results:
- In time a set of internal values grows. Everyone understands his / her mission and a highly productive culture begins to take root. Decisions in companies with deeply rooted common beliefs become easier. People instinctively know the right thing to do.
- Moreover, management gets feedback from its associates who directly interact with its customers. Those employees often have the best insight into how your end users feel about your products or services. They become your frontline intelligence agents and the information they provide can be as valuable as outside research. At the very least their observations can be the basis for better written formal research.
- Management also gains a better insight into what motivates their workers and the frustrations they face. Reliable communications permits management to exploit opportunities and address minor issues before they become real problems.
Unfortunately, effective two way communication is often a weak point in an organization.
- Senior management often relies on mid-level managers to provide employee feedback. The danger with this is too much information can be filtered. The information provided runs a risk of being more positive than reality or can be flat out misleading.
- Some organizations conduct annual internal surveys. In today’s world this does not provide adequate time to respond to rapidly changing customer or employee sentiments. Additionally, annual surveys are simply a snapshot in time. When commissions or bonuses are good, feedback is usually positive. In a down business cycle the responses a company receives slides. So, the results that one gets from internal surveys depend a lot on timing. Do you really want to wait a year to discover what opportunities you are missing or find out that you have hired a manager who is a morale breaker?
- Many companies do little to encourage feedback. Logically an employee may well ask, “What do I get for telling my bosses what I think?” Or, “What is the risk if I am really honest?” If you want effective feedback you must reward it. Then make sure to take the time to listen and act appropriately.
Given the current technology, set up mechanisms that allow employees to provide feedback when THEY think it is important to share their thoughts; not just when you think it is valuable. Incentivize great ideas. Go even farther and provide rewards to those who identify problems and offer solutions. If your business is “local” all of this should make sense. If you are part of a global company it is not just a nice idea, it is a necessity. In either case your business will benefit, management won’t get blindsided and your associates will feel included.