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More-frequent check-ins can engender trust, create openness
Most U.S. workers
are frustrated by a lack of honesty in their workplaces, a situation that could
be remedied with more-frequent—even weekly—monitoring of employee engagement,
according to a new survey.
to higher productivity and performance,” said David Hassell, CEO of 15Five,
which conducted the online survey of 1,023 full-time employees randomly
selected by a third-party pollster. “Lack of trust leads to a lot of
maneuvering to try to protect one’s position.”
The results of
the Feb. 23-27, 2015, survey were released March 16, 2015, by 15Five, which provides
Web–based software to help managers and employees communicate.
asked about their companies’ internal communication, and the results indicate that
many companies “are dealing with serious breakdowns,” 15Five wrote in a graphic
highlighting the findings.
Only 15 percent of
employees said their companies are doing a “very good” job fostering
communication. More than 1 in 8 said they’d rather join a company that values
open communication than one that offers lavish perks like top health plans,
free food and gym memberships.
In fact, the vast
majority of employees said that having managers personally check in with them
for at least five minutes a week is more important than such benefits.
A lack of
communication can lead employees to believe that supervisors are being
secretive, and it can also convince them, in turn, that being open with their
managers invites repercussions.
“There are two ways
to look at lack of honesty,” Hassell said. “There’s blatantly saying one thing
when there’s really another thing going on. Then there’s a lack of open
sharing. Leaders may just share positive things but not necessarily anything
about challenges—often because leaders fear they may lose the faith of
employees. Employees may fear that if they share what’s really going on with
them, they may lose their jobs. Usually the exact opposite happens: By sharing
openly with staff, you engender more trust.”
Tossing the Annual Performance
Lisa H. Shuster,
chief administrative officer for Frederick, Md.-based iHire LLC, eliminated
annual performance reviews for her 50 employees after concluding that workers
hated completing them, managers hated reviewing them and the reviews weren’t
conducive to continual feedback for employees.
now hold biweekly meetings with workers to discuss progress toward objectives,
how supervisors can support employees’ development, training opportunities and
how to overcome any obstacles to the workers’ goals. For bonus and compensation
purposes, employees are still evaluated, with “A” performers—defined as
consistently meeting or exceeding goals—earning at least 75 percent of the
market-based compensation for the industry, and sometimes more, as well as a
cost-of-living salary increase.
“A lot of the
bureaucracy that you have with annual performance evaluations is gone,” said
Shuster, whose company helps businesses find employees and vice versa. “If the
employee does an evaluation, then the manager reads it and writes her own
evaluation, then it goes to HR, then back to the manager—that’s a very
bureaucratic process. Managers need to be having regular communications and
relationships with their employees. The annual performance evaluation was never
intended to be a substitute for having those regular discussions.”
accounting operations manager with Bench Accounting Inc., discovered that
annual performance evaluations could not keep pace with his company’s rapid
growth. “Within that amount of time, the company structure and processes are
completely different and perhaps irrelevant,” said Frye, whose company pairs
business owners with a bookkeeping team and Web-based software to complete
So now Frye
reviews all his direct reports every week, then has a half-hour, Monday
check-in with each that focuses, he said, on “What are you working on this
week, and how can I help?”
feedback every week enables everyone to collaborate and be part of innovative
ideas on how to work together better and faster.”
Baby Boomers and
Millennials tend to be critical of each other’s communication styles, with the
former complaining that Millennials “tend to rely exclusively on e-mail and
text, and rarely, if ever, pick up the phone to discuss an issue or solve a
problem,” 15Five wrote in the graphic. Millennials tend to say that their
Boomer supervisors don’t “understand social media and how people communicate
“There’s an impression from the younger generations that Boomers are being
guarded,” Hassell said, adding that this may contribute to the feeling among
employees—at least younger ones—that their bosses aren’t being open and
transparent. “The conversation is more of a one-directional communication,
where expectations are set, directives are given, but there’s not feedback, [and
the Millennials] feel they don’t have a voice. A lot of these folks are on the
front lines of the company, dealing with the customer and the product, and they
have a sense for what’s going on—more so than someone who’s two steps removed.
But many organizations don’t tap into that and elicit feedback on how the
company can improve.”
Forty percent of
employees reported that they’re able to share ideas for improving their job
performance just a few times a year or less.
each of his employees to spend 15 minutes a week writing a report about work
projects and obstacles they may have encountered, that takes him about five
minutes to read. He does that reading in about a half-hour on Sunday nights,
reviewing this feedback from his six direct reports so he can have insight into
what’s going on in their work world, which can lead to more conversations when
everyone returns to work Monday.
“It creates a
regular rhythm of communication,” Hassell said. “It’s a way to get
communication flowing so that when you do have face time, you’re already
briefed, you already understand the issues and you already have a deep
Dana Wilkie is an online
editor/manager for SHRM.
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