In recent years, communication has become one of the most-desired skills among applicants. It’s not hard to see why—with internal and external conversations influencing business trajectory, organizations want to hire people who are able to express their thoughts clearly and concisely, as well as those able to strike the right tone in a complex conversation. However, business hierarchy still silences the voices of newer, starting-level employees. The question becomes, how can employers encourage communication and conversations at all levels of a company?

Encourage an “open door” policy

Employees may not be speaking up about issues on the floor or within teams because of the fear of backlash. Could a criticism be seen as a complaint, and could that become a penalty? It’s vital that employees feel they have a safe space to speak their mind and be heard. Employers should demonstrate that they’re willing to listen to employees, and they should be respectful when hearing what employees have to say. Leave your door open—physically and metaphorically—

Incentivize opinion-sharing

If the situation calls for ideas from people across the company, offer incentives to promote communication. In some cases, just saying “thank you” and showing that you care about someone’s opinion can be incentive enough. If someone shares a particularly creative or helpful idea, a tangible reward may be worth providing. Whether that be a day off, a gift card, or another prize, an incentive can encourage even the quieter employees to share their thoughts.

Establish regular 1:1 meetings

For some employees, group settings can effectively silence opinions and voices. Promote discussions by establishing 1:1 meetings between employees and their managers. During these meetings, the discussion can go in a variety of directions. No matter what they choose to discuss, however, the goal is the same—encourage communication by providing a safe space in which employees can converse. These meetings are helpful in a variety of other ways, too, as they allow managers to touch base with their team members on an individual basis and gauge various questions and complications that may arise.

Offer constructive criticism

When it comes to evaluating performance, employers should offer employees positive and constructive comments, even when critiquing a shortcoming. Use the sandwich method of compliment-critique-compliment to highlight what the employee did well while softening the blow of the criticism. Critiques, even constructive ones, can be disheartening and, at times, embarrassing. Demonstrate your compassion for the employee and their work, and use the opportunity to open a dialogue about their successes as well as the areas in which they can improve.