A contact of mine works for a company (which I’m not going to name), that recently implemented a new system to track employee hours electronically rather than through the use of paper time cards. There were multiple good business reasons for this switch, including the fact that it made it easier for the organization to track hours spent on specific client projects – therefore, making billing more accurate and efficient. Sounds like a simple process improvement, so what could go wrong?
For one, the reason behind the switch was not immediately shared with the employee group. The first time that front line employees heard about this change was through a short, general communication that the system was being rolled out within the next couple of business days. Without any communication as to WHY management was installing this new system, the rumour mill started. The general consensus of the employees was that this system was being put in place to “keep tabs” on how they spent their time at work. This lead to feelings of distrust and resentment – feelings that were not quickly eradicated even once the WHY was finally explained.
Examples like this are too often seen in workplaces. Time and time again, employers do not communicate even the little things to employees, often causing confusion and frustration. Typically, this is not done purposely; most employers I know are not intending to keep things hidden, they are simply not thinking intentionally enough about their communication. Rather than asking – Should I share this? Employers should be asking – Why shouldn’t I share this?
To help think through your organizational communication, here are four principles when it comes to sharing information and building a transparent organization:
Share Often – So employees (and you) get used to it. Communicating information should be a normal part of business and happen regularly. That’s not to say there aren’t times when information needs to be managed carefully, but don’t hide behind this tactic more than necessary.
Share Early – Communication should be proactive more often than it is reactive. Talk to your employees before things happen, not after. You are more likely to build good will and buy-in this way.
Share the Bad – Communication is not always a good news story. A high level organization shares the bad news too. This helps to build credibility and when you share both the good and bad, employees are far more likely to trust you when difficult (and potentially unpopular) decisions have to be made.
Share WHY – explain to employees the reasoning behind your decisions. Change can be hard to swallow, especially with a tough decision. If people understand why a change needs to happen, they may not like the decision, but are more likely to accept it.
Communication within an organization is not formulaic and requires a strong understanding of your organization’s culture and environment. However, a transparent approach to communication is one of the easiest ways to build trust in your organization (and in you as a Leader). So next time important information crosses your desk, try asking yourself – Why shouldn’t I share this?
Devan is a Partner with Acuity HR Solutions where she works with clients to execute leading HR solutions. For more information on Devan or Acuity visit acuityhr.ca