In today’s economy, the layoffs and other measures caused by the financial crisis lead some employees to worry about how committed companies are to their staff. Now, it appears executives are similarly distrustful of the commitment their employees have to their company. Retaining valuable staff members was identified as the biggest staffing concern for the next 12 months in a survey of more than 2,100 US CFOs conducted by staffing firm Robert Half. Thirty-eight percent of CFOs identified retention as their top concern with regards to staff.  The second most frequently identified staffing concern was maintaining staff productivity. Recruiting new staff members, improving staff morale and engagement also are concerns.

Employees are the backbone of any organization, and as you might expect, studies show that happy employees are more motivated, productive and committed. While considerable research has explored the link between an organization’s long-term financial success and motivated employees, much less has been said about what actually makes employees happy. In the next months, I will share with you what I think some of these motivations are–but this month, we will be talking about COMMUNICATION.

Communicate Clear Goals and Expectations to Your Employees

The majority of employees want to be a part of a compelling future, want to know what is most important at work and what excellence looks like. For a goal to be meaningful and effective in motivating employees, they must be tied to larger organizational ambitions. Employees who don’t understand the roles they play in company success are more likely to become disengaged. No matter what level the employee is at, he should be able to articulate exactly how his efforts feed into the broader company strategy.

Take the first step: Encourage Open Communication

You can get insight into what things are important to your employees by using surveys, suggestion boxes and team meetings. Be open-minded and encourage them to express their ideas and perspectives without criticism. This means putting into practice everything you have learned about effective listening-by listening actively and absorbing the information. This shows your employee that you are listening, interested, and providing feedback so that he or she knows the message was received. Address their concerns in the best way you can.

Many business owners are often surprised at the positive results they see after encouraging open communication. Team members know that their voices are heard, and that their ideas and thoughts do contribute to company growth and success. They are often more motivated to take personal ownership of their role at the company, and be more connected to business goals and outcomes.

Next month, I will be talking on how to actively promote organizational effectiveness, reputation, values and ethic. Stay tuned.