Communication Breakdown: How to Improve Staff Communication at Your Association

Are you talking and no one's listening? Follow these tips to improve staff communication at your association
Are you talking and no one’s listening? Follow these tips to improve staff communication at your association

With everyone’s eyes glued to their computer, laptop, phone or tablet, it’s never been easier to disengage at the office. Even in the last five years, the communication gap at your association has probably taken a downward turn.

That’s not going to change overnight. There’s no magic button to press to get your event manager to respond to your email faster. And you’ll never know what’s going on in the minds of your interns.

So, how do you unglue your staff from their screens and boost office-wide communication? And most importantly, how do you get your team talking to generate your association’s next big idea?

Do You Need to Improve Staff Communication?

It isn’t like you can’t get anything done with poor staff communication. Whether your team wants to or not, people naturally work hard as a matter of principle.

The real issue isn’t your staff’s inability to get things done. It’s that they’re operating in a vacuum.

Imagine being limited to your own creativity. No one’s helping you generate your next great member engagement strategy or collaborating to improve your annual event. It’s hard to do everything on your own, so don’t let your association’s communication fall into such a state of disrepair.

Now, let’s dive into some tips to make staff love their work environment.

Tip #1: Keep it Simple

When you’re an association lifer, you pick up the kind of jargon that can totally alienate your staff.

Half the time, no one knows what in the world you’re talking about. The other half? They’re trying to figure out what you just said.

And it’s not like there’s a guide to figuring out what your association executive meant. You’re not a piece of software. No one’s going to provide a bunch of resources for your staff to learn how to work for you.

Keep your language simple and your objectives clear. Do that, and staff communication will improve without anyone else ever lifting a finger.

Tip #2: Surprise Your Staff

More meetings. That’s surely not what you wanted to read. But it makes sense that staff communication will improve at your association if you’re hosting more meetings, right?


It’s not more meetings you need, it’s more engaging meetings.

Show up at your next staff meeting with no plan prepared. Pick someone other than yourself to lead the meeting, but don’t tell them until everyone’s seated.

With a different voice and perspective leading the charge, your association’s staff may be more willing to share ideas. It also gives that meeting’s presenter some leeway to leading the conversation in their department’s direction.

Who knows? Maybe that fresh perspective leads to your next email marketing idea.

Tip #3: Share Your Insight

You didn’t get where you are today without learning a thing or two. And one of the easiest ways you can jump-start engagement between yourself and your staff is to offer them some association-related insight.

  • What lessons have you learned?
  • What mistakes have you made?
  • Do you have any similar experiences you could share?

In response, your employees will feel a natural willingness to interact with you.

Tip #4: Ask for Suggestions

The easiest way to improve waning communication at your association? Make sure every single person in the office knows you don’t have all the answers.

You may have more industry experience, but anyone in the room could come up with the next big thing for your association and your members. Whether you’re an executive director, membership director or are the head of IT, simply admitting you don’t know everything is the first step to get people talking.

Ask for suggestions. Act on some, even. And once the people around you know you’re willing to incorporate their ideas, staff-wide communication will progressively increase.

One of the easiest ways to improve staff communication? Ask for feedback
One of the easiest ways to improve staff communication? Ask for feedback

Tip # 5: Don’t Bother Anyone!

This one’s a bit contradictory to the previous four. But it’s important, nonetheless.

You want your staff to engage and communicate better. One way to do it? Take a step back.

If you’re part of the C-suite or are on your association’s leadership team, you might be an intimidating figure around the office. Try locking yourself in your corner office for a day to let your team relax a bit.

Another big tip to improve staff communications? Stick to work hours.

Yes, you’re trying to improve communication. But no, that doesn’t mean your social media manager wants to hear from you at 8 p.m.

No person on your staff — not a single one — wants an email from the executive team once the work day is done. It’s nerve-racking, or at the very least, an annoyance if it’s not business-critical.

Limiting your staff engagement to 9 to 5 might just lead to more energized employees when the work day comes back around. And, it’ll could lighten your team’s reliance on email correspondence as their main form of communication.


With all-in-one association management software, it’s easy to get everything done from your desk at the snap of a finger. What will you do with all that free time?

Instead of using it to get more work done, use that extra time to get better work done. Create cool ideas, find new and exciting membership growth strategies. It’s really up to you.

So, to recap, how can you improve communication between your association staff?

  1. Speak with simple, easy-to-understand language
  2. Let staffers take the lead
  3. Share your perspective
  4. Ask for suggestions
  5. Keep work conversations at work!

Put these five tips into effect and you’re bound to see more collaboration among you team members.