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The Virginia Engineer's Guest Articles

Effective Communication

November, 2005

An Employers’ Most Valuable Tool
By Christopher Beach

Communication. Open and healthy, I understand what you are telling me, and likewise you are receiving what I am sending. Everyone is on the same page. Life flows in this lane. Easily, efficiently. Hard to do. But something all of us do every day, but not always optimally. As an engineer, communication should be fairly simple. You input the variables into a formula and the output is clear. But the dynamics of interpersonal communication is not that straightforward. What are the variables? What formula are you using? For every employee, both the variable and the formula are different. In communication, the old adage that practice makes perfect doesn’t seem to fly, often we may just be repeating the same murky communication skills.

In every level of society, in every relationship between humans whether between spouses, parent and child, co-workers, company management and employees clear communication is the Holy Grail – that which makes relationships work or don’t work. When communication is poor the results are clearly obvious even if the causes remain obscure according to two recent studies done by MetLife and Watson Wyatt on Employee benefit trends and US workers. What they concluded is companies need do a more effective job. They need to communicate more clearly to their employees the full amplitude of what they’re getting in their employee benefit package. Companies who communicate clearly, the studies conclude, have a higher level of return on employee satisfaction levels.

The studies’ conclusions were so riveting to me – as to the wide gap between the perceptions of employers and their employees – I undertook the task of determining if what was found on a national level would also be found here in Virginia. What my approach lacked scientifically speaking, anecdotally bore out the studies’ conclusions. Incredibly, companies who offered a “bells and whistles” Employee Benefit Package were often seen as lacking while others who offered less or an average plan but communicated well, scored better. That companies have to do a better job of communicating as the studies concluded, was certainly demonstrated by a client whose employee was totally dismayed when he realized, “I thought I had Chiropractic coverage included with my health plan!” I leave to your imagination of how this misinformation or lack of communication might have impacted his perception of his employer and the employer’s plan.

The most riveting finding reported that 28% percent of those surveyed have the perception that their employer spends less than $1,000 annually on health insurance