We Just Don't Talk; Improving the Communication between Employers and Employees

Posted by David Lee on June 13, 2018

Improving Communication between Employers and Employees

Relating our Professional Relationships to our Personal Lives

The title of this blog is a phrase we hear (or think about) quite frequently in our lives, specifically our personal ones. If you have read any of my prior blogs or attended any of my webinars, you will know that I love to relate professional situations to our personal lives because I feel it helps us all understand how these situations resonate. With that said, let’s examine the following issue:

  • Only 30% of employees strongly agree that in the last six months, someone at work has talked to them about their progress (Gallup)

We know from tons of examples in society (our own past/present, friends, articles we read, social media, etc.) that “break-ups” are at an all-time high. Obviously, there are a variety of reasons that these occur. Sometimes they are positive in nature and necessary, but sometimes they are a bit more difficult, painful or even volatile. The data point suggests that one common issue in relationships is that we are failing to talk. To compound the issue, we know we are failing to talk…and don’t seem to be doing much about it. These situations are often viewed as even more damaging because we know we “should have” done something today/yesterday, or should do something tomorrow…and yet the days pass without delivering the focus or effort necessary to succeed in the relationship.

Sure, sometimes we are in relationships that can’t succeed, personal or professional. They are either one-sided (effort wise) or are just not a good fit…at all. Sometimes there isn’t even a connection to attempt to fix, because it just won’t ever be there. This data point; however, suggests we aren’t even trying to connect in the workplace. We simply aren’t talking.

Two HR challenges we should be addressing:

  • If we put significant effort into hiring/interviewing and to the best of our ability are working to ensure this should be a good fit (up front), then why aren’t we putting anything into developing and maintaining the relationship once we acquire it?
  • If we know that 85% of Senior Executives state talent management is as important as any business challenge they are facing today (Randstad), why aren’t we talking?

To exemplify this a bit further, let’s take the example of a personal relationship between two individuals. How often have we heard one of the following?

  • “We just don’t talk”
  • “We don’t make time for each other”
  • “Life got in the way”
  • “We are just so busy with X”
  • “It started out ok, but”

Then the inevitable happens…it is just too far gone to reel it back in, rebuild, or continue. Next thing you know, it’s another break-up. Like in the workplace, we can’t go six months without having meaningful discussions, expressing appreciation and focus. This needs to be a daily drive. It should come naturally when we are in the right situation, because that is how we value that relationship.



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Why are Employers and Employees Falling Asleep at the Wheel?

When we squander opportunities daily, we are essentially “falling asleep at the wheel”. Most of us know all too well the impact and hangover that are left from being on either side of that problem. Sometimes we are the ones delaying the inevitable by delivering very little effort, and sometimes it’s the other party (employer, significant other, friend, family member, etc.). The upside is that many of us have learned and grown from these situations. Our desire for connection and long-term relationships drives us to grow and improve. We have become better at being teammates in relationships, better employees and managers, better parents, children, siblings, friends, etc. We realize that failure in these relationships is not ideal. While we cannot ever force a fit that isn’t there and we can’t change who we are, we can be honest with ourselves, grow and put ourselves in better all-around situations in our future.

Professional relationships can’t be treated like a lot of things in modern society, where with so many options out there, we quickly discard what we don’t like. For many things these days, we largely have the option of picking up something and if we don’t like it, we put it down and pick up something else. Don’t like this app? No problem, there are 40 others just like it that maybe you will like the UI/UX better. Don’t like this phone? Get a new one. This restaurant stinks. No issue, there are 90 eateries within 4 city blocks where you can get any type of small plate you want. With unemployment low and finite numbers of skilled, talented employees, we just can’t afford to squander these relationships as employers.

Simply stated, we need to start talking- If I told you as a manager, at minimum you should spend a total of 1 day (broken up into semi-frequent conversations) per direct report per every 6 months on meaningful feedback discussions, you would say that sounds like nothing. You are correct. Even with 10 direct reports, making that two full weeks of discussions, you have 5.5 months left to accomplish your other objectives. Take a few holidays and vacation days into consideration, you still have over 5 out of 6 months left. Engaging and retaining your employees is paramount to solving so many issues for you and your customers. With that said, isn’t it worth putting just 1 day every 6 months into each employee?

Let’s Get Started; Best Practices to Start Implementing

Watch “Transform Performance Management with Continuous Feedback Best Practices” to help you implement good feedback practices, timelines and discussion models. They are useful for any organization with any performance management process (continuous goal management, project-based appraisals, annual/semi-annual appraisals). Let’s get a few things figured out, talk about process you can implement immediately, and get on track, together.


About the Author

David Lee is currently a Product Manager for the post-hire modules within the Deltek Talent Management suite, Dave has oversight of Performance, Learning and Development/Succession. As a former Vice President of Human Resources, Dave possesses nearly twenty years of Human Resources expertise with significant focus in talent/employee development and employee relations. Dave is a DDI certified leadership trainer and possesses an MBA from Walden University as well as various HR certifications.