Employee communication policies shape expectations and provide guidelines to manage the flow of communication within an organization and externally with its stakeholders. It’s important to set policies that facilitate meaningful and necessary communication needed for employee productivity and their confidence in the future. Having a good communication policy in place reduces conflicts and misunderstandings, and eases uncertainties. If your organization is seeking guidelines to use for an employee communication policy, the following 10-point policy, written in plain English, may be helpful. Be aware, however, such a policy is just the start – it needs to be consistently modeled and supported by senior management.
1. The exchange of meaning
Communication is the effective exchange of meaning or understanding in formal and informal communication. It applies to communication up, down and across the organization. Everyone in the organization is accountable for the effectiveness of his or her own communication. This especially applies to those who manage others.
2. Open communication
One of our key values is open communication. We are committed to this goal. Unless the matter is commercially confidential, it can be communicated in a complete, unambiguous and timely way.
Credibility and trust of managers will only come with consistently truthful and open communication.
Communication about significant matters needs to be thoroughly planned. Being too busy is not an acceptable excuse for inadequate or ineffective communication.
Managers are authorized to communicate with their staff on relevant workplace matters, but are not authorized to communicate significant, public information formally on behalf of the organization to external parties unless authorized by executive management.
Executive management should decide what requires formal, public communication and by whom, and what can be communicated informally. Significant information, especially public information, should show who has authorized its release, and it should be released in all the organization’s locations at the same time.
3. Face-to-face communication
There is unlikely to be an effective exchange of meaning or understanding unless there is discussion and the opportunity for questions to be asked and answers received. Face-to-face communication is the desirable format for this, including videoconferencing with remote and hybrid employees.
The needs of various internal audiences should be taken into account when planning communication. Some audiences will be satisfied with simple verbal presentations while others will require documentation of significant information. It is important to provide opportunities for feedback and questions from employees.
Face-to-face communication includes team leader, supervisor, manager and general manager briefings and discussions as appropriate.
4. Feedback is encouraged
Employees should always be able to say what’s on their minds without retribution, and therefore obtaining feedback and listening effectively are critically important for good communication.
Effective communication will only come if communicators at all organizational levels seek out feedback and take appropriate action to ensure the intended meaning is passed on to relevant recipients.
We are always committed to acting on feedback, either with clarifying communication or relevant action.
5. Information is not communication
Giving information is a one-way process. Communication is two-way. Written or electronic messages should be supplemented by face-to-face communication where feasible, especially when they involve organizational policy and strategies. Provision for feedback should always be in place so that employees can ask questions or seek to clarify aspects of the topic being discussed.
6. Focus on relevant issues
In communicating at management level, focus on issues relevant to the organization, especially serious business issues (such as performance results, customer feedback, and future direction). However, don’t communicate information that carries commercially sensitive details, especially within a public company before the details have been publicly released.
Communication issues that arise at a local level (e.g. cross-functional issues, and rumors) should be addressed by those involved without delay. Effective communication requires the active involvement of at least two parties.
7. Team leader is critical
Research by experts from the Gallup analytics and advisory company confirms that great managers and team leaders consistently engage their teams to achieve outstanding performance. Gallup defines employee engagement as the involvement and enthusiasm of employees in both their work and workplace. Managers and team leaders account for at least 70% of the variance in employee engagement scores across business units, according to Gallup, whose scientists have studied performance at hundreds of companies and measured the engagement of 30 million employees globally over almost 25 years.
In view of the importance of employee engagement, it is vital for important organizational information to be made promptly available to team leaders to enable them to relay it to their teams in good time.
It is better for a team leader to over-communicate than under-communicate. Overcommunication Is particularly important during times of change or crisis and for clarifying and reinforcing key organization-wide information, including your organization’s vision, priorities or goals. Such repetition plays a vital role in establishing top-of-mind awareness.
Over-communication can effectively involve repeating the key aspects of a message through different channels such as email, phone, SMS, videoconference, chat app, etc, over an appropriate time period. The message can be drafted slightly differently each time so the receivers don’t find repetition of the reminders annoying or creating misunderstanding. The message recipients should be only those who are clearly relevant to the message, eg those who need to take action after receiving the message, and, where necessary, they need to acknowledge receiving the message. Repetition also plays a vital role in establishing top-of-mind awareness.
Effective team leaders regularly communicate with their team members on a formal and informal basis, and actively seek feedback from their teams on the effectiveness of their communication with them.
8. Training will be provided
Communication is universal. Everyone does it, but some ways of communicating in the workplace are proven to be more effective than others. Therefore, training in effective communication will always be available to team leaders, supervisors and managers.
Communication materials and support will be provided to managers, supervisors and team leaders as appropriate.
9. Communication will respect individuals
All communication must be truthful and ethical. The impact and consequences of communication determined in advance must be taken into account.
It also means effective communication of job requirements and standards, and keeping everyone informed of how they are performing. There should be “no surprises” when it comes to individual performance feedback.
Information provided to any individual should be also provided at the same time to all relevant others.
The special communication needs of shift employees or employees located in remote or hybrid work modes should always be considered.
Mischievous communication (eg. starting or spreading rumors known to be untrue) should not be tolerated.
10. We communicate both positive and negative news
We are committed to communicating both good and bad news quickly, in advance if possible, even if the full impact of the decision or message may not be clear. Rumors in the workplace should be addressed with effective communication as soon as is practicable. Communicating on a “need to know” basis, avoiding controversial issues, or delaying communication “until all details are clear” are contrary to this policy.
Separate social media guidelines
You can read helpful social media guidelines and etiquette in my article, “Social media etiquette to guide you.” Etiquette is shown in separate sections for individuals, professionals, employees and organizations. In addition, you may be interested in referring to the free social media policy template with examples, developed by Hootsuite.