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Communication Conundrums

Communication effectiveness is critical for all organizations.  Information must flow from the top of the organization down to the bottom and from the front lines into the back offices without a bottleneck.  Employees need to know operational details to perform their daily tasks, yet they also need to understand the organization’s mission and strategic vision. Unfortunately, communication effectiveness is typically the lowest scoring category we uncover when facilitating employee attitude research with our client companies.  Are you surprised?

While the category is a consistent low scorer across all industries, the communication pitfalls we identify vary based on the specific company culture.  In some cases, employees express concern regarding a lack of transparency.  These organizations tend not to share information outside the senior leadership suite unless the other employees “need to know”.  Employees will often complain they aren’t given the opportunity to provide input when changes are implemented, or they express frustration that decisions aren’t disseminated in a timely manner. 

In other cases, employees are overwhelmed by staff meetings that take up an inordinate amount of time on the calendar, but fail to feed their need for information sharing.  Employees complain the meetings aren’t interactive and too much information is crammed into the agenda. 

Finally, we receive feedback that highlights the “silo syndrome”.  In these organizations, departments operate as silos and employees have no idea what is happening across the hall or on another floor.  This often leads to interdepartmental conflicts and operational roadblocks.

After a review of several recent employee opinion survey reports, I was struck by the link between employee communication preferences and the three different learning styles for adults–visual, auditory, and kinesthetic.  It seems that all organizations must review the communication mediums they use and evaluate when and how to best disseminate information to maximize effectiveness.

  • Visual learners rely on images. They love graphs, diagrams, and illustrations. “Show me,” is their motto. You can best communicate with them by providing handouts, writing on the white board, and using phrases like, “Do you see how this works?”  Furthermore, there are certain messages that are simply better said in written form.  It can be because the subject matter doesn’t lend itself to employee questions or because it is important to provide an ongoing reference guide.  An e-mail blast is acceptable for sharing information to all employees when there is no need for employee input and it is critical to disseminate the data to all employees simultaneously.
  • Auditory learners pay close attention to the sound of your voice and all of its subtle messages, and they will actively participate in discussions. “Tell me,” is their motto. You can best communicate with them by speaking clearly, asking questions, and using phrases like, “How does that sound to you?”  There are certain topics that should be communicated in an in-person meeting with adequate time for Q & A.
  • Kinesthetic learners need to physically do something to understand it. Their motto is “Let me do it.” They are the ones who will get up and help you with role playing. You can best communicate with them by involving volunteers, allowing them to practice what they’re learning, and using phrases like, “How do you feel about that?”  This type of communication is necessary when you are implementing a new procedure or teaching a new skill.
Organizations must establish “when and how” communication guidelines to ensure consistency across departments.  Guidelines will help the organization achieve a higher level of communication effectiveness as managers are more likely to vary their delivery methods to reach employees in ways that allow the message(s) to be heard and understood.

--- Tracy Lindow, The Centre Group
Posted: 8/26/2014 7:30:00 AM | with 0 comments
Filed under: business, communication, council, guideline, small

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