The majority of leaders would agree that effective communication is essential for business success. Despite this, there are often insufficient interactions between senior teams and frontline employees. In this article, I explore ways of bridging the communication gap and the benefits this brings.
Communication Between Leaders & Frontline Employees
I recently read an article in HR Director* and discovered that nearly two-thirds of frontline employees had never received direct communication from their company’s leaders. As a business psychologist, I found this disconnect shocking on many accounts.
Firstly, the frontline employees are the primary deliverers of customer service. Their knowledge, actions and attitudes impact the customer experience and form the public perception of the brand. If no one from the leadership team is talking to them about the company vision and brand values, how is good practice and compliance achieved?
Secondly, if the leaders aren’t communicating with staff, who is ensuring consistency of service or addressing issues that might arise? How do team members know the latest products, services or updates that enable them to provide the best solutions for customers?
Thirdly, if frontline staff aren’t informed, how valued are they feeling? Being ignored or excluded impacts their commitment to the brand and harms their well-being.
Finally, if no one is talking to them, there is unlikely to be someone listening. That leads to the next statistic raised in the article; 32% of employees don’t feel heard when they attempt to communicate with leaders.
The Benefits of Open Communication
The reality is that frontline employees are well-placed to inform strategic decisions. This is because they interact with the customers every day and receive plenty of feedback. They hear the frustrations and the praise and may have great ideas on how improvements could be made. As a result, they can often see simple and cost-effective to implement and improve outcomes for customers, employees and the business.
This is why listening provides valuable insight and employees should be thanked for bringing points to the attention of leaders.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership” – James C Humes
Companies benefit most when leaders don’t wait for employees to make the first move, but actively engage in seeking out opinions. So, build trusted relationships with your team, involve them, value their input and implement ideas. In return, they are more likely to take on a level of ownership for the outcome.
This may not come naturally to all leaders, yet effective communication is a skill that can be developed. I am often asked to help address communication issues in leadership workshops and webinars. As such, I know that when leaders master the art, it drives employee motivation, productivity and retention.
How to Bridge the Communication Gap
Bridging the communication gap starts by accepting that everyone in the team plays an important role in the success of the business. Equally, everyone has skills and knowledge which need to be valued, developed and put to good use. As such, an employees position in the company, age or length of service should not be a barrier to feeling involved. Everyone should feel able to share ideas or inform positive change.
Let’s also recognise that people are more likely to engage, embrace change and feel motivated when they feel part of the process. How resistant or despondent are you when you are simply told to do something? Then, compare it to your attitude when you’ve had the opportunity to contribute. Your team are no different, so share your vision, seek their opinions and enable open communication.
3 Steps to Equip Your Team for Success
Step One – I invite you to consider the following questions:
- What measures are in place to ensure that all employees are kept up to speed with developments, company news, customer feedback, product launches and staffing changes?
- Can all employees access and contribute to company communications or is it all top down?
- How are your frontline employees encouraged to communicate with leaders?
- Would you describe your team as enthusiastic and driven or resistant and despondent?
Use your responses to recognise where improvements can be made. In addition, your employees could be asked to complete an attrition and engagement survey to share their perspectives.
Step Two – Allocate diary time for leaders to regularly engage with frontline employees, virtually or in person. Use this opportunity to ask open questions, listen and give feedback. Equally, be willing to recognise individuals’ work and attitude. Believe me, this is a valuable use of time, as it gradually builds connections and trust.
Step Three – Encourage engagement by delivering messages in ways which are meaningful to them. This means making your team aware of the direct benefit of contributing their skills to business goals.
Are Unofficial Platforms Being Used for Communication?
My final point is that when leaders don’t interact with employees, the team is still communicating. Questions still arise, advice is sought and ideas are shared, but the interactions occur with colleagues. However, this information might not be in line with company values or policies.
Equally, without an approved system, this communication might be taking place on WhatsApp, Text or another unofficial platform. As a result, this could impact data protection or cyber security.
Communicate for Effective Leadership
Communication is an essential foundation for any business and plays a key role in employee engagement. A leader who has mastered the art of communication can influence, inspire and empower the team. In addition, they can benefit from the wealth of knowledge and insight that frontline staff can offer. Could there be better reasons for bridging the communication gap?