Why are communications and consultation important?
Employee communications and consultation are essentially about involving and developing people in an organisation. Whatever the size of an organisation, and regardless of whether it is unionised or non-unionised, employees will only be able to perform at their best if they know their duties, obligations and rights and have an opportunity of making their views known to management on issues that affect them. With the trend towards flatter management structures and the devolvement of responsibilities to individuals, it is increasingly important that employees have a real understanding not only of what they are required to do but why.
Good communications and consultation are central to the management process and assume critical importance when dealing with changes in working practices and procedures. All managers need to communicate and consult with employees in order to be effective but they also need to exchange information with other managers which necessitates lateral or inter-departmental communications. Failure to recognise this need may result in inconsistency of approach or application.
Employee communication and consultation offer many benefits although, done well, they require time and money. In particular good employee communications and consultation can:
- improve organisational performance - time spent communicating at the outset of a new project or development can minimise subsequent rumour and misunderstanding
- improve management performance and decision making - allowing employees to express their views can help managers and supervisors arrive at sound decisions which can more readily be accepted by employees as a whole; this may be particularly important at times of emergency or where new practices or procedures are being introduced
- improve employees' performance and commitment - employees will perform better if they are given regular, accurate information about their jobs such as updated technical instructions, targets, deadlines and feedback. Their commitment is also likely to be enhanced if they know what the organisation is trying to achieve and how they, as individuals, can influence decisions
- help develop greater trust - discussing issues of common interest and allowing employees an opportunity of expressing their views can engender improved management/employee relations
- increase job satisfaction - employees are more likely to be motivated if they have a good understanding of their job and how it fits into the organisation as a whole and are actively encouraged to express their views and ideas.
- encourage a more flexible working environment - employers can help to promote a good 'work-life balance' within the organisation by talking to all their staff about developing flexible working policies and practices
Communications and consultation are not, and should not, be an end in themselves. Nevertheless, used properly they have a key role to play both in ensuring the business success of organisations and in involving and empowering employees.