Friday, 29 May 2015

The Case For 'A Culture Of Communication' At The Workplace








You haven't been living under a rock for the last decade so you know that often, people take something for granted about communication in this fast-paced era.




They sometimes forget that communication has become increasingly relevant to careers and businesses.




At the workplace, gone is the now 'archaic' top-down communication style from ages passed.



'Archaic' only because the advent of social media, as well as the prevalence of numerous online platforms, with their impact on the communication styles of  professionals and companies, make any method of communication, without true engagement, obsolete.




Not only have new technology, smartphones, tablets, ‘smart’ watches, (Apple watch anyone?), other internet-enabled communication devices and the explosion of mobile apps made the exchange of information instant and reliable, another trend has come to stay:




The rise of the content.




Content, which broadly speaking, encompasses varied communications, has become a fixture in organisations and among professionals.




Today, the use of storytelling to increase 'followership', or to attain 'influencer' status in an industry, or to boost business results, is evident in the various types of content produced and disseminated in cyberspace - blog posts, articles, images, videos, infographics, podcasts, graphics etc. 




As is explained in this post, savvy brands now use content to tell powerful stories to improve their results. Others use communications  to boost their reputations as well as to build trust in their organisations and among external stakeholders.

 


On the professional level, executives perceived to have excellent communication skills, influenced by the content they consumeare considered effective leaders and are rated highly in their careers. 




Good communication is now indispensable because it influences a wide range of workplace issues such as trust, commitment and performance. Today, employees need to be treated as the valuable, indispensable assets that they are in the productivity wheel. Therefore communicating in ways that respect their contributions makes them more efficient in their duties and more likely to stay in a company.



There is thus a case for nurturing what I would refer to as 'a culture of communication' in an organisation. In simple terms, this means infusing systems and daily operations with simple and clear communication, strengthened by feedback channels at every level, that it becomes second nature to all: From the new entrant to the CEO.




Although culture changes  are serious endeavours and differ in degrees of complexity, there are considerations to note when developing this 'culture of communication':
  


1) Management's commitment 










Without genuine commitment from top management, a move towards a communicative culture will crumble after the initial 'buy-in'. 




Not only should  the  CEO  approve  the change, but employees who are passionate about the change and understand all aspects of the change programme should be selected as the designated spokespeople. These professionals should consistently answer questions, clarify issues and be prepared to address resistance to change efforts.




The CEO himself should support the change agents publicly when required and regularly inform all employees about the progress made at key periods. This could be done via emails/newsletters, on notice boards/the intranet, or in short videos. His participation will underscore the point that the new culture is not simply a fad.  





2) Clarity of key initiative 







What new initiative will be launched to usher in the 'culture of communication'? 




Whether it is a new 'open door policy' between levels, or a new software whereby employees could make suggestions or lodge complaints, or a new system of feedback whereby all issues must be acknowledged and addressed in 24 hours, there must be a constant:




The initiative must be penned in simple language, devoid of jargon and easily understood by all levels inside the organisation.





3) Flexibility and adaptability







It is possible nonetheless that the perfectly-penned communications project which showed a lot of promise, may need tweaking as time elapses. 



For example, a newly-launched internal social media app may initially have been well-received. However, bug issues, the need for frequent updates and a slow network may soon make it an annoyance to handle.




Employees may prefer being involved in the company's branded social media accounts or the creative types may be interested in crafting content about their experiences that could be posted on the company's website. 



Whatever the adjustments that are required, note that adapting to change but remaining committed to the overall goal of an improved transparent workplace is necessary.




Being flexible would also mean letting go of the fear of failure and discarding what doesn't work over time, to prioritise what does.  




4) Patience and consistency in delivery 




Developing a 'culture of communication' would take time.



Because communications programmes involve the 'human element'; (the attitudes and behaviours of all involved in the process influence the outcomes); there may a tendency for Management, over time, to label them as impractical causes with intangible benefits.




But patience is needed even when the 'return on investment' is slow to materialise or bottom-line results, difficult to measure.






Likewise, consistent nurturing of the 'culture of communication' will pay off when new 'habits' become established.



This is how it will work:





Improved communication at the workplace highlights a perception that the company truly cares about issues impacting its employees' careers and well-being, (which in organisational behavioural science is termed 'perceived organisation support'). These informed professionals, now empowered, become appreciative of the empathetic atmosphere and will become more engaged at work. Remember that research has shown that employee engagement leads to multiple benefits for the organisation, including 51% higher productivity, 9% higher shareholder returns and higher levels of trust in management.



In a nutshell, there is always a business case for improving communications at the workplace.




Conclusion









While the idea of a 'culture of communication' may not be new, it is nonetheless necessary for companies seeking to improve productivity and to become competitive by wisely managing their human resources.


However, if you are unconvinced about the numerous benefits of good communication to the organisation, then retaining your most talented employees should be the impetus you need to promote this culture at the workplace. Simply put, your staff - the most informed and talented lot whose engagement you cherish - would leave you eventually if they don’t believe they truly matter because you don’t communicate in ways they appreciate.


So as communications trends emerge and technology continues to evolve - with the Internet becoming more powerful and social media blurring the lines between accessibility and privacy - you must adapt to the dynamics.


In such a chaotic environment, are you ready to cut through the 'noise' and develop a culture of true communication in your company?


Let me know how you intend to do this by posting your comments below, anonymously if you prefer.  


Don't rush off just yet. Please remember to:  



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N.B –  All images courtesy of Stuart Miles; via freedigitalphotos.net.