David Harding: How your internal communication speaks most clearly about your company

Want to be successful? Have the best culture.

So many companies treat human resources as an afterthought, or it’s only part of a staff member’s role. For example, the secretary has HR in addition to other duties.

The No. 1 priority

HR should be the No. 1 priority. A great culture can lead to great success (and higher profits).

Why is it that when a company needs to reduce staff, generally, the first place it makes a cut is within the HR department?

In my view, HR is the single most important department in your company and is a direct reflection of how you value your employees.

If your company has a part-time HR person, that tells me a lot about how you are going to treat your employees and their concerns. HR is a full-time job and an integral part of your team.

How you manage your people is a top priority. Not only should HR be the last to go, HR absolutely should be represented at the executive level.

Employees spend an incredible amount of time and emotion working to gain your approval.  Whether they were deprived of it by their parents or need approval to bolster their adult confidence, it’s a powerful force in the workplace.

As a leader, you should tap into this.

Recognize the importance your approval plays with your team: a few lines of praise in an e-mail; recognition for a job well done in a meeting; personal thanks for extra time on a project. It doesn’t have to be big. In fact, the simpler and more low-key, the better.

Do offer approval. Give it often.

The best places to work really do thrive on creativity, energy and a well-defined structure. You need all to keep a business grounded and sharp. It keeps the workplace balanced.

Hire creative people and make them part of top management. Encourage continuous improvement from everyone. (One large improvement is easy to copy; lots of little things make copying next to impossible.) Insist on short, five-minute daily huddles to promote effective communication, ideas, and employee accountability.

Every company’s culture is a mixture of differing attitudes, beliefs, backgrounds and behaviors. But it is your internal communication that speaks most clearly about your organization’s true social culture.

Think internally

How does your internal communication stack up? Think about how management gets important and casual information to employees.

• Is one-on-one discussion encouraged?

• Is internal communication casual or highly structured?

• Is most communication e-mail-driven?

• Are employees a part of the conversation, or “told” what to do?

• What‘s the typical location for company meetings?

• Are employees free to relax at company-sponsored events?

Observe the attitudes

Don’t tolerate bad attitudes. If a person isn’t happy, help them find it at another company.

A recent study at Baylor University published in the Journal of Organizational Behavior found that working with chronically rude, mean or bullying colleagues has far-reaching consequences. The study showed that this type of stress and tension often followed the employee home, causing unhappiness with a spouse or family and can even travel to the spouse’s workplace.

Bullying and mean-spirited behavior simply does not belong in the workplace. Whose job is it to make sure it doesn’t occur? Whoever is at the top. Leadership trickles down.

Make sure your leadership includes clear communication about behaviors that won’t be tolerated. Always live and breathe your workplace values.

Mistakes are OK

Allow staff to make mistakes. It’s how they learn.

“It was my idea, so I’ll ride it out until it works.” Recognize a little of yourself in there?

Thing is, there’s nothing better than making a mistake. It’s a great way to find a better way. To re-tool. To create understanding. To show your team you know when to say when, and head in a better direction.

It’s when you don’t realize your mistake — maybe letting your ego get in the way — that you lose. It’s the people that keep making the same mistakes that are the idiots.

Move forward. And eat a little humble pie in the process. It keeps you in shape.

Finally, and most importantly, give frequent performance reviews and schedule yearly wage reviews for everyone. Separate the wage reviews from performance reviews. If their performance doesn’t warrant an increase, tell them. Honesty is better than not letting them know.

David Harding is president and CEO of HardingPoorman Group, a locally owned and operated graphic communications firm in Indianapolis consisting of several integrated companies all under one roof. The company has been voted as one of the “Best Places to Work” in Indiana by the Indiana Chamber of Commerce. Harding can be reached at [email protected] For more information, go to www.hardingpoorman.com