Don’t Back-Burner Employee Communications

Ask employees what they like least about their jobs, and they typically cite a problem with communication. In fact, in many national employee attitude surveys, participating organizations across the board were rated lowest on questions related to communication.

This is particularly unfortunate given that employees who took the survey said communication was very important to them.

If communication is a problem in your organization, dig down to find out which types of information employees feel they aren’t getting, for example:

  • Employees don’t have a good understanding of what is expected of them or how they fit in the organization.
  • Management does not provide employees with information about how the organization is doing or the direction in which it is heading.
  • Employees feel they aren’t well compensated because they don’t have any information on the value of benefits and their total compensation.

Tools for Better Communicating

It is important to consider your audience when you determine which communication tools you will use to communicate a certain piece of information.

  • Do all of your employees have access to e-mail?
  • Are all of your employees on-site?
  • Do some of your employees work only on specific days?
  • Do some of your employees have jobs on the line that prevent them from attending meetings?

Keeping these things in mind, a variety of methods are available for enhancing communication in the workplace.


A company intranet is a great place for posting information on a variety of topics for employees, particularly if most employees have a computer.

Company Newsletter

Company newsletters are a great way to communicate changes, successes, and important information to your employees.


Meetings are an effective way to bring employees face-to-face, which is particularly appreciated when the news is good and the purpose of the meeting is to show employees are valued. Meetings are also a good forum for allowing employee questions or discussion on a topic and for obtaining employee thoughts, concerns, and ideas.

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Telephone Conferences and Web and Video Conferences

Telephones and conference calls are effective tools for communicating with individuals or groups of employees who are not present at the worksite. Invest in conferencing technology (e.g., phones, video, good microphones) that delivers high-level transmission of audio and/or video to avoid the stilted delays and overlapping conversations caused by low-tech conferencing technology. Train employees on how conferencing technology should be used. If materials or printed information will be distributed at a meeting, make arrangements to ensure access to the material for those participating by phone.


E-mail is an easy way to disperse information to a large group of people at once. Unfortunately, the overuse of e-mail can make employees feel isolated, lacking face-to-face contact. E-mails are stored on company computer systems, and once sent, the sender has no control over where they are forwarded. As a result, an e-mail should be considered a permanent written record. This is much different than the casual conversations people have face-to-face or over the phone.

Bulletin Boards

Well-organized and up-to-date bulletin boards are an effective, convenient, and inexpensive way to communicate with employees, especially workers who do not have access to a computer at their workstations.

Social Media

Social media, including blogs, podcasts, and social networks, can be used to build community, gather feedback, and make updates more engaging. For example, daily, weekly, or as-needed podcasts can provide a venue for managers and executives to talk to their employees via the intranet. While social media can be a great way to communicate with all employees at once, it shouldn’t be a complete substitute for face-to-face communication.

Employee Surveys

Employee surveys can be an effective and efficient way to obtain information from a large group of employees. A well-written survey provides feedback on how employees feel about the organization, their role in the organization, their compensation and benefits, and communication at each level of the organization.

However, conducting a survey and then leaving employees feeling as if they weren’t heard or that nothing is actually going to be done in response to feedback obtained in the survey may actually cause more harm to employee relations than good.

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Communicating Bad News

No one likes to be the bearer of bad news. But the right approach can help. The following tips are especially important when communicating bad news:

  • Be straightforward. Confront the situation honestly and openly. Don’t hedge or try to hide the unpleasant truth.
  • Act promptly. Delay will only make the task more difficult.
  • Deliver bad news face-to-face whenever possible. This provides the opportunity to show concern and deal with questions directly.
  • Always explain the reason behind the bad news. The more information people have, the more easily they will be able to accept the situation.
  • Put the situation in perspective. In most cases, there’s an upside as well—however small. Be sure to highlight any positive aspects that will help the listener look beyond disappointment and see the big picture.

In tomorrow’s CED, employee hotlines, plus an introduction to a conference you won’t want to miss this fall on all things HR in California.

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1 thought on “Don’t Back-Burner Employee Communications”

  1. One of the most common problems is soliciting input (e.g., via a “suggestion box”) and then not responding to it in any visible way.

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