The importance of communication between managers and employees

Feedback from employees is not just a ‘nice to have’, but is fast becoming an imperative for all organisations.
By: | April 17, 2024

Communication is something that is prized highly across organisations, especially those with huge, distributed workforces on a global scale. With employees, managers, and leaders often being busy, much has been devoted into finding ways past the habitual, tedium tasks that must be done so that more time and effort can be devoted towards better bonding and communication between employees.

This is something that Matthew Saxon, Chief People Officer at Zoom, and his team are actively finding ways to boost. Speaking to HRM Asia, Saxon shared the importance of connecting via information flow, something which he explained has become more prevalent in the wake of COVID-19. “It boils down to care, connection to your team and your work, and personal connection, or what are the things personal to you as an individual that you want to connect with people in work and life.” Saxon shared, something which he emphatically emphasised is something that Zoom strongly believes in. 

The care that Zoom is looking to inculcate and create looks to reduce pain points and bottlenecks that employees regularly face to stay ahead, and help employees get better at work, especially with the rise of hybrid work arrangements.

One solution that Zoom has developed is Zoom AI Companion, which helps employees not just draft emails and chat messages, but also summarise work meetings and chat threads so that employees can reduce the need to take notes and transcribe meeting minutes for better concentration during the meeting and better engagement with their colleagues. This results in employees being able to still understand what went on in meetings they may have missed, and what action items came out of it, resulting in saved time and better alignment of goals and understanding between employees.

This amount of feedback and two-way communication is something Saxon and his team at Zoom prize highly, and which are aligned with our culture of care with our customers, company, communities, teammates, and ourselves. To connect all three on the same level, any action or connection must be deliberate, something Saxon shares is more prevalent in the wake of more employees in hybrid or fully remote work situations.

 Acknowledging the importance of frontline employees who work with technologies and clients, Saxon highlighted how they are often the ones identifying and flagging up issues that they face in their day-to-day work. Thus, the more managers listen and understand their perspectives while also engaging with them on how to redesign solutions, the more organisations are likely to end up with better and clearer processes and practices. 

“I think a lot of the times we see change initiatives that are top-down driven fail because they haven’t engaged their frontline employees to really understand the problem and what the solution should be,” Saxon cautioned. “So, you have then designed something that doesn’t resolve the pain points that employees are facing. I would say that feedback is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s an actual business imperative. Companies who can figure out how to take in feedback and implement it at scale and on a cultural standpoint will have a competitive advantage over time.”

Saxon, who reiterates the importance of creating a culture of openness within organisations, believes it starts with having the right conversations and cultivating a space where those conversations can be conducted. At Zoom, this means sit-down meetings between employers and managers every quarter to discuss four distinct points: how they delivered against their goals for the quarter and what they could improve on, the goals and priorities for the next quarter and how employees can develop in their role and the role they wish to take on.

I would say that feedback is not a ‘nice to have’, it’s an actual business imperative. Companies who can figure out how to take in feedback and implement it at scale and from a cultural standpoint will have a competitive advantage over time. – Matthew Saxon, Chief People Officer, Zoom.

“The role of HR is to create that engagement and interaction every quarter and have simple but meaningful questions to prompt a healthy dialogue, which should go both ways,” Saxon mused. “HR needs to make sure the managers are trained in being receptive to feedback and employees in turn should have feedback for them.” The goal, he explained, is to create a habit within employers and managers to receive and expect feedback from someone in a way that does not feel punitive and tied to conditions. “Feedback loops can be associated with annual performance reviews, leading to compensation implications and other opportunities, which I don’t think always elicits the best response out of people.”

The key, Saxon underscored, is purpose and care. “Part of the issue is that we tend to move so quickly now, with decisions made so rapidly that we don’t always give ourselves the grace and the time to make sure we’re listening and understanding different perspectives, and how to take that on board,” he said. The issue gets compounded with many organisations that are operating under different types of hybrid working arrangements. 

READ MORE: Communication breakdown hinders new hire training in Japan

“We may not always get it right on the first go, but you have to be very thoughtful about what it is you want to do, and how to do it. What is your operating model? How do you want to communicate the way things get pushed out?” By cutting out tedious tasks, Saxon pointed out, more energy can then be concentrated on effective communication and synergy, maximising the best of what people have to offer.