People want to know what’s going on where they work. They want to know what the organization is trying to accomplish — the mission thing. They want to know how the business is going to get there — the vision thing. And, most of all, they want to know how the company is doing at accomplishing its mission.
As a manager, it’s your job to communicate with the people who work for you so they know where the company is headed and how well it’s performing. Many managers make the mistake of only sharing information on a “need-to-know” basis. They wrongly believe that if the information isn’t directly related to the employee’s day-to-day activities that he doesn’t need to know.
We all have a desire to belong and contribute to something larger than ourselves. It’s why we join clubs, associations, and groups. It’s also why many people come to work each day. But for them to remain motivated and excited about their work, they need to understand what’s going on at the company where they’re dedicating so much of their time and energy. They need to know that what they’re doing really matters.
That’s why open and honest communication with employees is so important. Instead of sharing information on a need-to-know basis, how about sharing everything? And when I say share everything, I mean everything going on at the company — except maybe individual compensation information.
Hiding or embargoing information only creates problems. If you don’t openly share information as it becomes available, a couple of things can happen and they’re not good. One is that people are going to be surprised when the information is finally revealed. That surprise is typically going to cause a distraction and might get the grapevine really buzzing.
Keeping information under wraps until the last minute — or worse yet, until people find out on their own — is likely to cause people to question what else you’re hiding from them. And if you’re “hiding” the information from them, it must not be good because if it was you’d be shouting it from the rooftops. You see how the mind works.
Sure, you can argue that the information wasn’t critical to the employee successfully executing her role at the company, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is people want to feel informed and you’re the one in the position to make sure they are. Instead of asking why people need to know something, why not consider why you wouldn’t tell them? Ask yourself, “What’s the harm in telling everyone what’s going on?” More often than not, the answer will be that there’s no harm whatsoever in openly sharing the information.
And don’t you want your people to care about what’s going on at the company and how the business is performing? Don’t you want people who are invested in the activities of the company beyond their individual function?
There’s a lot of talk about employee engagement and its effect on morale and employee retention. In my estimation, the best way to engage employees is to provide them with the opportunity to hear about and understand what’s going on at the company for which they work. Give them the unvarnished truth and allow them to feel that they are a part of something larger than themselves.
I’m a big advocate of finding people who think like owners to work at your company. I think that “owner” mindset is a driving success factor. Well, people can’t think like owners if they don’t know what’s going on in every part of the business. They need to understand what’s going on in other departments. They need to hear about the new initiatives the company is undertaking. And, most important, they need to know how the company is performing financially. If they’re not in the loop on all of these things, then you can’t expect them to be invested in the results.
Here’s my challenge to you — over-communicate. Tell your people more than you think they’d ever want to know. Share details about new projects. Keep them in the loop about routine events that you take for granted. Let them know how specific initiatives have performed, how projects have turned out, and how the company is doing financially. Keep communicating until they tell you they don’t want to hear any more. My bet is that won’t ever happen.