Employer Branding

Three Ways Effective Communication Builds Productive Teams

Studies released last year showed that between 60-70% of employees don’t like their jobs, are disengaged, and are not operating anywhere near peak productivity.

How do you get people to really show up?

Here’s how you hire for it and how you sustain it after day one:

1) Start with the interview:

As companies grow, so do staffing needs that are often not linear. Sometimes growth is so rapid that many employees are needed at once across a variety of departments.

For example, as market-fit is achieved, customer support demands may go up, product development accelerates and marketing becomes increasingly more important. Finding and hiring the right people is an arduous task for any growing company, even the large and established ones who, despite having more resources, often don’t fare any better than startups.

Hiring is a time-consuming, expensive process. Hours are spent writing job descriptions, reviewing resumes, and scheduling interviews among different higher-ups. Sometimes you find that ideal candidate only to have things fall apart at the negotiating table. Or a competitor’s offer is accepted and you have to begin the process anew. You may be tempted to hire someone who seems competent enough, just to get it over with. That mistake could cost you more than the precious time spent interviewing.

You must hire people who are not only a good fit for the role, but a great fit for the company culture. And the only way to discover that is to have detailed conversations during the interview process. These 3 questions will give you a sense of who the person is, and whether they will be a positive influence or a destructive force:

Do you understand the company mission, our raison d’etre, and how passionate do you feel about it?

Why your company does what it does is of paramount importance. If a candidate doesn’t understand that, despite all their skills and expertise, you’ll never get them at their full potential. If they aren’t hook, line, and sinker over the WHY of the company, it will be very difficult to cultivate long-term self-motivation and the tenacity that will be essential to overcome the inevitable hurdles.

If your company values are not publically available, share them with the candidate. Then ask – Which ones resonate most highly with you and why?

Company culture is established by leadership and lived out daily by your team to the tune of well-articulated and shared values. A candidate who believes in the mission and the values will help strengthen your organization from the inside out.

What is one way that you have helped another employee to achieve greatness at a previous job?

A supportive employee has the makings of a good leader. Hire well and that employee can move up and hire her replacement down the road.

If the hire is not a good fit, the best-case scenario is that they will voluntarily move on before too long. The worst-case scenario is that they poison the hearts and minds of others with their apathy or disparate values. Instead of replacing one person, you will then have to rebuild entire teams.

Don’t just fill seats and cross your fingers. You are not hiring a person, you are increasing your tribe.

2. Be present:

Once you have asked the right questions and found the right fit, you can’t just disappear and assume that the employee can succeed on their own. The other half of the battle is staying involved and present. How often do you check-in? Once a quarter? Once a year? Annual and semi-annual reviews simply do not offer enough insight into your employee’s world.

Check-in and ask questions more frequently. This employee feedback is essential if you are going to re-calibrate your team around company goals and values. We have found the following questions to be phenomenally well-suited for leaders to gain visibility, employees to be heard and recognized, and teams to stay aligned:

Are you clear on the overall company strategy and how you fit into it? If not, what would help you get clear?

When an employee is unclear on strategy, you have a chance to step in and realign them. The big picture goals should color every detail of their work, no matter how small.

What are the challenges you are facing? Where are you stuck?

Let employees know that you are there to step in and provide help when needed. Challenge is important for growth, but too much challenge without feedback and support stunts growth for both the employee and the organization.

What are your top 3 priorities for next week?

Get your hands dirty in the details. When your employee is aware of their top priorities, it means that they are working effectively and keeping priorities top-of-mind.

Once you communicate clear goals to the team, give each employee the autonomy to do what it takes to achieve them. Stay present with a fine balance. Micromanaging leads to stifling creativity and discourages engagement, but obtaining regular feedback is the first step towards fostering growth in your employees. The impact is enduring, you secure a mutual understanding of responsibilities and goals while keeping your finger on the pulse of progress.

3) Build relationships:

Consistent communication allows you to learn about each team member’s professional and personal goals which allow you to do address their needs and celebrate their triumphs.

When you ask specific questions, you encourage honesty, transparency, and trust — the pillars of strong relationships. People want to share their challenges and wins and feel safe to do so. You remove the adversarial element that exists in far too many manager-employee relationships and is left with a culture of openness and trust. At a minimum, asking questions of each team member will give them a voice. Instead of feeling like just a cog, let them know that the machine wouldn’t operate if not for their dedication.

Ideally, you will get a real in-depth sense of what each individual team member wants, how they feel, and what they think about the organization. You can learn to respond to needs and make changes so that ‘work’ transforms into alignment with each employee’s greatest gifts. When work itself is the reward, employees feel far more engaged and productive.

Author: Lauren Lee Anderson is Brand & Content Manager of 15Five, a SaaS company that creates an internal communication process to allow the most important information to flow seamlessly throughout an organization. Business leaders know the pulse of their company, manager-employee relationships are strengthened, and ultimately teams gain the ability to accomplish great things together. Follow her @ideeahh.

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