By Ankit Agarwal

Brands listen intuitively to customers and adjust the communication approach and tone to build productive, long term relationships.  In fact, some of the best product development ideas come from customers and from encouraging a dialogue that is receptive to suggestions and feedback.

If businesses are open to ideas, problem solving and innovation from customers, why not expect the same level of valuable contribution from staff and employees? Your biggest advocates and supporters are employees who nurture a positive impression of your business through all activities and channels. Developing a healthy relationship and open communication style with staff members offer a number of competitive advantages which support growth and innovation.

Workplace Engagement and Satisfaction

Studies have shown that employees who enjoy a favorable relationship with their employer are more productive and innovative, propelling the organizations success from the inside out. Any business that can master leadership and communication within, can turn employees from subordinates to active stake holders and partners in long term organizational success and growth.

According to a study from the Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 81 percent of American workers indicated an overall satisfaction with their current job, with 38 percent of respondents indicating that they were “very satisfied” with their employer.  The top three factors that contributed to job satisfaction according to the survey results were:

  • Level of compensation and pay 60 percent
  • Quality of communication between employees and senior management 57 percent
  • Quality of relationship between immediate managers and employee 54 percent

Employee engagement is a key factor in measuring both the productivity and value of the employee and it is an indication of employee satisfaction. The same study by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM) in 2012 reported that the average American employee rated themselves as 3.6 out of 5 in terms of active engagement with their employer. The rating reflects both the way employees perceive they are valued as well as the opportunities provided by organization to contribute beyond their normal scope.

If the average American employee has indicated that relationship and communication are responsible for two thirds of their personal sense of job satisfaction, why are engagement levels so low? The employee engagement level points to a lack of success when it comes to meaningful communication between organizations, management, and staff.

In traditional business environments, only 43 percent of employees feel their opinions or expertise is valued by employers and consequently, they feel they have both limited impact and opportunity within the organization.  The ability to harness employee participation and engagement is an essential ingredient,  but the change requires a cultural transformation and departure from traditional bureaucratic leadership models to a more open communicative approach.

What is Collaborative Leadership?

The principles of democracy are rooted in a collaborative leadership style. Our political and legal systems point toward the value, interactivity and trustworthiness of a collaborative system. When more than one person has an opportunity to contribute to the solution of a problem, there is an openness, efficacy and transparency that people trust.

Collaborative leadership breaks down the barriers between upper management and employees to welcome innovation and perspective at all levels. Successful organizations like Virgin Atlantic are transparent about their collaborative team and leadership environment.

As a culture, collaborative leadership can be explained in three statements:

  • Everyone has a role to play when it comes to ensuring the success of the business.
  • Everyone has ideas and talents that are valuable assets to the organization and a responsibility to share them.
  • Everyone benefits when the organization wins.

In a collaborative leadership environment, communication is not “top down” as it is in the classic bureaucratic business environment. Collaborative environments stimulate ideas and sharing by asserting the value of contribution and the beneficial impact of employee engagement.  The role of the manager becomes less dictatorial and more encouraging.

Implementing Collaborative Communication in the Workplace

Fostering a collaborative culture means instilling the value of contribution. Regardless of rank, length of service within the organization, education or income every employee has the talent to evaluate problems and obstacles and contribute in an innovative way to a resolution.  Collaboration is not a threat to the chain of command, it is an invitation to participate in success as a team.

Participation also helps employees feel an enhanced sense of job security and less stagnation within their role, offered the opportunity to demonstrate their insights and being rewarded for doing so.  Some rewards can be tangible (bonus incentives) or rewarding in terms of personal and team acknowledgement and attribution. Remember that everyone likes to receive credit for ideas and useful accomplishments.

Steps to implement a culture of collaborative communication in your business:

1)      Disclose corporate goals and strategic planning to employees on an annual basis. Provide updates throughout the year to give employees a sense of progress toward realizing the set objectives. Give employees measurable benchmarks that they can track and follow, and make them aware of their niche contribution to the global organizational goal.

2)      Allow employee led “task force” style meetings or collaborative groups for departmental or organizational obstacles. Town hall style meetings are effective for sourcing ideas vocally, and encourage employees to submit their perspectives and ideas in writing.

3)      Train managers to consistently foster an “open door” policy for collaborative problem solving. Employees should be encouraged to present problems and solutions, and be acknowledged for becoming involved in process improvements.

4)      Develop an intranet for employees to share and communicate during business hours. An intranet hosted blog can also be a valuable tool to communicate with employees and to encourage feedback, contribution and provide acknowledgement for accomplishments in a community styled forum.

5)      Create informal meeting opportunities with senior management where employees can contribute ideas, ask questions to broaden their understanding and identify inefficiencies or problems that require addressing.

Organizations that culturally treat their team like a valued resource are able to insource new ideas, solutions to obstacles and identify inefficiencies. By eliminating communication barriers and fostering a more collaborative environment, companies are able to create more loyal, dedicated and engaged employees who are committed to the overall success of the business.

Ankit is founder of SpiceMailer. An Email Newsletter Tool to keep in touch with your customers. He is passionate about technology and entrepreneurship. He loves blogging and talking to customers. Stay connected at @Ank__t.