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Grow Your Business Your Team

Being Honest with Employees Helps Retain Them

Stop thinking outside the box, pushing the envelope and creating synergies. Using these trite metaphors is annoying at best — and at worst, it’s not helping you communicate with your employees.

In times of uncertainty, employers should engage more openly with their staff and drop the jargon to improve communication and allow feedback, new research finds.

"Companies with high trust levels give employees unvarnished information about company's performance and explain the rationale behind management decisions,” said Keith Denton of the Department of Management at Missouri State University, who added that it’s essential for companies to create an atmosphere of trust in these untrusting times. "Lack of good communication leads to distrust, dissatisfaction, cynicism and turnover," he said.

Denton cited a study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) published in HR Magazine in 2008 that found communication between employees and senior management is among the top five most important indicators of job satisfaction.

"If there is a high level of engagement, the leader can expect that members of the group will express their feelings, concerns, opinions and thoughts more openly," Denton said. "Conversely, if trust is low, members are more likely to be evasive, competitive, devious, defensive or uncertain in their actions with one another."

Senior management must communicate directly with employees so that they understand business goals, policies, the company's vision and, most importantly, the company's status. But, when communication breaks down through conscious or subconscious misunderstandings, — disorganization ensues, a lack of clear goals becomes apparent and employee commitment wanes.

Denton suggested using bulletin boards, company intranet, newsletters and e-mail, all of which can be effective. But research shows that "face-to-face communication" stands out above all others. "One-on-one conversations and small group meetings take time, but are well worth the investment. It is the only place where true dialogue can and does occur," he concluded.

The paper appears in this month's International Journal of Productivity and Quality Management.