Effective communication is a core skill of any manager or leader, embedded in almost every business activity they engage in. It is also a key pillar of employee engagement. We like to think that our communication skills are strong enough to keep our teams 100% engaged all the time. The data doesn’t bear that out however, and the costs can be significant.
In one study that quantified the monetary cost of poor communication, companies with over 100,000 employees suffered an average loss of $62.4 million. For small businesses of 100 employees or less, the loss was around $420,000 per year. These are not trivial numbers, regardless of how much room for error a company has. Communication isn’t an optional ‘soft skill’ – it has the potential to make or break an organization.
These impacts to the bottom line start at a very human level we can all relate to. When communication is unclear, inefficient, or insensitive to the person receiving it, people get confused, lose trust, and resign themselves to the status quo. This dynamic causes people to disengage, and employee engagement is critical for the productivity and creativity that a business needs to thrive. Leaders play a key role in this process. We see this in the ‘Manager Cascade Effect’, where engaged leaders and have a measurable positive impact on their subordinates.
In our experience, effective and transparent communication is the best tool for keeping people engaged and fulfilled in their work. Some basic steps you can take to improve communication as a team leader are:
- Clearly articulate not just goals, but team agreements for how you will work to reach them. This can take the form of basic ‘operating principles’ that address potential concerns around transparency and information-sharing.
- Take time to acknowledge people for their contributions, especially the ones that are substantive, but tend to fly under the radar.
- Invest in people’s training and development. Not only is this one of the most valued benefits to Millennial and Gen Z employees, but courses like our Communication Lab teach practices of effective communication that can then become incorporated into standard operating principles for a whole team or organization.
These practices are a good start, but it is vital to develop a deeper, ongoing orientation around improving your communication. Managers and leaders can do this by always being on the lookout for opportunities to not only share information, but connect with their teams on a human level. This will model the behavior that keeps their whole team productive, fulfilled, and fully engaged.