10 Simple ways to improve communication with staff

Posted on 13 october 2016

Guest post by Ken Burgin of Profitable Hospitality

So many managers complain that staff don't listen, don't care or don't notice – how you connect with employees needs a shake up!  

So what is good communication? Let's start with a quote: "the meaning of your communication is the response you receive, not the words you deliver".  

If you think you are clear, but the other person is hearing or understanding something different, what will you do? Don't blame them for being stupid, unmotivated or deaf. Be more flexible, and try different times or channels. Here are some well-tested ways to make sure everyone is getting the message.  

1 . Group SMS – text messages are one of the most important connections with your staff. Reminders and roster updates, happy news and the occasional call out for something that went wrong. Use it for housekeeping, inspiration and training. WhatsApp is another way to connect – it lets you communicate to a group and see who's read the message you sent.  

2. Set up a private Facebook group for staff - at least 80% of your people use Facebook, so it's too good to miss. Share photos from staff travels and training, birthdays, links to news and food ideas. Encourage contributions and have several people keeping things on track.  

3. Weekly meetings – make them a ritual and keep them short. Rituals become respected and enhance a culture of good communication. Take notes about what's decided, and who is accountable for follow up. At the next meeting, check the results.  

4. Share real numbers – it's how we know we are doing well, and how we know the boss is serious when she says there's a problem with wage or food costs. Don't assume everyone will understand the figures straight away – explain how percentages are done, per head spending and food costing.  

5. Use the staff noticeboard – it's traditional and it doesn't have to be boring. Share pictures, memos, local news and menu information. It reinforces what is shared elsewhere.  

6. Simplify your English so it's clear for everyone – the kitchen staff who recently came from Vietnam, the waiter from Italy and the apprentice with a few reading problems. Your jokes, mumbles and slang may be a complete mystery to many of your staff!  

7. Coach people on how to talk with management and raise suggestions or concerns. This can be scary the first few times, but smart bosses want honest communication. Start by requiring everyone to speak up in meetings.  

8. Train managers how to have the 'tough conversations' that need to take place with someone who's chronically late, or breaking the rules. Other staff notice when nothing is said – they wonder why, and lose respect for the people in charge.  

9. Everyone uses respectful language – that means no swearing in meetings or messaging, and there's no need for ALL CAPITAL LETTERS or 10 exclamation marks in a text message! Bad language can easily become harassment and bullying.  

10. Everyone completes the Cycle of Communication – that means they reply to messages and emails, even if it's just a couple of words. Don't leave requests and emails unanswered – it's annoying and creates confusion.  

Ken Burgin works with food service operators worldwide to help make their businesses more popular and profitable. He is a former restaurant and cafe owner in Sydney, and the founder of ProfitableHospitality.com, a resource site for the latest information on food & beverage marketing, management and cost-control. He also presents the weekly podcast Profitable Hospitality on marketing and management.

He likes finding out the 'why' of business success, and the 'why not' of business problems. He enjoys a long walk in the morning (for podcast listening), sharing photos on Instagram, and finding great bakeries.