Good managers communicate well

Maybe you consider yourself a good employer. Maybe your employees believe so. Or, maybe not.
If you have had difficulty managing employees, it may be useful to learn some things you can do to become a better employer.
The following advice is adapted from Sarah Fogleman, Kansas State University Extension agricultural economist.
Communication. Managing people is hard work and takes a lot of practice, patience and time.
Regardless of whether you run a small farm with only family labor or employ several people, communication is probably one of the major labor-related challenges you face.
For good business communication, everyone in the business needs to take responsibility for making sure information flows to the people who need it. Miscommunication can have many negative effects, including the potential to cost employers money, time and opportunities, as well as increasing exposure to potential risks.
It is the manager’s job to be constantly aware of all the ways miscommunication can happen. It is also important for managers to take proactive steps to prevent miscommunication whenever possible.
One way to prevent miscommunication is to think of two types of communication, “hard” and “soft.”
Hard communication. Hard communication, written materials that should already be in place to prevent problems, is the easiest form of communication for most people.
Hard communication refers to black and white facts and figures and is frequently accomplished through handbooks, signs, bulletin boards, notes, task checklists and other ways that communicate simple pieces of information.
Producing hard communication requires an investment of time and resources and will likely not be completed overnight.
An advantage to using hard communication instruments is they communicate for you, especially if you tend to shy away from interpersonal communication; however, they should never serve as a substitute for good, interpersonal communication.
Soft communication. For most, soft communication is a much more difficult form of communication because it involves conveying feelings and emotions. This form is also sensitive to personalities and is usually accomplished through honest conversations between individuals.
One of the best and most important soft communication instruments is a job description. Job descriptions are important because too often employees and employers have different perceptions about what an employee’s responsibilities are and how those responsibilities relate to the overall business.
Job descriptions give managers and employees the same expectations about what is required to be successful. They can also be used when recruiting, interviewing and selecting job applicants.
Better employer. Managing people is sometimes difficult even for the best managers. However, investing time and effort to build good communication systems can help make you a better employer.
(The author is an agricultural extension educator in Tuscarawas County and a member of the OSU Extension DairyExcel team. Questions or comments can be sent in care of Farm and Dairy, P.O. Box 38, Salem, OH 44460.)

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