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5 Essentials to Effective Communications

Apr 7, 2008
Communication is a part of every business, both large and small. In large companies, communication is dictated by formal procedures but small companies experience the same communication processes in more informal ways. But the process and its effective use is the same for all companies. There are 5 essential components that will guide you and your employees to better ways of sharing information and mutual understanding.

Convey the rationale underlying decisions. As change occurs more frequently and the future becomes more uncertain, employees want to know the rationale underlying the decisions and changes that affect them. "Why is this being done?" "How does this affect me?"

As the historical contract between employer and employee has eroded, employees no longer look at their jobs as life long. In times of permanent employment, comprehensive decisions by management were not as critical. But employees, faced with lack of security, have new expectations of their managers and owners. Employees expect clear and unambiguous information that allows them to manage their career choices and plans.

Timeliness is critical. Small companies have the advantage of sharing information quickly because of their informal network. But the nature of this informal network also lends itself to rumors fed by the grapevine. This grapevine can ruin a thriving small business when change is approaching and uncertainty is at its highest. Once you've made a decision, share that information in a timely way and document the content of your decision. This lessens the power of the grapevine and gives managers credibility. The cost of not communicating in a timely way is anger, dissatisfaction, and loss of trust.

Communicate continuously. The free flow of information can help a small business manager in many ways. When employees are aware of pressures and concerns facing their employer and this information is shared with them freely, employees can bond to form a united front. Their commitment and investment is increased. Remember, if communication is not continuous employees will fall back on less reliable sources of information. Being able to anticipate changes will make them less dramatic when change actually takes place.

Connect the "big picture" with the "little picture." Truly effective communication does not take place until employees understand the "big picture" and how it affects them and their jobs. The implications of change due to changes in the economy, competitors, or the organization as a whole may have profound impact on your workforce and it is up to you to connect these changes with each individual job and employee.

Don't dictate how people should feel about the news. Employees don't want to be told how to feel about change. Generic statements like "You're really going to like the new restructuring" and "This going to be really exciting" generally only provoke antagonistic responses. These attempts to sway opinion do not enhance the atmosphere of openness and trust you are trying to build. "Who, what, where, when, how, and why," is the best basis for communicating with employees. Be complete and honest in the information you share and allow employees to draw their own conclusions. If the proper foundation exists and there is a degree of trust between parties, employees will draw reasonable conclusions.

Change is the one thing we can count on but the impact that change has upon your organization is something that can be modulated and controlled. Avoiding the pitfalls of the grapevine and keeping information timely and free flowing can allow you to weather changes with minimal disruption. Your employees are your greatest asset and keeping their feelings and expectations in mind must be one of your highest priorities. Mutual respect is a hallmark of effective communication and, in the long run, can turn change into a blessing rather than a burden.
About the Author
Melissa Vokoun is a successful Business Advisor, Coach and Trainer. To learn more about the services available, please visit the website at: http://www.coachingqueen.com or call 847-392-6886.
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