Creating an Employee Communication Plan to Support Engagement

Published: Apr 12, 2018
Modified: May 20, 2020


We know that communicating regularly with employees improves engagement. According to a 2017 study by Employee Channel, a provider of mobile apps for employee engagement and communication, employees ranked “communicates frequently and effectively with employees” among the top behaviors that generate positive experiences in the workplace. Why? Because employees feel most valued when they feel trusted and appreciated.

A company that fails to communicate regularly with its employees runs the risk of sending two negative messages. The first: “We don’t trust you enough to tell you what’s going on.” Employees who don’t feel trusted will eventually become disengaged and walk away (hopefully before causing any real damage to the organization).

The second is the unintended message, “We trust you, but we just don’t think you need to know.” This implies, of course, that “you are not that important.” Employees who don’t feel important will fail to see how their role connects to the mission of the organization. If they cannot make this connection, they will become disengaged, affecting their productivity and work quality and negatively impacting the bottom line.

It’s easy to see how companies can lose their focus on communication. As they grow, small companies often continue to see themselves as a community where everyone knows what’s going on, even when that may no longer be the case. Larger organizations often spend more time and money on communication plans to reach customers. Efforts to communicate with employees often take a backseat because it’s not seen as a business necessity that yields profits. This couldn’t be further from the truth.

Your employee communication plan

To ensure that employee communications get the attention they deserve, all companies should consider creating an employee communication plan. Here are five steps to take:

Designate a time each year to evaluate your employee communication efforts and needs. Communication needs shift over time for a variety of reasons, including changes in business size or activity. Broader issues beyond the workplace—such as the stress created by our current political climate—also may impact your employees and may warrant specific communications to provide resources or to check in. Regularly reviewing your plan will ensure your efforts are effective and up to date.

Provide opportunities for communication across the workforce. It’s great to have a top-down approach for senior leaders to communicate with employees at all levels. But don’t forget to include opportunities for employees to communicate up. This might include holding “town hall” meetings with senior leaders, but it could be as simple as soliciting your employees’ feedback and opinions through an email request.

Individual managers should create their own plans for communicating with their teams, perhaps using common themes identified from the larger plan. Since most employee relations issues boil down to communication issues, it’s important to provide employees with the ability to interact with each other. Encourage this interaction by having managers lead by example.

Use different modes of communication. Communication comes in all forms: staff meetings, all-hands meetings, one-on-one meetings, memos, informal face-to-face exchanges, and electronic communications. Companies should consider which approach to use and when. An effective plan will likely use all forms of communication at various points in time.

Provide the what and the why. It’s not enough to tell employees what you are doing. If you really want to create an environment of trust, respect, and value, you have to tell people why something is happening. Employees may not always agree with every decision, but if they understand why it was made or why something is happening, they can at least respect it.

Communicate your plan. Yes, you have to communicate your communication plan. When you share the details of your plan and why it is important with your workforce, you will create accountability and transparency.

As you create and revise these plans, consider including employees from various levels of the organization to ensure your assessment is accurate and all perspectives are being considered. At a minimum, ask employees what you could do better with respect to your communication. Just asking the question is a form of communication that can go a long way.

About The Author

Wendy Silver is the founder and president of Beyond the Workplace LLC, a boutique HR consulting company specializing in employee relations. As a former attorney, Silver’s unique combination of legal knowledge and HR operational know-how has made her a successful, valued, and highly trusted advisor at all levels of an organization. She takes a candid yet compassionate approach to working with businesses and individuals to solve workplace problems and create workplace cultures that support business growth and employee success.