Communication is always an issue within any organization, even when management think that communication cannot be improved it always can be enhanced in some way. Communication can be a facilitator for various things within an organization from productivity through to morale, so all possible steps need to be taken to ensure its effective.
1. Know the extent of your problem. It is easy to assume that communication is reasonable, standard or even poor, but instead it may be terrible, fundamentally flawed and exceptionally poor. So before you try to improve communication know where your organization truly stands. Then you start off from a realistic position, rather than an assumed position.
2. Ensure that managers and top executives, in fact everyone, communicate using as much personal contact as possible. Emails are very useful, but staff can often resent just being told things by email. Instead, having people gather together just for a few minutes can ensure that they feel part of the team. So limit electronic mails.
3. Establish if people understand the directions you are giving them. When you send an email it can be easy for staff to misunderstand some aspects of the directions or instructions. When you meet with staff or the management team, simply ask if you have been clear and if people actually understand. Then you can rest assured that what you want is actually going to be implemented.
4. Don’t shirk away by using time as an excuse. Some managers feel that they don’t have time to meet with staff or that gathering staff together will take up too much time. Time will be saved ultimately by clear communication, so invest your time and the time of your staff in ensuring that communication is improved.
5. Give feedback but also get feedback. This is critical because it has to be a two-way process. The feedback cannot be a one-way street if it is to be meaningful, so ensure that staff can feedback to you as much as you feedback to them. This can take some getting used to, but it is definitely worth the time that it takes.
6. Build communication into the infrastructure of the organization. The organization needs to have communication built in so that it is a fundamentally important part of the company. So the infrastructure needs to accommodate communication; if not then it will always be difficult to communicate effectively.
7. Communicate the good and the bad! Often there is a tendency to try and shield staff from the bad news and to ensure that any potential risks are ignored. This is a mistake because not communicating about the bad things simply gives way to rumors that fly around, with staff imagining the worst case scenario; this impacts significantly on morale!
8. Tell employees that they are valued and tell them in such a way that they know that this is true. They don’t automatically think that they are important and valued and may in fact often feel as if they are invisible or simply replaceable. Helping them to feel an integral part of the team is important and this will help communication in general.
9. Always ensure that communication is seen as important throughout the organization; it should not be the responsibility of one team, but needs to be regarded as something that everyone is responsible for and everyone needs to assume that responsibility.
10. Learn to listen as well as speak. Communication is often assumed to be about speaking, but in fact, listening is as important.
Communication within any organization can be improved, no matter how big or small. It is such a key business enabler, but one that is complex to get right and is as much dependant on the business culture than the tools utilized – however, ignore it at your peril!!