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by Linda Trainor | March 31, 2009

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How you and others in your organization communicate or demonstrate the company's value to prospective and current employees can have an important impact on their decision to join or stay with your team. In this case, perception is reality.

One way to keep on top of perceptions and preferences is to "survey" your target audiences and use their responses to help realign your organizational communication practices to improve the employer/employee communication fit.

Concepts. Experts suggest that in addition to pre-employment screening, you consider using three other types of communication fit techniques--pre-exit, exit, and post-exit interviews. You can use a variety of approaches (person-to-person interviews, questionnaires, combination of both, etc.) to solicit the information you want and need.

Regardless of the approach, you may be surprised at the communication fit tips and hints you'll get that can help you attract and retain your valuable human resources.

What works best. Consultants and HR pros tend to emphasize using a technique/approach that has been successful for them. Most support careful pre-employment screening interviews. Because "things change so rapidly" periodic pre-exit, exit, and post-exit testing is equally or more important than pre-employment interviews. Each interview technique has a different purpose and will give you somewhat different results because of timing and special circumstances (mergers/acquisitions, reductions in force, etc.), but each can help you assemble valuable information and improve employment communication practices.

Pre-exit interviews. Pre-exit interviews are like preventive health care. They are for employees who have given no indication that they might leave. Think of them as employee satisfaction surveys in order to help keep the employer/employee relationship healthy. The idea is to gain a clear understanding of why people stay with your company rather than try to find quick fixes to keep them after they've decided to leave. This approach gives you the opportunity to identify and correct barriers to productivity, misunderstandings, and myriad other issues that if left unchecked will eventually fester and create serious problems.

Exit interviews. Exit interviews conducted on or near the last day of employment tend to be more valuable as administrative checklists (retrieving keys and other company property, distributing final paychecks, reviewing benefits eligibility information, etc.) than as ways to get honest employment/communication practices feedback from departing employees. Still, some employers/experts attest that such interviews can prove insightful when conducted effectively, depending on the willingness of the departing employee to be forthcoming.

Post-exit interviews. According to some experts, post-exit interview surveys (three to six months after departure) are more productive than exit interviews because there is much less emotion attached to the process. If thoughtfully constructed, post-exit surveys can help you find legitimate sources of employee dissatisfaction and inspire solutions.

Tip: It's a good idea to enclose some kind of incentive (like a five-dollar bill) to encourage participants to return the survey.

Questions you can use. Regardless of the technique/approach you believe will work best for your company, here are just a few sample questions you can use to get a handle on how well you and other managers communicate. Of course they need to be modified to the type of interview you're conducting.

  • What do/did you like most about your job?
  • What do/did you like least about your job?
  • Is/was your workload too heavy, too light, just about right?
  • How often (always, usually, sometimes, never) do you feel your supervisor:
    --Communicates policies and procedures
    --Follows policies and practices
    --Is fair
    --Provides appropriate recognition
    --Encourages cooperation
    --Resolves complaints/problems promptly
  • Describe the morale and level of cooperation in your department.
  • Give some examples of cooperative efforts between your department and other departments.
  • How do/did you view your advancement opportunities?
Answers to these and similar question will help you score your company's communication effectiveness because respondents typically will answer them in light of how job expectations have been communicated to them.

The communication fit. Regardless of the technique you choose (even post-exit interviews), the results are likely to tell you that your biggest problem is "bad management and/or lack of challenge." That usually translates into poor communication. No matter who the targeted offender is, poor communication is bad for business ... internally and externally.

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Filed Under: Workplace Issues
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