The world over and in nearly every setting imaginable, people struggle to communicate well. It seems like it should be absolutely the easiest thing in the world to say what we need to say to each other, but it’s really not. It’s hard to know how to get your point across in an effective, efficient way without offending or degrading the person on the other end of the conversation.

The ubiquity of poor communication can have potentially far-reaching consequences. Poor communication ends relationships and destroys businesses. Yes, businesses.

There’s one simple factor that can improve communication between management and ground-level employees, which can also improve employee engagement and productivity in general: Set and communicate clear expectations.

Gallup polls show only approximately half of employees strongly agree they know exactly what their manager expects of them. Not only do employees feel in the dark on what their manager wants; many of their managers don’t know what’s expected either.

This is where our lack of communication skills as an entire population really comes into play. Managers don’t realize the employees they lead actually don’t know what their expected to contribute to the organization, and upper level management fails to see that managers don’t understand expectations.

Helping management and HR departments learn to communicate clear expectations is a crucial part of any employee engagement improvement plan.

Keep the human element in delineation of expectations.

 An ink and paper layout of what’s expected in a role is helpful and it’s great for employees to refer back to while working independently. However, this commonly adopted style of expectation-setting doesn’t always help employees truly understand what you need from them. Ongoing conversations about expectations and a clear line of communication between management and employees is a good way to ensure employees understand their expectations.

Improve feedback.

Make performance reviews count. Use them to discuss job expectations, whether they’re being met, and to help employees set individual goals they can achieve. While performance reviews are common practice, only 13 percent of employees agree their manager helps them set work goals. It’s not very productive to simply tell people where they’re going right or wrong without helping them improve.

Remember, there are two sides to every conversation.

Talking to employees expressly about expectations is important, but hearing them out is equally necessary when setting clear expectations. Getting to know them on an individual level, their strengths and weaknesses, can help improve communication.

Help management get back to communication basics.

Consider a formal communication training program for your management tream. It’s also important to keep in mind that the organization as a whole needs to carefully communicate their goals and expectations with employees.

All of the aforementioned tactics can help your employees know what you expect of them, which in turn increases employee engagement, leading to more productive employees and higher profit margins.

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