Unlock Collaboration: The Power of Effective Communication in the Workplace
According to Gallup, 69% of employees feel they need to reach their full potential at work. This begs the question: Why is that the case? Allow me to share a personal experience highlighting the importance of effective communication in fostering collaboration between managers and employees, leading to increased productivity.
As managers, we often fall into the habit of simply asking employees to "do their job" without fully considering what that means to them. Let me illustrate this with an example shared by one of my employees.
As a manager, I made it a priority to be present at the start of the shift for our delivery drivers, even if it meant being there at 5:00 am. After the safety meeting, I would engage with them and provide insights about the business and our overall performance.
Initially, they seemed disinterested in what I had to say. It later became clear to me that if we did not listen to our employees, expecting them to listen to us was unreasonable. Following the safety meeting, I started having one-on-one conversations with some drivers to establish trust and show that I genuinely cared about their well-being. Gradually, they began to trust me and open up.
Every morning, I would report on our team's performance from the previous day, emphasizing our achievements and areas needing improvement, thinking this was an efficient way to communicate. However, I quickly discovered that my message wasn't resonating with the employees. It was as if we were speaking different languages. While most of them felt they were fulfilling their responsibilities, which was partly true, there was more to the story that needed explanation.
My message wasn't resonating with the employees. It was as if we were speaking different languages.
One morning, I approached one of our veteran drivers who had been with the company for 18 years. He was an exemplary employee, never missing work and always punctual. The previous day he had an exceptionally long shift, lasting 14 hours. As we talked, he proudly mentioned that he had completed all his deliveries despite the extended work hours. Curious, I asked him if he enjoyed these long days. He confessed that they negatively impacted his family life. While he appreciated the additional income from overtime, he questioned whether it was worth sacrificing precious time with his loved ones.
To address his concerns, I explained in detail how deliveries needed to be executed efficiently and profitably for the company. In this case, the driver had 45 deliveries involving 250 boxes. He had a half-hour lunch break and two fifteen-minute breaks. The company had estimated an average of 12 minutes per delivery. Based on these calculations, the driver's workday should have been 10 — 9 hours for deliveries and 1 hour for breaks. However, his day had stretched to 14 hours, far exceeding expectations. Did he know this?
It is important to note that the employee took pride in completing all his deliveries. I clarified that the company had metrics and delivery timings, and all 45 deliveries should ideally be completed within 10 hours.
The driver looked at me with surprise and apprehension, revealing that no one had informed him about this. Some deliveries required more time than others, and it was an aspect that had been overlooked in our communication. I assured him that it was not his fault; instead, it was a failure on the part of management.
Although the drivers heard what we told them, how we conveyed the information had a different impact. While we emphasized completing all deliveries, we neglected to emphasize the importance of achieving them within the designated time. The employees' understanding improved, and we began discussing ways to improve the situation. He possessed invaluable knowledge about his route and started sharing insights about bottlenecks, challenges in school zones that necessitated different scheduling, unexpected U-turns due to unfamiliar center medians from dispatch, one-way streets during rush hours, and other intricacies specific to delivering in Los Angeles, CA, while the dispatcher operated from Denver, CO. This highlighted the evident communication gap.
With newfound knowledge and a sense of empowerment, the veteran employee became well-informed and willingly talked with managers and dispatch. He recognized that without his input, no improvements could be made. Taking charge of his route, he transformed it into a more efficient and productive journey. We decided to address the entire driving team at our monthly meeting, with him as the spokesperson. During the meeting, we dedicated our time to explaining how the delivery process worked and emphasized that their input was crucial to our collective success.
To facilitate effective communication, we encouraged drivers to communicate any issues or challenges they encountered on their routes to the dispatch and the managers. We implemented a system where managers would respond within 24 hours with solutions or follow-ups. Most importantly, we fostered an environment of open and honest communication.
During this meeting, something remarkable happened. The drivers requested that we include an approximate delivery end time in their paperwork. However, this information was not used as a disciplinary tool but rather to identify and resolve any underlying issues. This demonstrated that the drivers were taking ownership of the business and developing trust in their managers. As a result, productivity and quality of life improved significantly.
In no time, our business unit became the best-performing team. When people asked about my role in this achievement, I humbly stated that it was not my doing but rather the result of the drivers' efforts. It became evident that effective communication led to collaboration and trust, which drove success.
At MSS Business Transformation Advisory, we recognize the significance of communication in the workplace. That is why we have a team dedicated to assist you in enhancing communication between managers and employees. We believe no business can thrive without honest, trustworthy, and open communication. We understand that success is a collaborative effort involving every employee, from top to bottom.