Communication is undoubtedly one of our basic human needs. And it is even taught at Universities as a separate discipline. On top of that there is an irksome sea of books on the topic; there is definite a plethora of all sorts of books. And the internet is full of articles on strategic internal communications and best practices on how to communicate glorious memos to your employees.
But what about teaching your employers to communicate with each other or their managers more effectively? You must have seen that sending them to a Communications Training rarely has any effect on them, besides a mini-holiday -unfortunately that’s how most have been conditioned to view work- related training. And honestly, when is the last time you interviewed the Communications- Trainer / Expert and really tested their very own actual communication- skills?
Why are we communicating?
In theory communication, can have either an informational or an entertainment value.
Pragmatically – at least in the workplace, it is because we want something to be done. Sorry to say that, but joke-or selfies-sharing with your colleagues on company time or via utilizing company resources, it’s not proper workplace communication – at least not to my humble opinion.
I communicate with you – whether you are my subordinate or my Manager, because I simply want something to be done or because I am providing you an informational update/ progress status on a task/ project that you asked me to do or we are both involved with.
And any information ‘action’, is a loop that needs closure – assuming that you are not talking to yourself.
The 2 Biggest Management Communication Mistakes
#1. Suppose that you work for me and I tell you what I need you to do.
Is it enough? No!
It is my responsibility as a manager to check what you have perceived or even misperceived from my communication and take any corrective action to help you understand what I want, why, how and at which time frames. A manager has more experience and possibly a more complete vision on a set of tasks/ project, than a young employee might have.
Opening a parenthesis here: in most schools in the world, the teacher will ask a number of students to come up and tell the whole class what they remember/ understood from his/her last class- lecture. And a good teacher will verify/ amplify the good information and correct any misperceptions. So, why is this practiced only in schools and not in organizations?
#2. I can tell you what to do. Great! Will you remember it? A good communicator follows up with a brief, concise, focused email with the summary of any discussion had, all agreements made and what the expectations and deliverables are and when are due.
Golden Tip: Investing time to get to know your people, it helps you avoid the 1st mentioned mistake.
A High- Impact Communication Framework
- Before you communicate anything, whether orally or in writing, plan for it. It is really irritating, annoying and unprofessional, to write a memo and then send a new version with new info and then again update etc.…or hold a meeting, and then call another one because you forgot to ‘tell everything’
- Choose what is the best way/ channel to communicate something. Should it be a generic memo? An email to all/ to whom? A meeting where everybody is invited? Or should your communication be disseminated through the various managers and team leaders?
- Use simple formal language; no fancy words, no slang and neither any technobubble lingo please.
- Always use a 1-2 liner or a few seconds (if you’re talking) introduction to the topic you are about to communicate.
- Now, it’s time to get deeper into communicating your topic clearly and to the point.
- Always explain the history, the reasons and the why of what you are asking to be done. If your communicatee (honestly, I am not sure if that is a word) cannot see the need or the reason for doing something, don’t expect high motivation and enthusiasm or any employee engagement.
- List all your desired & expected action points, who is going to do what and by when. While doing that, don’t lose sight of the ‘big picture’.
- Close by recapping extremely briefly what is that you are asking about and what are to be done and when does the next communication follow- up (e.g. a weekly or a next status meeting, an email update by a team leader or a project manager or a sales person, etc.).
- When applicable and relevant, recognize and praise teammate-success.
- All your communications ideally should engage, motivate and inspire your colleagues at any level (peers, managers, subordinates, etc.).
- Communication is a 2-way conversation (unless you are a Dictator). Make sure there is a mechanism and a working atmosphere that fosters that conversation and clearly define the channels to be used for feedback/questions/ comments/ remarks/ updates or even new ideas.
- Keep all communication (written, oral, meetings) brief. Less is really More!
- Communication also has to be open, honest and transparent (no hidden agendas or corporate games); don’t penalize people who disagree with you.
- Make sure that all communication is ‘dominated’ by Clarity
Minor note on communication transparency -Why will you ever need to bcc- anyone in any workplace communication? How effective have you ever witness it to be? Do you even think it’s ethical? If you need to say somethi8ng openly, come out and do so.
Hot Communication ideas / trends.
- Consider having an internal version of Twitter or another internal version of a Social Media tool that is best fit for your organization. Same logic as that of having an intranet.
- If you use Inbound Marketing for your client- communications, why not use it also for your intracompany communications too? Introduce/ involved ‘Call-to Action’ elements in your communication.
- Embrace Visual Communication – even in your emails. And am images might be worth a thousand words but a video ‘speaks’ a million.
Since 65-70 % of us humans, are visual learners, which means that we should all start using visual communication- both internally and externally- and develop relevant best practices.
- Reverse Mentorship- yes with the Mentees been in charge of the communication actions.
Stop the Email- Tyranny
Too many emails flow left and right with no actual purpose or effect besides destructing people from their jobs.
Btw, a simple Case Study: Atos the 13+ Billion Euros Revenue, 74.000+ employee French company. In 2011, they found out that:
"only 10% of the 200 messages every employee receives per day are useful and 18% is spam". Atos forced its 74.000 employees to communicate with each other via instant messaging. And they are not the only one doing so; thus, in theory, this is 'old news'.
Also, it is cruel and unfair just because you did send an email to your employee’s handheld device at 7 or 8 pm for example to expect immediate response or acknowledgement. There is such a thing as work-life balance and if it is really a grave emergency, call them not just email them
A new Communication ‘Tyranny’- those emojis
According to a study published just less than 2 weeks ago (http://in.bgu.ac.il/en/Pages/news/smiley_emojis.aspx), researchers at the Ben Gurion University in Israel and at the University of Amsterdam found out that:
“contrary to actual smiles, smileys do not increase perceptions of warmth and actually decrease perceptions of competence,"
This research is based on a series of experiments with a total of 549 participants from 29 different countries.
Also, " when the participants were asked to respond to e-mails on formal matters, their answers were more detailed and they included more content-related information when the e-mail did not include a smiley".
Simply put: using emojis in the workplace makes you look unprofessional.
Is that all?
No, if you consider Disputer Resolution part of the Workplace Communications ‘ bouquet’. But disputes are always caused by miscommunication. Unfortunately, that is a topic on its own to cover here with just a few lines.
Final Tip on Workplace Communication.
Develop an employee- to- employee Communications Framework and document all than in a Corporate Communications Handbook.
The era of just Top- BOTTOM Manager- to- Employee communication is over.
As mentioned in the beginning there is too much info on workplace communication but almost all of it in either on strategic internal communication or some other form of Top- down/ Management- to- Employees methodology.
The mere number of these books and articles is an implicit indication that something is possibly not working 100% in internal communications.
Here we gave you a Peer- to- Peer and a Bottom- Up / Employee- to- Manager set of Pragmatic Best Practices. It’s up to you to analyze all these and find out what best works for your company and plan to adopt/ implement.
Just remember that any communication starts with a plan.
Good Luck and Thank you,
About the Author: Irene Gloria Addison is the owner of HIREghana [Human Intelligence Recruitment], a Leader Ghanaian Recruitment Agency and also a HRM & Organizational Development Consultancy, based in Accra.
Irene welcomes your feedback/ comments/ remarks/ suggestions via your email message to [email protected]. HIREghana can be reached at +233 50 228 5155 or +233 266 555 907
Our website is http://www.hiregh.com
© 2017 Irene Gloria Addison and © 2017 Human Intelligence Recruitment