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Communication skills for managers

Become confident, comfortable and consistent with staff communications

On this page

  • Understand the benefits of good communication
  • Find solutions to common errors
  • Read our guidelines to help you become an effective communicator

Highly engaged staff are more profitable staff

It's important that communication with staff doesn't only occur around negative instances – positive achievements need to be communicated as well. 

Communication and feedback is the key to a successful working environment, and helps to engage staff and reduce turnover because:

  • people learn
  • opportunities are created for professional and personal development
  • it boosts morale and loyalty
  • it provides insights into how your business is running.

Use our template below to clearly outline your businesses policies and procedures, and set the foundations for successful staff communication.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)DOCX icon

Common errors and simple solutions

Errors

Avoid communicating with your staff in the following ways: 

  • Only ever giving negative or redirecting feedback.
  • Sandwiching negative feedback in between two positive feedback messages – the person will only hear the good.
  • Storing up 12 months of feedback and dumping this on employees in one meeting.
  • Being insincere when giving positive feedback.
  • Not being direct enough or honest enough – fluffing around the issues.
  • Yelling, screaming or getting emotional.
  • Communicating in an inappropriate forum – for example email, publicly, hallway conversations.
  • Making it personal – it's not about you, so focus on the receiver.
  • Being unprepared and trying to 'wing it'.

Solutions

Try these effective communication techniques instead:

  • Be balanced – provide positive and negative feedback when it's due.
  • Be direct and honest  – provide truthful feedback.
  • Be timely in your feedback and communication as it happens – don't put it off.
  • Have a script so you can practice and prepare what you're going to say – be specific and use examples.
  • Be prepared and don't match behaviour – you're the manager and you need to display a calm approach.
  • Allowing the employee to steer the conversation.
  • Always communicate face-to-face – so much is lost in translation when you shoot off emails.
  • As a general rule – praise in public and criticise in private.
  • Focus on the facts – have all the right information and evidence if possible, and use examples.

Specific examples, guidelines and tools

We've provided a list of common sense scenarios that business owners may face below. They should be a part of regular discussion when you review staff performance.

Constant lateness

An employee is constantly late to work. You've spoken to them informally, but now you want to speak to them in a more formal setting.

To solve the problem, you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • go through the actual dates and times they were late – be specific
  • ask them if there's a reason why they're continually late – listen and give them a chance to speak
  • document the conversation to place in their file
  • give them a copy and ask them to agree to try to be on time in future.

A job well done

An employee has completed a major project and you want to give them positive reinforcing feedback.

To give great feedback, you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • gather all the information about the project
  • be generous and specific with feedback
  • explain how their contribution has benefited the business
  • be prepared and be sincere – practice if you need to.

Dealing with redundancy

You've had a downturn in work, and need to make an employee redundant.

To best support the employee, you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • prepare a formal letter to help structure the conversation
  • be prepared for the employee's adverse reaction
  • listen to the employee if they want to vent or voice how they're feeling
  • don't avoid the situation if they get emotional
  • be professional – don't promise things you cannot commit to.

Find out more about how to deal with redundancy and retrenchment including creating a redundancy pack and final payments.

Staff not working well together

Your team are having issues communicating with each other. You need to get them together to outline your expectations about how you want them to work together.

To deal with this issue, you should:

  • organise a meeting for the whole team
  • ask the team to voice their frustrations in a constructive manner
  • document team responses and try and come up with fixes or recommendations
  • get the team to agree on an action plan
  • act as a facilitator for the session, but don't take over or railroad outcomes
  • document the outcomes in your action plan – and make it happen.

Inducting a new staff member

You have a new staff member that you need to induct into your business.

For a great induction, you should:

  • make time and be present – the new employee is probably nervous and your job is to make them feel at ease and welcome them
  • be prepared – have a plan
  • be friendly don't leave them by themselves
  • incorporate our induction plan to help make it a smooth transition.

Get more information about staff induction and probationary review.