Effective Communication and Employee Engagement

Written by John Heffernon, Talent Consultant, Explorance.

Employee engagement is an organization’s fountain of youth and has no less dramatic impact on a business. Companies pay BILLIONS of dollars every year to gather, analyze, and act upon employee engagement data. One can come to this conclusion relatively simply without any empirical evidence; think about what your company spends on purely measuring and acting on employee engagement (even if they take little action, they still pay someone to recommend an action or two). Now extrapolate that dollar figure to hundreds of thousands of other organizations across the globe, some of which spend even more on engagement than your company.

You have probably read a dozen articles this year already about why employee engagement is important. It is always a trending topic on LinkedIn and even Google as researchers come up with a new definition or model of employee engagement every few months. There are external vendors and internal departments built for the sole purpose of measuring and analyzing employee engagement. We likely differ on our preferred “definition of employee engagement,” but one thing we can agree on is that employee engagement is important and worth measuring.

I have been an external employee researcher at multiple research vendors across my entire career. The only consistent thing about each of my former employers was the measurement of employee engagement as a principal client solution. Measuring employee engagement is where the similarities end. Each company I worked for (even the smaller one I interned at) had a different methodology behind its “best in class” employee engagement surveys and solutions.

Despite the varying engagement methodologies utilized, one driver of engagement that appeared consistently from statistical analyses of survey results was communication. Even more specifically, transparent communication. I have seen the term “transparent communication” thrown around often across a variety of engagement surveys from a variety of vendors (and not just the vendors I have worked for).

Before we continue, let us level set on how we define transparent communication. Companies that communicate transparently do a few key things:

  • Leadership regularly communicates the organization’s vision and objectives
  • Leadership shares the whole story (not just the things they want employees to know)
  • Leadership provides communication in a timely manner when something happens
  • Employees develop trust for leadership because of leadership’s communication behavior

The impact that transparent communication has on employee engagement differs depending on the engagement score. For example, when communication scores are high, communication is rarely a driver of engagement. Conversely, when communication scores are low, communication is a frequent and expected driver of engagement. This demonstrates a more complex relationship between the two variables. The key takeaway is this:

  • When employee engagement is low, a lack of transparent communication is often one of the major contributors to that low engagement score
  • When employee engagement is high, the impact that transparent communication has on employee engagement is harder to uncover, and other variables are having a more notable impact on engagement

Like employee engagement, we know that communication is important. The number of positive outcomes transparent communication provides a company, and a company’s workforce is incredibly high. Maybe it is no surprise that companies who have a better quality of communication also realize better employee engagement scores. Below is a significantly simplified visual, but this basic logic model holds true in a vast majority of businesses that I have measured engagement for throughout my career (regardless of engagement methodology).

Pursuing honest employee feedback and subscribing to the mantra “Feedback Matters” are essential to improving employee outcomes, including engagement. If you uncover through employee feedback that your organization’s communication is not perceived as effective or transparent, then that is a piece of low hanging fruit you can pursue to enhance employee engagement. On top of that, enhancing engagement via improved communication can lead to a host of beneficial business results and outcomes. A multitude of researchers, from academics to practitioners, have conducted a variety of linkage analyses that prove high employee engagement positively impacts key business outcomes like productivity, quality, sales, profit, revenue, retention, absenteeism, etc.

Communication, effective and honest communication especially, is more vital now than ever before for a functioning organization. Employees in many businesses throughout the world no longer have the same opportunities to interact with those they work with in person. That could lead to a scenario where communication can become more complicated and less likely to occur. Keeping those lines of communication is more essential now than ever before, so businesses can continue to do good work.

Explorance offers a whole suite of measurement tools from the rigorous Blue to the more simplified, DIY BlueX that can support you as you pursue continuous improvement for organizational communication. However, there is one tool offered that I feel strongest about with regard to continuous communication improvement. That tool is Bluepulse.

Bluepulse is not only a tool to measure and understand your employees’ perceptions of organizational communication. It is also a tool that can:

  • Connect with employees throughout your organization in real-time
  • Communicate quickly with any segment/business unit of your organization
  • Evolve your digital assets by connecting directly with your employees

Transparent, real-time communication is essential to enhancing employee engagement throughout your business. Communication tools like email, messaging, and conferencing applications are effective tools for reaching employees. If you feel you need support utilizing your current tools to increase transparent communication or if you think your toolbox is incomplete, let us know. We are always here to help!


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