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7 Ways to Improve Communication between Employees and Managers

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Have you ever been frustrated at work because you didn’t “get the memo” in time?

Me too. It happens to employees and their bosses everywhere, every day.

There are many reasons why it happens.

By nature, people just aren’t very good communicators – this is why communication is often listed as a skill on resumes. It takes practice. Lots of practice to get good.

But often, it just comes down to being extremely busy and juggling a lot of information at once. Without a good process in place, details inevitably fall through the cracks.

In today’s post, the TimeForge team shares their tips on how to improve communication between employees and managers.

We hope the advice here will help you and your team get – and stay – on the same page.

Why it’s important to improve communication between employees and managers

The answer to the question “why is it important” might seem like a no-brainer: employees and managers need to be able to communicate effectively to achieve the best results.

But there’s more to it than that.

Poor communication can lead to misunderstandings, frustration, and conflict.

During a time when every employee counts and you can’t afford more turnover, it pays to reduce frustration as much as possible.

Of course, the upside is that improving communication can help both employees and managers feel more understood, supported, and productive. It’s a win-win.

Ways employees can improve communication with their manager

It’s not always a problem of poor top-down communication. Employees play a role, too.

Communication is a two-way street, which is why it’s important to look at the problem from both ends.

Let’s start by looking at some tips employees can use to improve communication with their manager:

1. Give advance notice about your availability

Let’s start with something that every employee deals with: changes in availability. Life happens, and we all need to balance work with things like school and family obligations.

Mike Hetisimer, our Implementations guru, says that when it comes to availability, good communication is often about timing.

“Try to give as much advance notice as possible,” he says. “Most managers I worked for in the past would adapt schedules as needed if they knew about the request far enough in advance.

Separately, you might ask your manager to enable Wants to/Doesn’t Want to work availability options in TimeForge.

These aren’t as hard-set as the Can’t work/Can work options, and can give you the opportunity to put in your availability based on what works best for you, versus just what you’re available for.”

While this is a great example of how TimeForge makes it easy for you to manage your availability so you can keep a healthy work-life balance, the important piece here is prompt communication.

TimeForge instantly notifies your manager of any new requests, and approved requests are automatically taken into account when your manager builds the schedule.

No more accidentally getting scheduled to work during your kid’s graduation ceremony, your dentist appointment, or final exams.

2. Speak face-to-face when you can

An employee in a restaurant kitchen, cleaning up after a spill.

Diego Gaytan, our Support Team lead, says it’s best to speak face-to-face when you can, especially about anything important – like a conflict, mistake, or misunderstanding.

“As scary as it might sound, speaking directly with a manager is often the most effective way to communicate with them. It’s easier to misinterpret written messages, especially ones made on the fly.

When you speak to a manager in person, you can get your message across and not have to wait for a response.”

Erik van Gilder, our Chief Technology Officer, had the same advice and added, “Everyone makes mistakes. Be open the problems you’re facing, and try not to let things fester.”

Speaking directly with your manager reminds them that you’re a person with a life to balance, not just text on a screen.

So while it might be easier and more convenient to send a text, if it’s about something important or sensitive, it’s always better to make the effort to chat in person. And if that’s just not possible, we recommend picking up the phone instead.

3. Ask questions and voice your concerns

Audrey, our Chief Operating Officer, suggests being straightforward about expectations.

“Employees should ask specific questions when a policy rolls out so they know what to expect, and they shouldn’t be afraid to speak with their manager about their concerns and questions,” she says.

“The messages feature in TimeForge is a great way to do this, if it’s available to them. Updating their requests and availability regularly can be immeasurably helpful, and notifying managers when they can’t work a shift or need more hours is greatly appreciated.

Also, shift swaps can help a lot with reducing the back-and-forth.”

If shift swaps aren’t enabled, employees should ask their managers to consider enabling them in TimeForge. Online shift swaps greatly streamlines the process of exchanging shifts with manager approval, as everyone is notified as soon as a request is made and again when it’s approved.

Once approved, the schedule is automatically updated to reflect the swap.

Ways managers can improve communication with their employees

Next, let’s look at some things managers can do to improve communication with their staff:

4. Empower employees to do more themselves

Mike’s advice for managers is to empower employees with self-service options.

By that, he means an environment in which employees can easily access the tools and information they need to do their job well, without having to ask for help from a manager or other team members.

“Managers can improve communication by adopting some of our employee-facing features, like the TimeForge Employee Mobile App,” he says.

“With the app, employees to view their schedule online (versus driving to the store, or calling!), review their punches for the week, and even submit availability requests. This can help a great deal with employee retention, especially as the market gets more competitive for labor.”

With TimeForge’s self-service features, managers can empower their teams with up-to-date work schedules, real-time communication, scheduling flexibility, and easy access to time off requests.

These are just some of the ways TimeForge can help make managing your team easier so you can be a more effective leader.

And if you feel like you just don’t have time to delegate, we recommend these 7 time-saving tips.

5. Hold a weekly meeting

Hotel staff gathered around the conference table for a company meeting.

For Diego, communication is about working together as part of a team and seeing each other as people.

“I think it’s important to give employees a regular open forum to discuss any issues or questions they may have,” he says.

“In my experience, a weekly meeting allows employees to see that their coworkers may have the same challenges as they do.

When this happens, employees and their managers can begin discussing possible solutions and build trust as they see that their thoughts are being heard.”

Erik had similar advice and suggested using meetings as a way to gather employee feedback and ideas. Doing so not only helps staff feel valued but increases their buy-in for any changes that managers might need to make.

6. Create a communications hub

“Managers can communicate better with employees by making sure there’s a centralized place with written information for employees to access,” suggests Audrey.

“Especially when juggling multiple teams and/or multiple shifts, it’s critical to have a ‘hub’ for notifications, bulletins, and memos. TimeForge messages, staff log, end-of-shift notes, and documents can all save teams a ton of time.”

Audrey’s advice for managers might sound like the opposite of Diego’s advice for employees, but it’s not.

The truth is, both written and spoken forms of communication are important; they both have their uses in the workplace.

What Audrey’s suggesting is that you can get more mileage out of your announcements by posting them somewhere obvious. After all, it’s harder to forget something if you see it every day.

7. Remind employees to plan ahead when they can

This tip takes us full circle to tip #1 for employees: the importance of giving advance notice when you can.

It’s impossible to plan for everything that might affect a schedule, but most holidays are planned in advance.

That’s why Erik says, “Remind your employees that these events are coming, so they can communicate their needs to you ahead of time.”

In other words, help your employees so they can help you.

If everyone’s thinking about things in advance, it’s much more likely that the team will be prepared when the time comes.

Need help getting your management team and staff on the same page? We’re here for you!

TimeForge is here to help you anticipate and plan ahead, so your team can stay on top of their game.

We provide innovative solutions designed to make the scheduling process easy and efficient for everyone involved. From intuitive drag-and-drop scheduling to powerful analytics tools, we have the tools you need to ensure that your team is always ready for whatever comes next.

With TimeForge, success has never been easier!

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