Effective communication opens the doors to opportunity

Lancashire businesses that have worked hard to improve their engagement with staff during the pandemic are now reaping the rewards.

And openness, honesty and transparency are at the heart of their success, Lancashire Business Week 2021’s session on engagement, communication and wellbeing was told.

Lisa Sourbutts, managing director of CUBE HR, told the online conference: “The business that we have seen adapt best during the past 20 months are the ones that have communicated most effectively.

“Even where businesses have had to make difficult decisions, as long we are told the truth and our employers have been open, we are actually pretty resilient. We can adapt to change.”

She warned that a loss of trust would see engagement levels drop and it becomes “a difficult place to come back from”.

Lisa said that businesses with engaged workforces and who focused on the wellbeing of staff before profit were succeeding.

And she added: “You just have to look at retention rates. A lot of our clients are in sectors that are struggling to recruit and they aren’t in that position because we have worked with them to focus on engagement.”

She added: “Communication and engagement are not a one-way thing. It is about getting employees’ feedback, asking ‘what can we do to make this a better place to work, to make you feel secure and confident in this environment?’

“If you go back and say you can’t do something for this reason, we are okay with that. It is about employees having a voice.”

She also gave examples of the way businesses had engaged with their workforces during lockdowns, from online quizzes and exercise classes to sending hampers to families as a gesture of thanks.

She highlighted one business where the MD held weekly online Q&A sessions for all the workforce, saying: “Getting access to someone who can answer your questions is really important.”

Lisa added: “Communication, openness, honesty, transparency. Just be you and your people will look after you.”

Adrian Leather, chief executive of Business Health Matters and Active Lancashire, told the audience that research revealed six out ten people home working were more productive.

He said: “There is a whole element about trust, which is absolutely critical. Being out of the office has shortened the relationship with the employer.

“We would ask people how they were, and they would just say they were ‘fine’.

“We now have a really intimate understanding of what’s going on in the lives of these people. The employer is far more part of that relationship and it is paying dividends.”

He added: The key thing is the genuine trust and respect and the harmony that now exist within businesses.

“That is a critical factor in terms of people’s mental health and one the precursors of good productivity.”

Lee Chambers, founder of Essentialise Workplace Wellbeing, urged owners and managers to look at communication, engagement and wellbeing from a business perspective.

He said they should ask: “How is implementing this going to impact our KPIs? How can we attach it to some of the business practices we already have and how can we formalise our strategy?”

He said: “I see more businesses feeling that this is an essential part of their strategy and building it into some of the processes already established makes it more sustainable.”

Lee said businesses should also look at how that can be used to retain talent and attract the next generation of talented people who, he added, “are more willing to ask about these aspects of the business.”

He said autonomy was important to staff and creating an inclusive workplace meant everyone feeling they had a voice that could be heard and the ability to put their ideas forward.

Lee said: “It is important for businesses not to put out to the world that they have an inclusive and open workplace when behind the scenes the business is very rigid and doesn’t create that trust, because the employees know the truth.”

He also praised Lancashire’s business community for its support networks and the way people were there for each other.

David Booth, senior international and corporate accounts specialist at Santé Group, said there was had been more focus on mental health in recent years.

He said that had continued to increase during the pandemic and added: “The majority of employers have learned or heightened their learning.”

David also highlighted the importance of communication and engagement and told the conference: “If employees are not at full capacity, if they are not able to thrive, they are not going to be able to do what you want them to do in your business.

“That time spent communicating with them, understanding them and treating them as individuals, and then being able to give them the platforms to be able to enhance themselves and thrive is what is going to improve your business and make it successful.”

He added that it was important that business owners and leaders were aware of how they were feeling and asked themselves if they were stressed or at the risk of burn out.

Rob Hallam, managing director, Bigtank Video Productions, told the conference: “The old saying is ‘the door it always open’. It has to be and it has to be genuine.”

He said that dealing with his own mental health had given him insight to know “when someone is smiling at you and saying everything is fine, it might not be”.

And he added: “The whole thing is about being genuinely there for each other. It has to be the norm.

“Your clients are not more important than your staff. If they are not feeling good and firing on all cylinders how can that be good for your clients?

He added: “If your team don’t feel they are looked after or can express themselves and suggest things, something will give.

“We have got to be genuine, open and honest with our colleagues and take a genuine interest in each other.”

Watch this event in full here.

Other dates for your diary:

9am, Thursday 9 December: Managing change online

8am, Friday 10 December: Resilience to recovery at AMRC North West

Headline sponsor of Lancashire Business Week is CG Professional.

Lancashire Business Week is also backed by patrons, Beever and Struthers, Bigtank, Burnley.co.uk, Burnley College, Cotton Court, IN4 Group, Lancashire Skills Hub, Nugent Sante and Zigaflow.

Venue patron is AMRC, and Lexus Preston is a supporter. Social media for Lancashire Business Week is powered by Boost Business Lancashire.