Employee Procedures that Work: Communicate, communicate, communicate

The most critical step in setting any procedure, policy, expectation, or really, ANYTHING for your employees is clear communication.

People cannot follow a procedure that they do not clearly understand.

I find the most challenging part of this is taking the time to create a communication plan.

Yes, we’re all busy. It’s all too easy to make a new decision about procedure, write it out, and then notify everyone through a series of emails, and consider it done. In most cases, this is not enough. At my company, we’ve learned some best practices in how to make sure the procedure is communicated effectively.

This post is the second in a series that covers guidelines for implementing procedures that work. The first was about eliciting input from the people who care most about these procedures: our employees. Now let’s dive into this second guideline.

Communicate, communicate, communicate: Before, during, and after

First, we take the time to create a plan.
Communication can sometimes be an afterthought or something that is rushed, but if it’s the most critical step, then it deserves some dedicated time. We build time into our process specifically for creating a communication plan. We brainstorm on the following questions:

  • What impacts will this change have on our employees?
  • Other than those following the procedure, will other employees be impacted?
  • What type of communication (email, group meetings, individual meetings) makes the most sense for this particular change?
  • Does this change warrant additional change management considerations?

The important thing is that we give dedicated attention to doing things the right way and creating the best possible chance for success for our employees and our procedure. We attempt to put ourselves in the employees’ shoes and think about the less obvious impacts. When it makes sense, we involve impacted employees in this discussion.

Second, we make sure to communicate the “why”.
I say this often, but we hire smart people. So we can expect them to question procedures and decisions, and we welcome their critical thinking and valuable input. To that end, we know how important it is to tell them why we’ve created the procedure and what we hope to accomplish.

If you’re adding a step to someone’s daily task, for example, that person MUST know why or else he or she will simply resent the additional work. Simply telling the person the impact of the change and how it helps the company can make all the difference.

Third, we follow through.
We take the time to make a plan. We involve employees as needed, think outside the box on impacts, make sure to include the “why”, but none of that matters unless we stick to the plan and follow through. We include specific checks in our process to revisit procedures and make sure the communication plan was completed. Of course, this check is part of a larger process to check in on the procedure as a whole.

Do you have questions to add to our brainstorming list? What have we missed? I’d love your input in the comments section below.

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