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Chapter 13: Communication

Communication is an important part of your job and it is often taken for granted. When you think about it, almost everything you do calls for good communications. When you hire a new employee, good communication skills help you pick the right person and make sure the person you hire knows what the job involves. When you're training, coaching, or evaluating an employee, you need to be clear about your expectations and sensitive in dealing with problem areas. When conflicts arise, you'll need your communication skills to resolve the issues without creating more.

When the department is going through changes or a reorganization, you'll need special communication skills to get feedback and ideas from your staff and to give them news that's sometimes not pleasant, while keeping them motivated. Honest communication is one of the key ingredients in managing change as well as managing people.

Many topics covered in this Guide include communication skills. In this section, you'll find some suggestions for developing those skills. Managing diversity well can enhance communication; Chapter 12, Managing Diversity in the Workplace, offers information and resources in this important area.


Becoming a Better Communicator

Your responsibility as a supervisor is to communicate clearly and concisely to all employees and create an environment conducive to openness for others. As the staff become more diverse, you may have to take extra time and effort to communicate to all staff members. To become a better communicator:

Communicatons Planning

A thoughtful communications plan is sometimes needed when managing a project or change that affects numerous stakeholders. Two questons need to be answered to ensure a quality communications product: 1. What does each stakeholder group need to hear? 2. How and when do I address each need

A thoughtful communications plan is sometimes needed when managing a project or change that affects numerous stakeholders. Two questons need to be answered to ensure a quality communications product: 1. What does each stakeholder group need to hear? 2. How and when do I address each need

1. Stakeholder Evaluation

Use the following matrix to evaluate the needs of your stakeholders. Step is to label each column with a major event, change or milestone. For example, headings might be Investigate "X" Change, Announce "X" Change, and Make "X" Change. Step 2 is to lable each row with your major stakeholders. Examples of these might be employees, leaders, public, customers, etc.. Finally, fill in each box by answering the question: "Who, what, where, when, & why does this stakeholder need/want to know at this stage of the project/change."

Major Events or Milestones

Stakeholder Group/Event Event 1
Event 2
Event 3
Employees

Who, What, Why, Where, When, etc.

   
Customers      
Peers      
Mangagers/Leadership      

2. Putting Together Your Plan

Now, using the who, what, why, when, & where for each of your stakeholders for each of the events or changes, show the key message as shown in the example plan below. Don't forget to show target audiences (stakeholders) with different colors.

  Jan Feb Mar Apr May Jun Jul Aug Sep Oct Nov Dec
e-Mail What is planned           e-mail post survey          
Memos & Faxes       Who is eligible                
Campus Publications           When the event will be            
Intranet                        
Voicemail                        
Video                        
Manager Presentations       Video explaining why                
Team Meetings                        
Meetings w/Peers                        
Meetings w/Boss(s)                        
Other                        

Color Coding: Employees | Others | All

Delivering Messages Effectively

Use the following example to craft any message that you want to deliver effectively to your work group. Remember, most employees place more trust in what their supervisor says than any other member of the organizational hierarchy. Consequently, you should be careful in crafting your messages so they are authentic and from the heart.

Use the following example to craft any message that you want to deliver effectively to your work group. Remember, most employees place more trust in what their supervisor says than any other member of the organizational hierarchy. Consequently, you should be careful in crafting your messages so they are authentic and from the heart.

Preparing to Deliver Effective Messages

Topic Examples
Earn the Right to Be Heard
1. What specific problem am I trying to resolve? What is my purpose?
  • Reduced budgets, fewer resources, need to know customer needs to ensure that we are being as efficient as we can.
  • We are service providers, but don’t always ask customers what they need, so we need to find out.


2. Why do I personally care about this change/issue?

  • Want to be as successful as possible – happy customers make work a more pleasant place.

3. What resistance will your listeners be likely to have to this change?

  • Another “program of the month”
  • We already “did” Customer Service
  • We have a fiduciary responsibility, and therefore don’t need to be customer focused.
  • Not sure who our customers are.

Build Shared Context Worksheet

1. What else has changed to make this change necessary now?
  • Drastically reduced budgets
  • Pressure to cut costs – want to be right the first time.
  • Our customer’s expectations might have changed – do we know?

2. Why is this change more important than other issues that need changing?
  • Budget crunch won’t go away – might get worse.
  • Customer satisfaction is one of the foundation pieces of our strategic plan.

Describe the Future Worksheet (Vision - 2 years from now - it’s meant to engage you and others)

1. What are the benefits - both organizational and personal for those involved - of going forward with this change?

  • Happier customers
  • Pride in our work – we want to be respected as THE experts in our fields

2. What are the consequences - both organizational and personal for those involved - if we don’t go forward with this change?

  • Personal:
    • Increased job satisfaction
    • Increased customer satisfaction
  • Organizational:
    • Higher trust from customers, more permission to do what we need, (e.g. budgets, etc.)
    • More efficient operations
Commit to Action Worksheet

1. What am I willing to do to lead this (irrespective of what others may do) that will inspire me and others?

  • I will:
    • Work to support customer surveys, segmentation, etc.
    • Identify 1 customer/week to call & listen.

2. What am I willing to ask others to do that will move this change forward?

  • What I need from each of you:
    • Do what you can to anticipate and exceed customers needs
    • Know who your customers are
    • Make it a point to listen, not tell our customers what they need.

Next Steps:

  1. Based on your answers to the above questions. PRACTICE THE DELIVERY OF YOUR INSPIRING MESSAGE! This is one of the most important actions you can take.

Tips/Thoughts:

Effective Listening

An important ingredient that runs through all good communication is listening. Listening is a skill that can be practiced and learned. Your goal as a listener is to fully understand your employee's experience and point of view. Give the employee a chance to talk for a while before you say anything.

Responding

After you have listened and really heard, respond by conveying your interest and respect:

Other Resources

  • Your Employee Relations Specialist in Human Resources
  • The Employee Development & Training programs and services