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Employee Communications Council Blog

Insightful blog posts written by corporate communications professionals on ways to improve employee engagement, organizational change management and internal communication strategies

Internal Communications: The Power of the Open Conversation

02 June 2017
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Internal communications involves many complex processes, from getting the brand statement and mission to trickle down to all employees from management to internal branding and methods of communication between employees. When managers invest time in opening dialogues with their employees, they save time in the long run. Here is the power of the open conversation.

There are many tools and apps out there sold to businesses to improve internal communications in any organization. But they often can’t replace a simple, open conversation. As a manager, it’s your job to get work done with your team. You can’t do it alone. But if you restrict all of your internal communications with your staff to direct-action and pointed objectives, you’ll find many of your employees disengaging with you.

I know what you’re thinking: “yeah, obviously conversations with my employees are essential to employee engagement.” It seems obvious because almost everyone in an office or workplace environment has conversations with fellow employees and managers alike. It’s natural to try and, if not make friends, learn a bit about everyone in your work environment. Humans are social creatures, after all. But if internal communications was simply talking to your friends at work all day, we wouldn’t need sites like the Employee Communications Council trying to help you connect with employees.

Let Me Buy You a Drink

Open conversations at the bar and open conversations in the office are two wildly different things, but like a good rye loaf and a good flat bread, they share some of the same ingredients. Managers should be informal in these kinds of conversations. Too much structure and road-mapping to a particular subject can switch the creative parts of the brain off and put employees on their guard. If you’re like me, you don’t necessarily love all the poking and prodding that comes with normal office communications. When a manger wants to talk to me, I assume it’s about my performance or some assignment I need to get done.

And that’s why informal, open-ended, meandering conversations can be so effective. It’s often when we take the pressure of performance and deadlines off that we find our best inspiration. Why do the best ideas come to you in the shower? Because it’s your time. Your mind is free to wander and explore while you’re scrubbing yourself clean. I’m not saying jump in the shower with your employees, but the more you make them feel like they’re free to let their mind and the conversation wander a bit, the more creativity you’ll see flowing from them.

Organized Chaos Helps Internal Communications

The key in open conversations is to throw out your agenda. You should come into the conversation hoping to learn more about your employees and their ideas. You can break the ice (if you’re uncomfortable approaching employees in this way—perfectly natural) by bringing up a subject outside of work. Eventually, however, you’ll want to try and keep the conversation work-related. It’s easier than you think to steer a conversation without appearing to. As long as you’re not ticking off little checkboxes in your head of what you and your employees should say and ask open-ended questions that require a bit more exposition than a ‘yes’ or ‘no,’ you’re making in-roads to a working relationship that will be mutually beneficial.

If you’re not good at this, that’s okay. Your employees will respond to genuine interest in them, even if it’s a bit awkward at first.

Ben Renner

Ben Renner is an HR expert, writer, and Senior Editor of the Employee Communications Council. He has lived and managed his own business in Denver, Colorado since 2013. Connect with him on LinkedIn:

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