The Communication Plan
Steven Cesare, Ph.D.
A landscaper from Wisconsin called me the other day to talk about sundry employee issues. Performance expectations, company culture, lack of accountability, the need for additional training, safety deficiencies, customer service, and of course, discipline; guess what they all have in common?
More often than not, inadequate communication is usually at the top of everyone’s concerns, while paradoxically, at the same time, it is typically at the root of most problems. We constantly talk about its importance, though we seldom improve our communication skills.
“Yes.” Even you can improve your communication skills.
While the business owner and I discussed his litany of concerns, I suggested he adopt the following integrated communication plan intended to clarify goals, strengthen the company culture, and promote better individual and organizational performance.
Daily: Each day, when you meet someone for the first time, smile, use their name, and give them some quality personal time. This fundamental courtesy creates and sustains interpersonal connection, respect, and engagement. This can be done in the office, in the yard, during a daily huddle, and at the job site.
Weekly: Try to be where the “action” is as much as possible. Oh, by the way, there is no “action” in your office. The “action” is in the yard for dispatch and arrival, with the field employees, on the job sites, or with a customer. That “action” creates the wealth that funds your company, pays your wage, and feeds your family. Beyond that essence, owners, managers, supervisors, etc. should have one-one-meetings with key direct reports to assess their personal well-being, receive project updates, and listen to their ideas for improving any aspect of work life (e.g., processes, customer service, job quality, and even communication).
Monthly: Executives and management team members must meet for several hours each month to review the previous month’s financial results and salient operational drivers responsible for those results. This meeting should clarify existing accountabilities, while at the same time, identify and discuss potential issues that may affect the company 90 days in advance. Naturally, the specific content shared during the monthly financial/operations review meeting necessarily will be revisited during the subsequent weekly one-on-one meetings presented previously. Additionally, I strongly recommend that the owner have a monthly “Pulse Meeting” with all the Foremen (i.e., Crew Leaders) to listen to their unfiltered concerns directly, connect with them, and convey appreciation to them, with no managers present; only the owner and the Foremen! And oh, by the way, at least once each month, the owner should distribute paychecks to his/her employees.
Quarterly: Once every quarter, the company should conduct an Employee Recognition Event to celebrate noteworthy employees’ tenure, achievements, and role modeling contributions to the company culture. Food, gifts, joviality, and appreciation are mandatory. If you are going to be cheap, do NOT have this event. That is a grave sign of disrespect to your employees. Instead, go back into your office, count your pennies, and stay there. Come out of your office only when you can conduct this meeting out of grateful appreciation, not penurious obligation; conveying personal humility, not organizational greed.
Annually: Predicated on the strategic plan, the company should hold an “All Hands Meeting” to highlight the previous year’s successes, failures, and changes; while at the same time, presenting the goals, key initiatives, and proposed changes for the current fiscal year. This meeting should reinforce alignment of individual, departmental, and organizational performance, the importance of the company’s culture, core values, and success behaviors, and the owner’s eternal sense of optimism that the organization will be able to handle any issue that comes its way as long as the employees work together as a team.
If this plan is done correctly, the company’s communication will be improved.
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