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Communication: It's Not As Simple, Or As Effective, As You Think

Sep 8, 2008
Most companies recognize these as problems which need to be addressed. But the really smart ones realize this list of deficiencies is only symptomatic of a deeper problem. And for many organizations, the root cause of these problems is poor communication. An accurate, timely flow of information from managers to employees is the first building block of a successful business operation.

Research is definitive

Our studies show in case after case that poor communication frustrates managers and alienates employees. Ultimately, worker performance tends to degenerate into the four-part recipe for disaster listed above. Research and case experience from 20 years of management training and consulting illustrate an undeniable correlation between effective communication from managers to employees and positive bottom-line results for an organization.

Even among employees who are satisfied with their jobs, performance can fall short of prescribed standards if the flow of information from management to employees is not timely and accurate. Thus the mediating variable in that puzzling equation is communication. For example, studies show that when job satisfaction is high and communication is effective, employees score highest on job performance evaluations. But even when job satisfaction is low, that can be offset by an effective communication system and result in high job performance ratings.

Conversely, when job satisfaction is high but communication is poor, job performance suffers. Even when employees are motivated and capable, insufficient information flow will rob the organization. Research indicates those valued employees turn in substandard work.

Acknowledging the problem is key

The first step toward improving organizational communication is analogous to the step required of individuals facing an emotional or behavioral problem. As we all know, the dysfunctional person can't begin to get better until he or she admits the problem. Our findings indicate organizations have much the same attitude. In every case, managers think they communicate better than the employees. Managers always think they are providing more timely information than the members of the audience for that communication - the employees.

Get answers

I recommend that before companies search for solutions to their communication problems, they first conduct a formal assessment of internal communication when it works and when it doesn't. Only then can strategies for improvement be developed. One such approach would be to conduct an audit of corporate communications, an assessment that examines a company's information flow and the quality of oral and written communication, much like a CPA audits a financial statement.

This is not an opinion or attitude survey. It is not designed to make workers happy or to band-aid a festering problem in the organization. The audit provides decision-making information that allows internal communication to be significantly improved.

A communication audit can be utilized either by remote or on-site. Companies that fully implement the communication audit and adhere to recommendations report improved morale, enhanced performance and greater productivity from their work force.
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