September 6, 2023

Managers who are effective communicators have a big influence on the employee experience – a term that encompasses how individuals feel about the organization, its culture, systems, policies and their personal interactions.  

Successful communicators know how to listen, understand, express empathy and connect with staff in authentic ways that create a positive work environment and unlock talents and potential. Strong communicators are key to building trust and improving employee engagement, performance, retention and individual, team and business outcomes.  

Whether new or experienced, all managers should be aware of how they communicate one-on-one and in groups and be willing to adapt their approach to meet the evolving needs of their team. These 7 tips and best practices can help:  

1. Become an active listener. Listening attentively to employees’ concerns and issues is one of the skills managers should continuously work to improve upon. Active listening techniques involve: 

  • Attention – Avoid the temptation to check your phone, texts or other distractions and really focus on what someone is saying. There’s a big difference between hearing and listening.  
  • Attitude – Go into a conversation with an open mind. Listen with the intention to understand, not judge, and ask questions that show that you understand what the person is saying – whether you agree or disagree. 
  • Adjustment – Adjust your listening when a conversation goes in a direction you hadn’t anticipated. Be aware of what team members say and don’t say through nonverbal communication, such as a change in tone of voice, facial expressions and eye contact.  
  • And finally, let employees talk without interrupting — it takes practice! 

2. Build trust through psychological safety. Managers who are effective listeners and communicators understand the value of creating a psychologically safe environment in which employees feel comfortable asking for help, trying new things, raising concerns and expressing themselves – all without fear of failure or retribution. Managers can lead the way to a psychologically safe workplace by admitting to their own mistakes and shortcomings. 

3. Tailor check-ins to the employee. Just as managing employees requires different approaches, so do check-ins. There’s no one-size-fits all – schedule check-ins at a cadence that makes sense for the employee and the manager.  

When new people join the organization, having more frequent check-ins helps to build a trusting relationship between the new employee and manager. Supplement a formal weekly check-in with brief conversations every couple of days to make sure new employees have what they need from their manager and the organization. Regardless of the length or frequency, make check-ins meaningful by taking the time to know the employee as a person and understand what is going on in their life outside of work, and how that may affect what they do and how they feel at work. 
4. Develop cultural competence. As the workplace becomes more diverse, multi-cultural and multi-generational, all managers can benefit from training on cultural competence – the ability to communicate and interact with people from other cultures and perspectives. Managers who are aware of the impact of culture, background and experiences on communication and behaviors (including their own) can make more inclusive decisions, avoid misunderstandings, microaggressions and biases that can lead to unfair treatment.  

5. Treat mistakes as an opportunity for learning. When mistakes happen in the workplace, honest, transparent communication and feedback is the best avenue to follow. As we’ve all experienced, almost everything is fixable. Having open, candid conversations about mistakes creates the space for people to learn and grow and explore new ways to solve problems and continuously improve.  

6. Close the feedback loop. While effective communicators regularly ask for team members’ feedback, that alone is not enough. Managers should respond (as promptly as possible) to let employees know their input is appreciated and always close the feedback loop. If it’s left open and employees believe their opinions aren’t being taken seriously, they may stop sharing information, suggestions and concerns, undermining trust and credibility. 
7. Use the power of thank you – Rewards and recognitions don’t have to be big or have dollars attached. A simple thank you, sincere compliment or other gestures of kindness communicate to employees that their contributions, ideas and feedback are valued and respected, which can be a powerful morale and confidence booster.  

Managers who are effective communicators are key to a successful employee experience. Get a free trial of Traliant’s interactive courses on Building a Positive Workplace



Maggie Smith