Boost (your) Communication: Do Your Employees Understand Why They Are at Work?

Hi Manager! Have you ever thought about it this way? Do the people at your workplace really understand why they are there? You want to say yes, don’t you? But wait a second and read this first:

I’ve done a minor survey, asking some friends why they go to work. Almost everyone of them started to describe their work tasks, more or less in detail. Some added that they liked their job, that it paid their bills and that they had nice co-workers.

But no-one explained to me how their specific work tasks contributed to their companies goals.

communication

If they don’t know why, you will have a hard time

When not being able to see the correlation between what I do and what the company is trying to achieve, employees are more likely to become disengaged.

As a manager, one of your most important communication challenges is to make sure your employees really understands why they’re doing their job. Not just what to do and how to do it but why. Why their tasks are crucial to the company’s success, in what way their tasks contributes to the company’s goals and why their tasks must be done to ensure the company’s future growth. No matter what level the employee is at, she should be able to articulate exactly how her efforts feed into the broader company strategy.

Explaining why to your employees will make your communication easier to handle in the future

When employees know why they are doing something, they are likely to be more productive, take on higher responsibility and easier accept change. If your employees understands in a profound way why they are at work, it will be much easier for you to handle the internal communication since you’re now on the same level, understanding the same things.

Amy Gallo has written an article in Harvard Business Review called Making sure your emplyees succeed. In her article she shares a few tips on goal settings that can be applied to how to make employees understand why their job is important. I’ve chosen the most appropriate tips for the list below:

3 easy steps to help employees understand why their job matters:

  1. Connect employee goals to larger company goals. Ask your employee to draft personally goals that directly contribute to the organization’s mission. It’s better for her understanding if she does it herself. When that’s done, you can discuss the goals together.
  2. Create a plan to success. Once a goal is set, ask your employee to explain how she plans to meet it. Have her break goals down into tasks and set interim objectives, especially if it’s a large or long-term project. Ask your employee: what are the appropriate milestones? What are possible risks and how do you plan to manage them?
  3. Incorporate your employees’ personal interests into her professional goals. “For example, if your employee has expressed an interest in teaching but that is not part of her job responsibilities, you may be able to find ways to sculpt her job to include opportunities to train peers or less experienced colleagues”, says Gallo and quotes Stewart D. Friedman, Practice Professor of Management at the Wharton School: “If I account for the interests of the whole person, not just the work person, I’m going to get more value from them.”

What’s your experience? Do you think all of your employees understand the reason for doing their jobs? How do you help them gaining that knowledge? Please share in the comment box below!

This is the second post in the series Boost (your) Communication, which focus on how to boost your communication skills. Stay tuned for a new blog post on the subject every week during an indefinite time! The next post will be about how to improve your listening skills.

Earlier posts in Boost (your) Communication:

About the author

Anna Rydne is an award winning and highly skilled communications specialist with +13 years of experience in the field of internal and external communication, PR and marketing. What distinguishes her from others in her field of expertise is that she treats communication as entertainment. It's simple to explain why: if it isn't funny or relevant enough, people switch channel. Anna has a special interest in personal branding and she believes the road to success is trying. Based in Stockholm, Sweden, she's determined to uncover the secrets of how successful people and companies communicate. She tweets about all things comms, social media and marketing @CoSkills and writes for SteamFeed.com once a month. She holds a bachelor's degree in psychology. Contact her at communicateskills@gmail.com.

9 Responses to Boost (your) Communication: Do Your Employees Understand Why They Are at Work?

  1. From the employee position i am in, i totaly agree. When you don’t know the “bigger” idea your job position is connected to, you miss the whole purpose. And then the jobs becomes procedural and boring….

  2. The “why” must be communicated constantly. I’ve often referred to it as a consistent drip… not an annoying, torture like drip, but just enough to keep it ni the front of our team’s mind.
    Your 3 easy steps are right on. Even as an intentional goal setter myself, I can’t tell you how motivating it is to know that our Executive cares enough about me to help me align my goals and interests with the “why” of our organization.

    • Anna Rydne says:

      Exactly Chad, never stop communicating the WHY! It’s not enough doing it once as many managers tend to believe. Repeat, repeat, repeat is the answer. 🙂 Thanks for commenting!

  3. Love it Anna, I think you are so right. And thanks for another fab post. How do you manage it with such a young baby?!

    One additional aspect worth considering is that managers should also look up and out, as well as to those they are responsible for.

    An organisation’s brand and values, and how all staff are supported to live them, is certainly paramount. So for managers, like myself, I think that presents the opportunity to appropriately challenge those above me about norms, culture and solutions. Doing so can help the organisation better understand how to best harness any learning, and to offer response at appropriate levels.

    So, for instance, that could be getting the senior management more visible; which in itself can help people relate to where the organisation is going, and how. Of course, that takes managers with will and skill…

    • Anna Rydne says:

      Thanks for your kind words Kenny and for sharing your experiences! Management definitely need to be as visible as possible. They are role models for how they want employees to act. Management by walking around is a good thing, as well as challenging company norms in a way that develops the business.

      Regarding time management and a newborn, well I wrote a lot in advance before she was born, and now I try to write as much as I can during her naps. We’ll see how it works out when she gets older and more demanding…

  4. […] week I wrote about the most important communication challenge in an organization: to make sure the employees really understands why they’re doing their job. Not just what to do and how to do it but why. Why their tasks are crucial to the company’s […]

  5. […] I try to use storytelling in my internal communication as much as possible. I wrote a comment to Rachel’s article where I highlighted the importance of answering the question why in all employee communication. (Read the complete comment here). Having employees who understands why they are doing something, not just how to do it, make them much more motivated, loyal and productive. Knowing why, they are not only connected to the task on a skill level, they are even connected through real understanding of how they contribute to the company’s goal. And when they understand why their work is important to the company, they will be much more proud over their job, willing to perform better and much more inclined to take on more advanced tasks. (I wrote another blog post about how to help employees understand why their job matters and how knowing why are crucial to the company’s success. You can read it here). […]

  6. […] to say the right things. Do your research before you make a statement. And remember that when employees know why they are doing something, they are likely to be more productive, take on higher responsibility and easier accept […]

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