Listen up

Strategic and comprehensive employee communication is linked with improvements in employee morale, loyalty, faith in management and productivity. In other words, communication can help boost a company’s bottom line.

Research conducted for Randstad North America found that 83 percent of employees who give top ratings to their company’s employee communications programs say morale is excellent or good where they work. And three-quarters of employees in growing companies say the boss wants to hear their opinions and feedback.

Unfortunately, that presents a challenge for most managers, because only 35 percent of workers rank their employer’s communications skills as excellent.

Randstad North America’s fourth annual national survey, the 2003 Employee Review, identifies issues critical to employees and provides a roadmap for communicating with them. Results of the 2,826 telephone interviews with employees and employers provide these 10 tips for improving employee communications.


1. Be fast or be last. Don’t for a minute think you can sit on information, good or bad. Seven out of 10 employees say they want to receive partial information as decisions are being made, even if things might change. Be quick to let employees know about changes at work.


2. Cultivate the grapevine. Don’t let rumors about workplace issues get out of control. And don’t think the grapevine isn’t flourishing. While 83 percent of employers think workers first hear about major changes from them, 46 percent of employees say they hear it through the grapevine.


3. KISS. (Keep it simple, stupid.) Employees want clear, easy-to-understand information about what’s happening. Clarity is critical. During periods of change, half of employees (51 percent) say things at work seem unorganized. Don’t try to spin bad news into innocuous twaddle.


4. Tell the truth. These days, instead of wondering if the boss is capable, workers wonder if the boss is honest. And while 71 percent say most people in business are honest, only half of employees (53 percent) agree with that assessment. Expect employees to ask the tough questions. Be prepared to tell them the truth.


5. Tell the whole truth. You can’t hold back pieces of information that might not be well-accepted at the time in the hopes that later on employees will be in a better mood. They’ll resent not hearing the whole story at one time.


6. Provide a roadmap. Give them an idea of where the company is headed. While 83 percent of employers say they give workers that kind of information, only 68 percent of employees report receiving it.


7. Say something good once in awhile. Sixty-seven percent of employees say management communicates the good news as well as the bad. Workers need to hear the good news from the boss as much as they need to take the bad.


8. Get personal. Whatever the news is that you’re providing, employees want to know what it means to them personally.


9. Give details. If the company is facing really hard times, be clear about how layoffs will be handled and the exact criteria employed. Fear is not a motivator. Only 32 percent of employees and 26 percent of employers say people work harder when they are worried about their jobs. Open and honest communication in times of crisis or uncertainty is crucial.


10. Listen. Last but by no means least, take the time to gather input from your people. Employees want to be heard. Sometimes they actually have good ideas. In companies that take action on employee feedback resulting in positive change, 78 percent of employees say morale is excellent or good.


The key to improving employee morale and loyalty – two things crucial to productivity and business success — is communication. As Randstad North America’s Managing Director of Human Resources, Gail Auerbach is responsible for recruitment and retention of the company’s more than 2,000 employees in more than 500 locations in the United States and Canada. Reach her at [email protected] For more information about Randstad’s 2003 Employee Review, visit