Clear Communications Throughout Employment – Part 3: Retention and Development

Throughout the employment lifecycle, clear communications with employees is crucial for strong business operations and employer/employee relationships. This is the third of a series of articles that focus on four key periods of employment: Recruitment and Hiring, Orientation and Onboarding, Retention and Development, and Transition and Exit. I encourage employers to analyze their communication strategies for each key period and consider ways in which managers can improve their communication with their employees.

Part 3: Retention and Development

In last week’s blog we emphasized the importance of ongoing communication with your new employee as they settle into their new position. This should continue into the retention and development period of employment with the goal of growing your employees and encouraging them to stay with your organization. It is at this stage, though, where ongoing communications often decrease, and issues arise as a result.

A breakdown in communication can often be traced back to management. This isn’t necessarily the fault of the manager. Often, organizations promote individuals to management positions but fail to provide the new manager with the training needed to be successful in their position.

There are many common communication mistakes* made by managers that can lead to larger issues down the road. Examples include:

  • Avoidance: Not addressing an issue because it will be painful or difficult for the manager to discuss. “I’m not going to bring this up. I’m just too nervous!”
  • Unintentional disrespect: Not addressing an issue because you don’t think the employee can handle receiving the feedback. “If I talk to my employee about this they’re just going to be upset and hate their job.”
  • Rationalizing away the truth: Finding an excuse not to discuss an issue. “Joe’s late to work every day, but the rest of his work is ok. I’ll just let this go.”
  • Misguided benevolence: Letting issues slide because you feel bad for the employee. “Jane’s work performance has really dropped since she filed for divorce. But I don’t want to upset her further by bringing this issue up.”
  • Inconsistency traps: Failing to follow policy, follow up on discipline, or shifting to a new form of management without warning employees. “I told Bob if this issue happened again there’d be further disciplinary action, but I’ll let it go just one more time.”
  • Letting employees speculate: Not sharing information with employees because of concern about their potential reaction. “We have big changes coming that might cause some upset with staff. We’ll just wait until those changes are put into place and then explain them to staff.”
  • Failing to listen: Listening is a key component of communication. Taking time to hear what employees have to say is just as important as providing feedback.

Managers need to be provided with training and coaching to avoid these common mistakes and promote clear communication. Managers should strive for timely and specific feedback and can look to the SMART approach to guide their communication: Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic, and Time-bound. Managers also need to remember to communicate POSITIVE information. A little positive feedback goes a long way!

Some additional key points about communication:

  • Information in a performance evaluation should not come as a surprise to the employee; rather it should be a summary of the feedback provided throughout the evaluation period. Don’t save the evaluation process for when issues arise.
  • Communicate with employees regarding professional development opportunities. Consider how individual positions are evolving and what training might be needed to keep an employee’s skills relevant. Encouraging growth is a great way to retain good employees!
  • Ask the employee about their career goals and how you can help them achieve those goals. Once promoted, help them identify what additional training they need.

Further information

If you would like assistance in providing training in effective communication to your management team, contact Carleen Mitchell at for further information and tools to help your organization.

*From Managing to Stay Out of Court: How to Avoid the 8 Deadly Sins of Mismanagement, by Jathan Janove, Esq.