Everyone agrees…at least pays lip service to the idea that effective internal communications are necessary to have a smooth-running organization. How else would management and employees understand and agree on assignments and common goals? How would members of the team be motivated to achieve their best?
Organizations spend hundreds of millions of dollars a year on employee attitude surveys, newsletters, brochures, videos, audio cassettes, face-to-face meetings, and other tools of internal communications. Big bucks are invested in training managers to be better communicators.
Yet large numbers of employees at every level give internal communications poor grade despite all the investments of time, money and effort. The result is a “trust gap” between employer and employee.
Many managers have no idea that their communications efforts are not working. In a survey for Fortune magazine, 8 out of 10 chief executive officers said their corporate strategy is understood by “everyone who needs to know.” To the contrary, it was found that less than one-third of employees think management provides clear goals and directions.
Fewer than one-half of employees give a favorable rating to their employers’ efforts to let them know what is going on with their jobs, according to an Opinion Research Corporation survey.
Another study found that when top management does put out information, only about half of the employees have a positive response to what they are told.
The result of all of this is a loss of direction; a declining sense of loyalty between employer and employee; sagging morale; and loss of productivity.
There are five major reasons for a breakdown in internal communications.
1.Failure To Listen
Despite career advice to the contrary, most management efforts are made in sending messages rather than listening. This ignores the fact that communications is a two-way street.
Management sends out a blizzard of communications without ever taking the time to listen to see if the messages are being received, to say nothing of understood.
2. Sporadic Communications
Organizations cripple their ability to communicate and lose credibility with a program that is “on again-off again.” This condition usually manifests two ways.
Management becomes upset that employees simply don’t seem to understand what is expected of them. Furthermore, they don’t care. The solution is “We need an internal communications program”. There is a flurry of activity; the situation begins to improve. The communications program dwindles and dies, to be resurrected only when another crisis in employee attitudes develops.
In another scenario, things are going along in good shape for the company and management is actively communicating the good news to the troops. Suddenly there is bad news … sales fall of and profits drop or the firm is subjected to a class-action lawsuit. The iron curtain drops and all communications stop, to be resumed only if and when things get better.
3. Dishonest or Misleading Communications
Some companies are foolish enough to believe they can outright lie or mislead their employees. That never works for long.
4. Actions Don’t Jibe With The Words
Management sends out messages that are contrary to their actions.
Such managers write articles saying, “We are all in this together … one big happy family.” Then they push their salaries to astronomical heights while holding pay raises for the rank and file below the rate of inflation.
They forget that actions speak louder than words.
5. Communications Are Confusing and Irrelevant
Management fails to communicate in clear and effective languages that everyone can understand and can relate to.
Or the communications media is filled with fluff: news of brides, babies and dead fish, plus canned cartoons and fillers. A warm and fuzzy climate is induced while the issues that deal with the health of the business are ignored.
It is very difficult to change these conditions. However, if they exist where you work, you can start to improve the situation by effectively communicating with your immediate associates and your boss. Discuss the problem with your boss and suggest ways to open the lines.
Effective communications are guaranteed to improve your performance and that of your organization.