Engaged employees are an asset in today’s disruptive business and economic environment. Organizations spend a sizable amount of time, resources, and money to identify ways to drive engagement at work. As the workplace dynamics change and evolve in response to disruption, identifying meaningful ways to drive engagement emerges as a key organizational prerogative.
The role of employee dialogue cannot be overstressed here. Impactful dialogues and meaningful conversations in the workplace change workplace dynamics, drive motivation and improve performance.
What is the Purpose of Employee Dialogue?
The main purpose of employee dialogue is to promote open communication that contributes to personal and organizational progress. Employee dialogue is a venerable tool for managers, both new and experienced, to navigate the unchartered waters of the hybrid workplace.
Encouraging employee dialogue helps managers improve their career pathing outcomes through impactful conversations and goal setting. Through continuous dialogue, managers can get deep insights into how their team members experience the workplace, their barriers towards growth, and influencers of performance.
It is also a great way to secure feedback on leadership, workplace policies, hopes, and aspirations of the employees and help the employees understand their role in the development of the organization.
The purpose of encouraging employee dialogue is to build greater transparency and connection in a world increasingly defined by digital connections.
How Does Employee Dialogue Work?
Employee dialogue is an interaction between managers and their team members. Its primary focus is on their current situation, future expectations, and development in relation to personal and organizational goals. Through powerful communication, employee dialogue enables managers to build shared understanding.
Crafting conversations that engage and benefit everyone is a challenging art. Most communicators are directional and approach conversations as an opportunity to “tell” their team members what is going on.
This approach does not inspire a dialogue. The employee hears what the manager has to say but does not feel motivated to share feedback. As workplace dynamics change and new generations become the dominant demographic in the workforce, “telling” is hardly going to inspire action.
Organizations want employees to feel invested in work. They want employees to be agile and resilient in the face of change. This can happen only through clear and consistent communication where the manager does not feel the need to ‘tell’ what needs to be done.
When the manager wants to communicate, they automatically open up space for dialogue that accounts for the organization’s mission while inviting employee feedback, confidence, and trust.
Sheila, for example, works in a financial institution. Their company introduces a new workflow in the business process. Sheila’s manager simply announces this change and instructs the team to go for the training and get on with the process.
Sheila doesn’t feel the need for this change since she cannot understand how this change improves anything. For her, this is yet another change to manage. She attends the training but is reluctant to use the new process. Even when she does use it, there are errors. Soon she begins to feel frustrated, and her work suffers.
In another team, the same change is handled differently by the manager. Instead of announcing the change and expecting the team members to implement it, the manager decides to have a dialogue with her team members. She communicates the change to her team, helps them understand why the change was needed, and how the process change will help them do their job better.
She then engages with the employees personally for their feedback on the challenges they experience and helps them identify how to navigate these. Her team can manage this change better and remain engaged despite the disruption brought about by the change.
Employee communication is no longer a ‘one and done’ thing – annual announcements in company-wide meetings or yearly surveys are no longer relevant to drive engagement and employee experience at work. Communication has to promote dialogue to build clarity and eliminate assumptions proactively.
How to Craft Impactful Continuous Conversations?
Research suggests that 69% of the managers are often uncomfortable communicating with employees. 37% are uncomfortable giving direct feedback. The paradox here is that people thrive on feedback – whether positive or negative.
George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” As such, for authentic, long-term dialogue fine-tuning communication skills and developing certain critical skills become essential.
To drive employee dialogue, managers have to practice:
Do regular check-ins
Encouraging employee dialogue requires the organization to develop and establish a culture of open communication. For this, the distance between employees and management has to reduce, and managers need to become more available.
Given the dispersed nature of most organizations, global teams, and hybrid work, managers need to be available for their teams. Having regular check-ins with the team members, setting time aside to work on growth plans and career pathing and goal setting become important enablers of employee dialogue.
Exercise non-judgment and practice empathy
Any dialogue shuts down in the face of judgment. As such, organizations have to develop a culture of empathy and non-judgment. This happens when employees can freely approach their managers, give feedback, express vulnerabilities, and personal challenges, and also express their goals, dreams, and desires.
Managers and leaders in this new world of work have to work hard to identify limiting beliefs and unconscious biases that could influence their workplace interactions. Critical skills like empathy and understanding become crucial to help employees feel safe to express themselves wholly and completely.
Communicating with empathy and understanding builds trust. Employees then are more forthcoming with their challenges and barriers to productivity when they can communicate without the fear of judgment. Open communication fosters greater understanding and helps managers remove barriers to success and help team members with relevant and contextual programs.
Build active listening skills
All opinions need to be heard, even the ones that are not being expressed clearly. Managers in today’s hybrid world of work have to develop their active listening skills to identify cues that need exploration.
Employees can often hesitate to express themselves. They might not be explicit in their communication. A manager who knows how to listen actively and deeply can easily identify the truth that lies in the little details.
Become a coaching manager
Coaching now has to become one of the primary job functions of managers as the world of work battles constant disruption. Managers now need to move away from their KPI-driven mindsets and use powerful coaching conversations that inspire action and drive change.
For this, managers need to master the art of asking relevant, contextual, non-judgmental, and impactful questions that promote forward movement. The coaching manager does not ‘tell’ the employee what to do. They instead ask compelling questions that induce the employee to think and come up with their perfect solutions to challenges and problems.
Coaching conversations build understanding, provide a space to brainstorm, and build accountability and ownership. Most importantly, coaching conversations promote employee dialogue and provide complete clarity on how employees think, feel, and respond.
Encouraging employee dialogue across all levels of the organization gets people talking. It supports collaboration, builds better connections, creates trust bridges, and the feeling of unity, harmony, and belonging. These factors actively contribute toward positive employee experiences and augment employee engagement. Better organizational outcomes and lower attrition become the organic consequence of this effort.