Ineffective communication is the bane of many companies, and this issue has become more prominent over the past few years as many people moved to working from home in the pandemic. Hybrid working has become a reality for many companies and communicating effectively with ‘remote’ employees is an issue leaders are currently wrestling with. If you ask anyone in a business what can be improved in their company, usually communication will either come top or it will be high on the list.
But what does communication mean? By definition, it is the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium. It normally involves one person transmitting a message and another, or others, receiving it and hopefully hearing and understanding the message. Sounds simple. So what can go wrong? "Plenty!" is the cry as senior managers and staff despair at misfiring communications.
With the shift towards being flexible with working from home, one of the challenges for business leaders is ensuring that information is transmitted effectively and clearly understood when people are more distributed.
On our leadership and business growth program, LEAD™, we do not encourage the general use of the word communication. We focus leaders to consider specifically what they mean by communication and what exactly they want to achieve for effective leadership.
These four steps help:
1. Message content
Typically, management tend to communicate what they consider important and that tends to be wrapped up in figures and business indicators. As a consequence, employee communications are littered with jargon and statistics which mean little to employees. Experience tells us that what employees value most in communication is that which gives them an insight into the broader aspects of working life and the key variables that determine the success or failure of the organisation. The workforce needs access to the views and opinions of the main decision-makers in the business.
So, if you really want employee engagement then you have to demonstrate to your staff that it is worthwhile engaging in the business.
We suggest that leaders should create a ‘communication platform’ – a means of conveying views and opinions in a clear, relevant and digestible fashion where messages are balanced, neither overly optimistic nor unnecessarily negative, communicating the position as you see it.
With hybrid and remote working, communication will invariably need to be more asynchronous (i.e., not happening at the same time) by default. Fifty-nine percent of participants agreed that written communication is most important when working remotely but that can present its own difficulties with the use of multiple different channels, the potential for misunderstanding and the absence of body language and other non-verbal cues to help clarify intention and meaning. Clarity and empathy will be essential components of any communications and businesses should consider creating a framework based on the proper use of every communication channel and how these can best be used.
Next step is to decide who delivers the message. Different levels of management will be needed for different information. The preferred communication source for local issues is the immediate line-manager or supervisor. These people have the advantage of familiarity with the individuals, teams and the circumstances plus dialogue is naturally more two-way.
However, most managers have never been trained to speak to small groups, give presentations or take questions. They may lack confidence and not appreciate the importance of the task, their body language and tone. As long as local management conduct themselves in a non-autocratic and approachable fashion, communication at this level can be hugely effective and satisfying.
4. Systematic process
Finally, consider which meetings are required daily, weekly, monthly and quarterly, who the attendees should be, whether the outputs are written, verbal or both and then carefully cascade key messages from meetings.
The ‘new normal’ in the workplace could mean that there is a combination of in-person attendees and remote meeting participants, so good technology is a must, the structure / format of the meeting should be considered from the various different perspectives to ensure that everyone is able to usefully participate and leaders will need to be confident in running and chairing effective hybrid meetings. Written minutes and actions can help with cascading of information and allow for clarity and knowledge-sharing.
Build into your schedule a structured process of ‘managing by walking around’ (MBWA) your organisation saying hello to everyone but speaking to the more motivated staff members. Even with an increasingly remote workforce, MBWA is still possible with the creative use of digital tools to connect with employees.
Effective communication is the oil in the engine of organisational efficiency. The effectiveness of any contact needs to be maximised, so we actively encourage leaders to build their own communication platform that fits the needs of their business to ensure a healthy two-way dialogue throughout the firm.
How we can support you
Some of our clients share how LEAD™ has helped improve communication in their organisations:
"One thing I have learnt from LEAD™ is the power of having a clear vision that is communicated well throughout the business. People seem so much happier, productive and collaborative when they are all working towards achieving a shared vision.” Simon Ashburner, Director, Pulsin
"LEAD™ helped me to support and communicate with my team. I recognise effective communication as the key to engaging, motivating and inspiring our staff and with 80+ staff at Printwaste, this is such an important part of our growth plan." Tom Robins, Operations Manager, Printwaste Recycling & Shredding
If you would like assistance in creating a more effective communication platform within your organisation then we would be delighted to help you. Communication is a key theme on our LEAD™ program for senior leaders and if you'd like to learn more, please click here.
You can also get in touch with one of the QuoLux™ team here to book a meeting and talk through how we may be able to help you.
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