Whenever a survey is taken of employee satisfaction it is strange to note how many comments are forthcoming about the perceived lack of communication in the business. Paradoxically this complaint is being ventilated in a survey to uncover problems in communication.
I had a very interesting one-to-one this week with one of the members of my Vistage CEO peer group and we discussed this issue at length.
He is dedicated to doing as much as possible to enhance the level of effective communications to the employees of around 300 but has begun to realise that methods that worked at least on a satisfactory level now seem to have a reduced effect.
His overall theme was that as communication methods have changed then why are we still using old methods with noticeably less success.
Methods like noticeboards, an intranet, regular newsletters to everyone, briefing meetings, information campaigns, surveys and so on seem to have lost their effect.
We had a brilliant speaker from the USA, Herb Meyer, at a meeting of my group some time ago and he had been special counsel to the Director of the CIA so he had some some considerable experience of communications.
He said that if they needed to pass some extremely sensitive information this would be done by placing it in a locked box which was then transported in trusted hands to the recipient who then unlocked the box. Herb said that ten minutes later everyone in the building knew about it.
He went on to say, perhaps a little cynically, that the only way to make sure that it stayed secret was to put it on the noticeboard. Question: how long is it since you have looked at your notice board?
The fact is that methods of communication have changed and are still changing dramatically and the question is, are we up to date with everything available that can be validly used in the business?
On a simple level we all see people in restaurants settle at the table then everyone gets out their phones and spend time gawping (my Lancashire background coming out) at them.
I find that habit objectionable but it happens and if people prefer to read news or check their emails constantly then that is their business. The fact is that we may be missing a trick if we don’t exploit the habit in some way.
One method that I found out about only yesterday (I am not always an early adopter) is Facebook Workplace and that seems to me to be a very engaging way to encourage people to communicate more readily.
After all communication to be effective must be at least two way. The old technique employing a metaphorical pointing finger followed by “Do you understand?” has long gone or at least we hope so.
As far as possible the best way to pass on the message is individually and that can be complex in larger organisations where the message has to be delivered at all levels of the business. There is a consequent probability that it becomes garbled at some stage.
There cannot be too much communication but it is essential that the methods used ar acceptable to recipients and are as little top-down as possible.
The old adage about “my door is always open” sounds great but it needs to be visible and individual to make it truly effective. Think about some real differences that are exciting and try them out. Test them if necessary in a small pilot scheme and monitor the results.
There is no magic bullet but a constant drip feed of communication in ways that people understand and like can have a dramatic effect. Perhaps it may even slow down the complaints in those employee surveys.
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