A culture of open and effective communication thrives inside a company when a clear communication strategy is exercised by top management through efficient communication tools.
The Holmes Report, which surveyed 400 companies in the US and UK, showed that companies with ineffective internal communication structures suffered total losses of $37 billion for the year due to misunderstandings between employee. This included actions or errors of omission by employees who were misinformed about company policies, business process, or job functions. But the report also highlighted the positive effects of open communication. Companies with leaders who effectively communicated to their employees produced a 47% higher return to shareholders over a five-year period, compared to those who neglected communication.
What does this all mean? Get communication wrong and a company will suffer. A proper communications culture (with proper collaboration tools) starts from the top with management and trickles down to the rest of the employees. And it’s vital to make sure that both the method of communication and the tools you choose to use align across the business.
Why is aligning your internal communication important?
A culture of communication does not only encapsulate the way we communicate, but also the manner in which we convey our thoughts and ideas. If one employee communicates predominantly via email, and another prefers a more face-to-face approach there can often be a break in communication. Aligning your internal processes to ensure your team all know how they are expected to communicate and through what tool will ensure there is no missed communication.
So how do you know which means of communication is most effective? This is a question that needs to be answered before management embarks on any kind of communication strategy. And it’s important to discuss any changes you make with employees to get their input on the matter before implementing anything.
How is new technology affecting communication?
Online project management tools have transformed the way in which employees communicate and ultimately in the way we work. Previously communication in an organisation was limited to in-person meetings, email, phone calls, and conference calls. Now, with the introduction of cloud collaboration tools, internal communication have changed and it’s easier to be more flexible in your working environment with face-to-face online collaboration tools.
These platforms can facilitate clear communication and collaboration between employees in offices that may lay at opposite ends of the world, negating the need to even work in the same building altogether. However, if you don’t have a set structure in place, it’s easier now for communication to be difficult.
How to ensure effective communication in the modern age
Technology is a great asset for any business and ensuring you’re using the right tools to communicate internally is just as important as communicating externally.
The first thing you need to do when looking at creating effective communication in your organisation is to implement a process that is followed from the top level and filtered down.
Here are some key things to keep in mind when creating this process:
New technology and how it has changed the way people communicate.
The need for clear and open communication.
Your employees' expectations and needs.
A clear purpose, vision, and culture across the organisation.
How communication works in a flexible work environment.
The tools being used and how you can best utilise them.
Here are some recommendations for an effective process:
Instil a culture of written communication using email as the primary communication tool: This doesn’t mean people mustn’t have a conversation ever, in fact, a face-to-face often allows for less back and forth. It’s about ensuring that if a face-to-face conversation happens, that after, an email is drafted with the keynotes of that meeting and sent to all relevant parties so there is a written draft that can be referred too after.
Make sure everyone is on the same page: At the end of every email sent, instil a culture of asking if everyone understands the key points of the email and encourage clarification. This helps keep your employees accountable, if they accept the information in the email they can’t come back later and say they didn’t understand.
Choose collaboration tools that fit your organisation: While email is the primary way to communicate, you can’t put an entire project plan into the body of an email. You want to attach or link a document but nothing is more confusing for communication that multiple drafts of a document sitting with several people. With advancements in cloud collaboration apps there is no reason to do multiple drafts. Apps like Microsoft SharePoint and Teams, for example, allow you to share documents throughout your organisation that can be edited by multiple people in real-time. Ensuring everyone is working on the most current document.
Once you have a process in place it’s about ensuring that everyone is following it. Like we said earlier in this post, this needs to start with top-level management. If the leaders of an organisation are not communicating effectively, the employees will slack off too.
Another thing to consider is a process around sharing relevant organisational information with employees. If you’ve decided to implement something new in the organisation, communication needs to be sent out to all employees BEFORE you implement. It’s also important for morale to ensure you are acknowledging everyone’s achievements through internal communications. Send out birthday notices, promotion updates, etc.
There are many great tools out there that you can use to send out internal communications like these like:
A company intranet system
An internal communications channel on apps like Teams and Slack (or even WhatsApp)
Monthly or weekly internal newsletter to the staff
Lately, remember effective communication is not just about what you say, but how you say it as well. Ensure all your internal communication has the same tone and that no one in the organisation will be offended by anything.
Once you’ve built an effective internal communications process keep in mind that communication must evolve along with how we interact with content and the manner in which we gain access to content. So keep in touch with your employees and make sure that your process is working, if not, make changes to ensure your employees feel included and informed.
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