3 best practices for starting a dialogue with your staff

Driving dialogue with your staff is critical to employee satisfaction. Are you talking to your employees or are you just talking at them? 

The best dialogues are balanced, consistent, and highlight the relationship between two or more individuals. Without a proper give and take, you are practically delivering a monologue that no one wants to hear.

In the workplace climate, change is inevitable, whether it’s in the form of a merger, change in leadership, or change in organizational policy. All changes affect your employees and require some sort of discussion to be successful. Employee morale depends on your staff feeling included, essential and listened to. To accomplish this, communication must be consistent, keeping the dialogue going between them and the organization’s leaders.

senior leaders can make a dialogue with staff using social tools

Communications, either top-down or bottom-up that engage and benefit everyone can prove challenging to craft. Communicators often approach IC as “I need to tell staff what is going on” rather than “I want to communicate with and understand my employees.” The latter approach inspires a dialogue that takes into account the organization’s mission as well as invites employee feedback and confidence. 

Effective employee communications cannot be a “one and don’t thing.” That means no annual company-wide meetings or yearly survey. Here are some tips for starting an authentic, long-term dialogue with your current and future employees.

Be available

The easiest solution is often the most overlooked. The first step to starting a dialogue is to be present. Management and executives often operate at higher levels of the organization. While this ensures that they are able to recognize and react to the ongoing of the whole company, this also distances them from their staff. 

Closing the gap between management and staff is imperative if you want to establish a culture of open communication. Being in the know will bring you a step closer to connecting and engaging with staff members who may otherwise feel invisible in an organization full of various departments and teams.

leadership communication skills for employee dialogue

Distance and the dispersed nature of many large organization employees make it hard for leaders to always be available. However, social and collaboration tools make it possible for leaders to get in touch with staff regardless of location or time zone. 

Forums via the intranet can be a powerful tool in bringing employee needs to the surface. Forums allow employees to ask questions, start a discussion, share thoughts. This platform provides a higher level of visibility to the ideas and feedback of staff members. This can also work in reverse with leaders introducing themselves via blog posts and giving staff more straightforward access to them.

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Discover the essential elements of an effective internal comms plan with this practical guide.

Create a feedback culture

Sometimes it’s not enough to just be available. Genuine dialogue is only possible when employees feel safe expressing concerns to leadership. Staff will be reluctant to share or participate in discussions when they fear repercussion or think their worries will not be taken seriously. 

Open the door for all forms of conversation, even the more difficult ones. All opinions deserve to be heard, especially if it can open your eyes to the ins and outs of your organization. Take the temperature of your employee morale with surveys dedicated to gaining employee feedback. 

anonymity is vital for feedback

Asking questions that give staff members an outlet for their needs is key to building a two-way dialogue. Surveys are more than a list of standardized questions and multiple choice answers. It’s about setting up channels or processes that allow employees to be actively involved in decision-making and influence the direction of your organization. 

Annual company-wide employee surveys, while helpful, no longer makes the cut when it comes to checking in on your staff and their workplace experience. Pulse surveys are now a widely utilized tool for gauging real-time sentiment and engagement levels of staff. Asking short, concise, and specific questions regularly can allow employees to professionally put their opinion across on organization changes, company news, and even judgments on leadership. 

Find your Champions

Being able to tap into those who really know your business is critical to resolving challenges and keeping your organization evolving and growing. Who knows your business better than those who sell your products and services? Not only that, but the relationship between your employees is stronger and more stable than the relationship to leadership.

Speaking quantitatively, one single employee sharing three items of content a day can add up to 23 million in additional reach over the course of a year. Who better to share organizational messages and get a dialogue rolling than your own employee champions?

leadership communication skills

There are internal influencers in every organization – staff members who will go above and beyond to contribute to the goals of their business. By supporting and furthering their cause, leaders can turn these people into champions. These employees act as a vital go-between for staff and senior management, creating content that answers critical questions on behalf of leadership. Employees are more inclined to participate and become part of a conversation when a colleague is holding it.

Considering that 92% of people are more likely to trust a recommendation from another person over branded content, it’s clear just how much value is behind the concept of employee-generated content. Give these employees additional permissions or access on your intranet, connecting them to tools and information to support others, and increasing their online visibility. 

Don’t be a stranger

We all learned not to talk to strangers as children.  Believe it or not, talking to strange people is equally as uncomfortable in adulthood. When leadership is only a minute presence or a face on the company website, employees have no way of forming a relationship, however slight.

With such low levels of comfortability, employees do not feel safe joining the conversation or saying what’s on their mind. Instead, they prefer to stay silent or rely on light conversion and non-committal answers to carry them over. 

You cannot connect with staff that does not know who you are. Engage in activities that encourage feelings of trust and respect. Let your team know with your actions that you are there for them and that feelings of kinship and heart-to-heart conversations are more than welcome.

Free ebook – 14 steps to great internal communication

Discover the essential elements of an effective internal comms plan with this practical guide.