“Employees can experience an increase in morale, productivity and commitment if they are able to communicate up and down the communication chain in an organization” – Jennifer Lombardo, Business Ethics at Study.com
Good communication in the workplace is key – whether that’s briefing a piece of work, delivering team news, or updating the company on the annual performance.
The ongoing piece of research that we’re carrying out on the multigenerational workplace suggests that there are many ways in which companies can make communicating easier. Employees of all generation’s feel that there are certain aspects that can make communicating easier, be it between teams, with their line manager, or receiving company updates.
“Go the extra mile”
It’s one of those phrases that is often used, and subconsciously understood. But do we really understand what is meant by that, and furthermore, what is actually required in order to achieve it? It’s one of those aspects of work that isn’t outlined, and no-one asks for it to be, and therefore no-one explains it. It just exists as an achievable benchmark, whilst simultaneously having no attainable elements.
It’s clear from our research that ‘going the extra mile’ has very different meanings. Some (mainly Gen X) think it is about working extra hours, others (Baby Boomers and Gen Z) believe having a real impact in your role achieves this. Does paying extra attention to customers’ needs fulfil the requirement? Generations Y & Z think so.
This is something that will vary substantially across different businesses, role types and environments. However if employees/ line managers provide an explanation as to how they see this being achievable, this will enable employees to focus on certain aspects, pushing both their own levels of productivity but also raising the standard of the department/ company.
Face-to-face communication really is important
We found that across all four generations, all of them chose face-to-face as the preferred method of communicating. There’d perhaps be an expectation for the younger generations to prefer more digitally-led conversations, but this was not the case. Email was the second choice method, but actually it was Gen Y that had the highest preference for this and it was selected only when face-to-face was not possible.
Responsibility for this largely falls to Line Managers – especially as our findings show that the single most important quality that employees want their line manager to have is to be approachable. Where the frustration lies for employees though is that they also feel that communication is their managers’ main shortcoming. There is a recognition that managers are very busy, under lots of pressure, and spend a lot of time in meetings and/or travelling, however this is a key aspect where employees are looking for improvements. In time this can have an effect on employees’ morale, performance, their view of their personal development, and ultimately, retention.
Another aspect that can affect face-to-face communication is the office layout, especially for internal conversations between team members. Again, all four of the generations agreed that an open plan office was the preferred option, allowing for easy exchanges and sharing of information.
The increase in flexible working
It’s interesting that whilst employees are looking for more in-person conversations at work, flexible working is becoming more and more popular, with a reported 1.5 million people1 now working at home, increasing their work-life balance and reducing commuting costs.
There are of course company benefits to this as well, with a reduction in costs, an often increased level of productivity (lack of distractions, more available working hours), and the ability to hire the best candidates regardless of geographical location.
Our study showed that employees see flexible working as a nice to have, rather than an essential benefit. Therefore it’s important that employers who offer this, or are thinking about introducing it as an option take into consideration the effect this can have on internal communications, too.
These are just a few aspects that can affect the levels and quality of communication within the workplace. The key point, however, is that employees see this as very important, which in turn means employers should be classifying this as a high priority. Improving the chains of communication can lead to questions being answered faster, improved understanding both within and across teams, and the increased confidence of employees.