Sunday, October 19, 2008

Avoid the fallout of ineffective communication at your organization


Effective communication can help organizations solve problems, share information and help employees work well together. It can make employees feel more connected to the organization at large and their role in reaching overall business objectives. Unfortunately, one of the biggest complaints employees have about employers is a lack of communication.
Communicating effectively with employees not only creates stronger relationships - it may even help improve the bottom line. The 2005/2006 Communications ROI Study conducted by Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that between 2000 and 2004, companies with the most effective employee communication programs returned 57 percent more to their shareholders than companies with the least effective communications programs.
According to the study, effective communication is a key driver of superior performance because:
§ Employees feel connected to the business and understand how their actions can support it.
§ New employees exhibit solid connections to the company culture - starting from their initial days on the job.
§ Communication quickly connects employees to changing business challenges, facilitating faster adjustments to fluctuating market conditions.
§ Management effectively connects with employees through strong leadership during organizational change.
The fallout of ineffective communication
But research indicates that many employees feel left in the dark.
In a recent survey, Best Practices in Employee Communication: A Study of Global Challenges and Approaches, 48 percent of organizations said their company's management has not effectively communicated business strategy to employees or engaged them in living it in their daily jobs. The study was conducted by Right Management Consultants and the International Association of Business Communicators Research Foundation in 2005.
When employees feel they don't know what they need to know, the company can suffer. Misinformation can spread as employees fill in the blanks and erosion of trust and conflict between employees and management can result. Impacts can include lack of shared vision, low employee morale and higher employee turnover.
Communicating as an organization
It's essential to keep employees "in the loop" on important business matters. Your organization should take time to clearly explain its vision and mission so employees understand how they contribute to the big picture.
There are many ways to keep employees informed and a coordinated communications effort with multiple channels works best. An example would be regular all-employee meetings to share company updates and give employees the opportunity to ask questions. Also, keep employees informed and create a sense of community with email messages, memos, an intranet site, internal blogs and an employee newsletter.
Communicating as a manager
If you're a manager, you play an important role in communicating company information to your employees. Touch base with your employees regularly to help your staff feel connected and avoid miscommunication.
Develop your communication skills
When delivering important organizational news to employees, make sure you provide them with the information they need. Here are some tips:
Be clear. Make it easy for everyone to understand the key points of your message. Keep your language simple and free of jargon. Be specific and get to the point. Let employees know how information affects them and how it will specifically apply to their role.
Be concise. Keep your message short. Stick to relevant information. Don't provide details that aren't necessary to get the point across. The extra, irrelevant details may cause confusion or information overload.
Be correct. Make sure the information you relay is accurate. If you don't know all the answers, be honest with your employees and tell them you don't know. Then try to get the answers for them.
Be complete. Give employees all of the information they need to understand a situation. Don't withhold key facts if you're able to provide them. If you're not sure if it's appropriate to share certain information, check with your manager first.
Be positive. Avoid gossip, complaining and negativity. You staff looks to you to set an example. If you can't keep an open mind and attempt to stay positive even when the news isn't favorable, you can't expect your employees to "take the high road" either.
Create an atmosphere of open communication
Let your employees know that you're not too busy to be interrupted for concerns or unexpected issues that arise. Have an "open door policy." Open communication between you and your direct reports will build stronger relationships and establish trust within your team. If you're busy when they try to talk with you, make an appointment with the person to talk later.
Encourage employees to be open and candid in conversations with you. It's easier to get to the bottom of an issue if everyone is comfortable expressing their views. As a manager, you need to set aside judgments and keep an open mind.
Learn to listen
  • Being an effective communicator isn't just about providing information to employees. It's important to also be a good listener. This means paying close attention to others so you can really "hear" and understand what's being said.
    Poor listening is a common cause of errors, delays and misunderstandings at work so don't let your mind wander when someone is talking to you. Active listening means staying focused on what the other person is saying.
    Show your employees that you care about them as people. To be an effective listener, you should:
    § Give the other person your full attention.
    § Allow enough time for the conversation.
    § Keep an open mind.
    § Avoid interrupting.
    § Repeat or sum up what you've heard to make sure you understand.
Become a better communicator
If you're unsure about your communication skills, take the time to watch and learn from good communicators. Be aware of how you come across to others. Ask your employees and coworkers how you might improve. You may find that others perceive your communication style differently than you intended. If they think your style is a little rough around the edges, you may need to work to soften it.
If you think you need help to improve your communication skills and style, seek out formal training. Ceridian Training and Organizational Consulting Services offers several seminars and performance learning sessions on communication skills and strategies. Contact your Ceridian representative to learn more.

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