A culture of open communication is crucial to fostering a great working environment for both management and employees. Because it’s so important, you should make an effort to promote transparency in the office in order to help employees feel safe sharing their concerns, opinions, thoughts, and ideas for improvement.
Following are some ways office managers and supervisors can promote a more open office, which helps provide congruence between departments and employees.
In this digital age, it’s easy to send an email to someone who is sitting in the next cubicle or just down the hall. But for sensitive matters, talking over the phone or in person can often not only save time, but prevent miscommunication that can happen over email or text.
If there is a situation that needs to be handled delicately, or one that’s complex enough to cause confusion, stopping by a coworker’s desk to chat or setting up a 15-minute meeting is often all it takes to make sure the problem is solved before it even begins.
Promote in-person chats in your office by setting up meeting pods or tables, or by having an open office anyone can use to hold impromptu collaboration sessions. Completely open floor plans aren’t always the best for productivity, but the right layout can make employees feel comfortable stopping by a coworker’s desk instead of sending an email.
For simple conversations, online chat can help employees be more productive, and it can result in employees feeling closer to their coworkers. It’s often easier and faster to answer a coworker’s instant message than it is to respond to an email with the same answer. Emails can take longer to transmit, so responses are usually delayed. Chat can get people the answers they need more quickly, and doesn’t add to what may be full inboxes.
While online chat can be detrimental to company culture if not used appropriately, most employees do find that it helps them grow their relationships with coworkers. This leads to better communication and transparency, as they also foster trust.
Adding a collaborative, social element to keep employees updated can also help them feel closer. Apps such as Chatter allow employees to see a real-time feed of status updates, project deadlines, and other information that can keep them in the know. When your employees know what’s going on, it will help them feel more connected to one another.
Another important aspect of transparency is knowing the responsibilities of other employees. This ensures everyone is on the same page with their duties and what is owed to coworkers. Having a good idea of what your colleagues do on a regular basis is also helpful for cross-training. It can help employees train new hires, fill in for colleagues while they are out on leave or vacation, and understand how their role fits into the customer experience and product offerings as a whole. Furthermore, learning new skills can help reduce burnout and keep employees engaged in their jobs as they continue to grow their expertise.
For cross-training, companies should create a knowledge base of workflows that documents all required tasks in detail, from start to finish. Not only does this help current and incoming employees, it can also help the company and its employees when someone leaves their role, such as when someone retires. Standardizing the way things are done can cut down on confusion and make sure everything adheres to standards. It also makes sure there’s no lapse in service for customers.
Documents, workflows, and other communication are only worthwhile when they’re kept up to date. Use online, cloud-based tools to make it easier for departments to sync and stay on top of important items, such as project statuses and deadlines for deliverables. Use a company-wide customer relationship management (CRM) platform with dashboards that show what’s next and the progress of a project or sales funnel. With this technology, all employees can know the current status of all milestones at any given moment.
In addition to a CRM platform, it’s also helpful to use secure cloud syncing and backup for documents. Sending revisions of a document through email to several different coworkers can lead to outdated versions, missing work, and frustration for all parties. A cloud service shows all changes in real-time and allows employees to collaborate instantly on working documents. This can cut down on the time, stress, and energy it takes to keep documents current as they move down the project pipeline.
No matter how up to date something is, there still may be confusion and frustration among employees, especially if there are differences in communication styles. Management should teach employees the skills they need to better understand the goals and motivations of other colleagues and departments. They can also help employees develop strategies for interacting with someone whose communication style is completely unlike their own.
Being able to empathize with others in the workplace can improve communication, decrease stress, and help get projects done faster. According to DeLores Pressley, empathy in the workplace requires a desire to be open, to listen, and try to understand. When people feel like they are understood, a situation can deescalate quickly, and this leads to a better working environment. Also, because people know they are being heard, they are likely to be more transparent with their input. This can improve communication and bring about more effective solutions to challenges.
Many managers say they have an open-door policy, but if employees feel like they aren’t being heard, they will hesitate to speak up, especially when they think what they have to say may not be what their manager wants to hear.
Help your management team have a true open-door policy by teaching them how to be better listeners, as well as how to focus on the solutions instead of who to blame for what went wrong. Encourage team members to be candid about what’s going on with the company and its customers by using regular, open-to-everyone Q&A sessions with company leadership.
HRVoice recommends managers practice active listening, which is not just waiting for their turn to talk, but really listening to what the person has to say. It also encourages patience and the avoidance of digital screens during the discussion. Looking at a smartphone while someone is talking makes the speaker feel like the other person isn’t paying attention to what they have to say.
According to Lee Polevoi in an article for QuickBooks, repeat, as appropriate, what someone says. This tactic helps people remember what was said and makes the speaker feel heard. To avoid misunderstandings, ask clarifying questions until all parties are on the same page.
It may take a while for employees to use the open-door policy, or feel like they can be completely open with their managers or colleagues, especially if the company culture hasn’t always been transparent. Earning employees’ trust can pay off, however. Managers have the opportunity to take care of issues before they become problems, are able to find solutions for better processes, and can foster improved communication among teams and different departments.
Transparency is key to a company’s positive culture, as well as employees’ job satisfaction and performance. Happier employees who feel heard and supported can help companies make their offices a better place to work.