Ask HR: Poor Communication Is Killing My Company

 

By Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP March 20, 2020
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SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

​SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., SHRM-SCP

​SHRM President and CEO Johnny C. Taylor, Jr., is answering HR questions as part of a series for USA TODAYThe questions are submitted by readers, and Taylor's answers below have been edited for length and clarity.

Do you have an HR or work-related question you'd like him to answer? Submit it here.

Question: My company really doesn't value communication between managers and their direct reports. There's often a disconnect between leadership and everyone else. I want to recommend better ways for us all to communicate, such as shared documents or instant messenger chats, but I also don't want to overstep. How should I handle this?

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: I'm sorry to hear your company isn't prioritizing communication. When it's emphasized and optimized, workplaces create cultures where employees can grow, thrive, and drive organizational success.

Your suggestions make perfect sense. Organizations implement these tools to avoid and solve precisely the problems you cited in your workplace.  

To start, I'd recommend sharing these ideas with your manager. Or, if you don't feel comfortable, bring them to HR's attention. Explain how, as an employee, more communication could not only improve your performance, but the entire company's, too. 

Alternatively, you could suggest establishing weekly team meetings with your manager, lunch and learn meetings with department leaders, or even town halls where your team might learn about other projects and the strategies guiding them.

Here's the bottom line: You're not overstepping. It's really that simple because communication is integral to the success—or failure—of any operation. There's absolutely nothing wrong with proposing improvements that would benefit you, your colleagues, and the company.

Many people have ideas. But not everyone is willing to step up and propose them. Hopefully, your employer recognizes and rewards your initiative. But, even if they don't, that's not a loss. You'll know you tried—and that it's time to find a better workplace.  


Question: I'm a small business owner and one of my most valuable workers wants to discuss a raise. My feeling is that he'll ask for a lot more money. I handle HR but haven't been in a lot of pay raise negotiations over the years—I only started my company six months ago. Do you have any tips?

Johnny C. Taylor, Jr.: Simply put, if an employee is hardworking and adding value, they should be rewarded. Otherwise, you run the risk of losing them.

Negotiations might seem difficult to navigate—especially if you haven't explored them much before. The key is to be prepared and facilitate an honest conversation about salary increases at your company.

First, check the salary range for comparable positions in your area, noting your employee's experience and credentials could place them higher in this range. This background information will not only help you asses the feasibility of your employee's request, it will also loop you into what your competition offers their employees.

Second, ask yourself if the company can afford a large salary increase. Of course, consider your business's financials and goals. However, you should bear in mind the impact, or potential impact, of the coronavirus on your operations and revenue. If you find a sizable raise is out of the question, you could instead consider offering other benefits, such as more vacation time or free parking.

Third, consider the future of your culture. Incentives, properly emplaced and communicated, are one excellent way to encourage behaviors based on your company's values. How might the way you handle this pay discussion impact other employees considering asking for a raise?

While you might not think a conversation about salary increase can become a question of pay equity, there is that possibility. To avoid this, you'll need to consider the pay of other employees who are comparable in title, tenure, experience, education, and skills.

Finally, when you meet, take time to listen to your employee's requests before making any counteroffers. Remember: Don't rush. You don't need to decide immediately in the moment—you can take time to consider things.

Best of luck!

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