Guest post by Ken Burnett, VP/Director of Training and Business Development, Bank of American Fork
This series is written from experience and is part of Bank of American Fork’s management training program. The program embraces the philosophy that management is a skill-based job, and managers need to learn specific skills to be successful.
Mark Twain once said that everyone talks about the weather, but no one does anything about it. The same can be said for organizational communication. I’ve heard many managers lament that despite their repeated attempts to convey information to employees, the employees just don’t get it. This is problematic to morale as well as the bottom line, as organizational communication has a profound impact on the effectiveness of a company. In a 2004 study done by Gray and Laidlaw, they say, “Employees’ satisfaction with communication in their organizations is linked to organizational commitment, productivity, job performance and satisfaction, and other significant outcomes.”
Managers have lots of responsibilities within the organization. None are more critical than managing the communication process. If you don’t manage the process, the message doesn’t get through to the organization.
Let’s look at some simple suggestions you can use to make your organizational communication effective. While effective organizational communication has a lot of moving parts, for this article we’ll focus on two sections that have the most impact: guidelines for effective communication and managers’ responsibilities.
Guidelines for Effective Communication
You can have all the meetings, write all the memos, and have a million debriefs, but if you miss these three things, your communication will not be as effective as it should be.
1. Context – It is more than the “what’s in it for me” statement. Context provides the answer to “how does the information you are providing me affect my job, department, and/or the organization where I work?” Context needs to be specific and in plain language. To help the context stick, you need to verbally reiterate the message using the same language as in the original communication. For example, if your organization is changing pricing, let your team know:
— What specifically is being changed
— Why the prices are being changed
— How the changes will be implemented
— When do the changes take effect
— Who is affected by the change
— Where do you escalate customers who have issues with the changes
— What they are to do with the information
2. Actionable – Too many times information is sent without a clear purpose as part of the communication. Employees think to themselves, “What should I do with this information?” If they don’t know the answer, they will usually make it up or simply ignore it, and these are not the answers you want. If your communication continues to lack purpose, information from you will be given a lower priority because it is not seen as valuable. Think you can just send a follow-up memo with the missing information? Clarifying and re-communicating after the first attempt takes time, is inefficient and tarnishes your credibility. Hints for making your communication purposeful and actionable are:
— Start the communication with what recipients need to do with the information. Don’t hide it.
— What will the customer expect you to be able to do?
— Give a measurement to clarify expectations (e.g., answer calls 100% of the time on the first ring).
Managers play a critical role in the effectiveness of organizational communication. In far too many organizations, managers don’t actively manage the communication that is sent to their associates. If managers implemented the following two steps, organizational communication would be more effective.
— Follow up – When you forward information regarding changes that are critical to your organization, the old cliché of throwing it on the wall to see if it sticks is much too risky. When you do follow up, use a different medium if possible. If the first was an e-mail, send a text, call or have a face-to-face interaction to follow up.
— Accountability – If your associates know that you are going to hold them accountable for information you communicate, they will be much more likely to listen and act. Make sure that this expectation is communicated at the same time as the information, and that your team realizes that with accountability comes consequences.
Managers need to play an active role in ensuring the effectiveness of organizational communication. Implementing these two simple steps will have a big impact on your organization’s effectiveness.
Ken Burnett is vice president/director of training and business development for Bank of American Fork. He is responsible for training nearly 300 employees on a variety of topics, including management training for dozens of senior managers within the organization.