Effective communication is vital to the health and strength of any organization. Good communication is necessary for operations to run efficiently, goals to be achieved, and to help foster a greater sense of unity and morale in the workplace. When an organization is running efficiently, building better relationships among teams and employing effective cross-functional strategies, the outcome can very well be the difference between success and failure.
Communication skills are necessary to disseminate needed information to employees throughout the organization. The successful execution of this function depends upon the employment of effective communication at every level of leadership within the company. When good communication is lacking, employees end up stuck in the proverbial “silos” of the organization, direction will become vague and unclear, resulting in unmet expectations, little improvement, and diminished performance.
In the rapidly changing business climate we face today, it is essential that everyone in the organization, from the C-suite down to front-line or entry level positions, develop good communication skills and practices. Companies that fail to promote good communication strategies will very likely lose their competitive edge in today’s marketplace.
Poor Communication Results in Increased Costs to Your Business
Across the board, companies are seeking ways to cut costs in their organizations, yet few consider how their communication practices have a direct effect on their bottom line. What are some of the costs of ineffective or insufficient communication practices in the workplace?
Disengaged employees have a significant impact upon the overall performance of an organization. Employees lose motivation, which can have a direct impact on their ability to successfully deliver results. The drive to achieve a standard of excellence in the workplace significantly drops.
When morale is down, increased absenteeism occurs in organizations whose communication skills are poor. When employees lose their motivation to do a good job, they tend to be absent more than those who are motivated. When employees no longer feel appreciated, or their hard work is overlooked, their loyalty decreases.
Increased employee turnover
When employees voluntarily chose to leave a company, it is a significant cost to the employer. However, one study found that in companies that effectively communicate, they are 50% more likely to report turnovers below the industry average, compared to only 33% for those companies who are less effective in communicating.
Poor Customer Relationships
When an organization is poorly communicating within the company, it is highly likely to be poor at communicating with its customers, too. When guidelines and protocols are vague or inconsistent, employees will lose their motivation to keep their customers satisfied. One study of the Sears Company showed that there is a direct link between employee attitude improvement and increased customer satisfaction.
Other costs can also be quantified in the analysis of how poor communication impacts an organization, yet there are also other costs that cannot be fully measured, such as decreased creativity and innovation. The reality is that any or all of these factors can cause profits to be considerably lower in your business.
Project Management Problems
Poor communication processes can result in a failure to complete projects on time, in a satisfactory manner, or cause a complete failure. In a survey conducted by a national association for IT professionals, 28% of the responders blamed poor communication as the main cause of project failure.
Effective Communication Strategies in the Workplace
What are some effective strategies to improve communication? One of the first things to consider is how well equipped your managers and employees are in the area of communication. Are they being provided with the necessary tools and resources that will empower them to become good communicators? Are there any training and development programs in place that will teach, train, and monitor good communication practices in your organization? Many times, it is necessary for a consultant to accurately assess and provide effective remedies for the communication gaps within an organization.
Another very important issue is how well the leaders of the organization communicate. Effective communication begins at the top. It is essential that leaders within the organization model effective communication techniques and skills on a consistent basis.
Studies show that leaders spend at least 75-80% of their time communicating. If so much time is spent on this essential skill, wouldn’t it stand to reason that time and effort should be spent on improving and maintaining good communication skills?
Develop Good Listening Skills
An integral part of communication involves developing good listening skills. Communication is a two-way process, and listening can be just as important, if not more important, than speaking. Good leaders need to become good listeners. Learn to listen from the speaker’s point of view, and not your own. The more leaders can develop an understanding of their team members, the more effective they become at leading. Good listening can greatly minimize miscommunication.
Great listeners become great communicators. Effective listening skills enable us to answer questions and concerns others may have, resulting in the ability to properly discern and provide answers to their problems. Within our organizations, we can apply this principle in the process of building strong teams and interpersonal work relationships. When working with customers, good listening skills are absolutely essential.
Lee Iacocca said “The ability to listen- or the ability to tune into the needs and objectives of clients, customers, and colleagues- is the one skill that can make the difference between a mediocre company and a good company”.
Know Your Audience
Knowing your audience is a key element of good communication practices. Develop an awareness based upon certain criteria, such as gender, culture, age, personality style, as well as the particular area of expertise or positions of those with whom you are communicating. The more we know and understand our audience, the better opportunity we have to frame our words, style, and delivery method.
For instance, there are certain personality styles that prefer a more direct, to the point approach in communication. If you know that you are communicating with that particular style, you would not want to overload that person with details that are not necessary. If you try to inform them on every little point, you will quickly lose them and their thoughts will drift a thousand miles away! I have a business associate that is a dedicated and conscientious individual who desires to be thorough and complete on every point she is trying to make. While some of the details she provides may be useful, she gives me so many that I tend to zone out and become impatient whenever we have a discussion. It is simply way too much non-essential information being given to me! Time and again, this individual loses me after the first couple of minutes of our conversation.
Many times, non-verbal communication can become just as effective a communication tool as verbal communication. Body language, tone, volume, or writing style can convey a lot about the intent of the message being given. For instance, I can convey a strong message to my audience by becoming animated in my speech. It can reveal my passion for a particular subject, or it can convey my lack of passion if I use the right words but a deliver them in a monotone, lackluster voice. The lack of animation in my delivery could be interpreted in an entirely different way from my intent.
Written communication can be somewhat limited in its use of non-verbal communication, but one can still send and receive non-verbal cues that are easily understood. IF I WROTE A MESSAGE IN ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, HOW WOULD IT BE INTERPRETED? It would almost appear as though I am shouting with my words! When communicating face to face, always try to maintain good eye contact and appear as much at ease and in control as possible to appear confident, sincere, and engaged with your audience. Give them plenty of time to respond to you, and by all means, avoid interrupting them.
Sometimes, miscommunication can happen no matter how hard we try to avoid it. It is said that when filming the Biblical epic film, “The Greatest Story Ever Told”, the director, George Stevens was trying to extract some extra passion from John Wayne in the delivery of his significant line, “Truly, this was the Son of God.”
“You are talking about Jesus- think about it,” said Stevens, “You’ve got to say it with awe.”
For the next take, John Wayne duly summoned his most intense feelings. He paused dramatically and said:
“Aw, truly this was the Son of God.”
As members of an organization, we can possess brilliant ideas and strategies for project development, growth, and expansion into new markets, but unless we collectively possess the ability to communicate our ideas effectively, maintain positive relationships with our customers and between ourselves, our entire organization will suffer and be inhibited in its growth and overall health.