Be clear about what you are trying to achieve and explain to employees, or their representatives or both, whether you are informing, consulting or negotiating with them.
You should encourage a two-way flow of information between employees and managers. Consider:
- holding regular meetings
- using language your employees understand - not jargon
- keeping discussions focused, relevant, local and timely
- using open-ended questions to draw out ideas from employees
- ensuring your communications reach every employee, ie don't forget part-time workers, home workers and absent workers (for example, those on statutory leave and those absent due to sickness)
- using social events to break down barriers and build up trust
When you need to communicate controversial or sensitive issues, eg poor company results, you should do this face-to-face. It's usually better to have a senior manager discussing such important matters. The advantage of spoken, face-to-face communication is that it's a direct and effective way to get across facts. It can't be relied upon completely because misunderstandings and rumours can arise - you may wish to reinforce it with written confirmation, see managing conflict.
You may also want written information available for employees to refer to.
Make sure that whoever talks to the employees is fully briefed, and provide an opportunity for employees to ask questions:
- if you are asked a question you don't know the answer to, say so. You could advise that you would have needed notice of that question as you don't currently have the information to hand for an immediate response. Explain that you will get back to them with an answer in due course. In order for all employees to be informed you could email all staff once you have an answer to a query that affects them all.
- if there is no answer, explain why
- if you can get an answer by a given deadline, tell them this
Effective written communication is typically accurate, brief and clear. It's good practice to have copies of all business policies and information in one place which employees have access to, eg an intranet. Employees can look up procedures, duties and contract terms at their convenience or when they need clarification.