February 2022 – How to communicate effectively: lessons from the best workplaces

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The thirty years of research behind the Great Place to Work® Trust Model© shows that credibility, fairness and respect are critical components of workplace experience.

Each of these is about relationships with management — and each relies on effective communication between people and their leaders.

But what makes communication successful?

And what lessons can we draw from the best workplaces about how to make communications work in our own organisations?

We turned to four of Australia’s Best Workplaces™ for advice and tips.

Here’s what we found:

Listening comes first

At BPAY Group, chief people officer Lucy Lithgow says team engagement ranges from weekly All Staff Zoom sessions, focus groups, online surveys to a monthly CEO roundtable of up to 20 different team members, with no fixed agenda.

“People are free to ask any question and to chat openly about what’s on their mind” she says. “It’s a great way to get a real pulse check on what’s going on.”

Frequency matters

One tip that shines through is how important regular engagement is: communications cannot be intermittent or infrequent.

Cisco’s Australian Vice President Ben Dawson says the firm learned during the pandemic that best way to be open with people was to run weekly briefings to keep the lines of communication open.

“Once a week we would come together and tell people what we knew,” he says.

Clarity is key

Geoff Miller, CEO of The Recruitment Company, says communications is a core ingredient in the company’s success: “Our communication is really clear and we always have a consistent tone.”

Employees appreciate being kept informed about important items and changes within the company. 

But they need communications to be clear so that they can continue to focus on their own tasks rather than trying to analyse the information given to them.

Openness builds trust

Miller goes further than many, sharing details about The Recruitment Company’s finances, goals and strategy with the team: “If we want them to trust us, we have to extend trust first.”

Ensuring communication is clear and complete helps build management credibility, an important component of the Trust Model.

Mistakes happen

Listening to and acting on your employee’s ideas comes with an obligation to accept mistakes can happen – and avoid blame.

“There’s a real difference between whether a decision was the right decision or not given the information we had and whether a person did the wrong thing,” says Lina Calabria, chief operating officer at handbags, wallets and backpack maker Bellroy.

“Whether a person did the right thing or not is never the question — what was the information we had at hand? How did we convert that information to a decision? And what could we have done differently next time?”

Communication’s place in the Trust Index©

In the Great Place to Work Trust Index, communication sits within the Credibility Focus Area.

An organisation’s communication score is made up of employees’ views on four underlying factors:

  • Management keeps me informed about important issues and change
  • Management makes its expectations clear
  • I can ask management any reasonable question and get a straight answer
  • Management is approachable, easy to talk with.

Great Place to Work® is the global authority on workplace culture. We have spent decades studying what makes a workplace great. The companies mentioned in this newsletter are all Great Place to Work – Certified™. To start your journey to Certification, get in touch.

Samantha Huddle is the General Manager of Great Place to Work® in Australia and NZ. Sam has more than two decades of experience from the grassroots to the C-suite and helps businesses build high-trust, inclusive cultures that deliver tangible results. With experience across the government, philanthropic and corporate sectors, Sam brings a collaborative, values-driven approach and a passion for achieving social impact through business. Sam publishes a well-read monthly newsletter which can be read **here.**

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To be eligible for the World’s Best Workplaces list, a company must apply and be named to a minimum of 5 national Best Workplaces lists within our current 58 countries, have 5,000 employees or more worldwide, and at least 40% of the company’s workforce (or 5,000 employees) must be based outside of the home country. Extra points are given based on the number of countries where a company surveys employees with the Great Place to Work Trust Index©, and the percentage of a company’s workforce represented by all Great Place to Work surveys globally. Candidates for the 2017 Worlds Best Workplaces list will have appeared on national workplaces lists published in September 2016 through August 2017.