An open communications plan is more than an “Open-Door Policy.” While open-door policies can certainly become building blocks for better communication policies and the successful navigation of common problems in the workplace, it’s not a panacea. The open-door policy has to be a part of, or even a symptom of, a culture of open communications.
Building a Culture of Trust
Open communications are based on trust. How can workers confide in management if they think that their superiors will do nothing for them? Managers have to earn their employees’ trust as much as employees have to earn their right to draw a salary. As manager, you have power, sure. You have responsibility. Your workers come in every day understanding the hierarchy. They work for you, they take your instruction, they try to improve based on your guidance. But they don’t have to trust you. They’re under no obligation to take advantage of your open-door policy or participate in any kind of open communications plan at all.
First of all, it should be said that not all employees need to be constantly telling all of their deepest fears and concerns to their managers every day. Many employees prefer to do their work to the best of their ability every day and go home. Hopefully, your office doesn’t necessitate the constant airing of grievances. So participation and input by your employees, while important, isn’t the only barometer to measure the success of your open communications plan. They key is making employees feel like when they have a problem, it’s not outlandish to walk into your office (or make an appointment) to tell you about it.
Actions Speak Louder than Words
You can pass out all the company literature you want, but until you start using your open communications plan to help your employees and show that you take the plan seriously, you won’t be actually fostering a more open, healthy workplace.
When employees come to you with problems, you have to take them seriously. You know that. You know that you have to keep any sensitive information confidential. If you spill the beans once, no one will want to open up and tell you anything. You also have to take action based on what your employees are telling you.
Sometimes it’s much easier than firing the guy who can’t keep his hands off female employees. Establishing something as integral and important as an open communications plan could start with putting in the water cooler everyone said they want. Simply following up on employee concerns or suggestions goes a long way.
From Open Communications Plan to Better Management
At the end of the day, employees work better and you look better as a manager if your employees are happy. If they feel like they’re being listened to and that they can turn to you if they have any issues or simply need help with something, they’ll work better and harder. And, of course, as with any good communication policy, it goes both ways. You can help your employees do their jobs better by helping them and showing them ways to be effective if you have a communications plan in place. You can use your plan as a conduit to move information critical to their jobs and work and get feedback.