When companies fail, it may be because they didn’t provide products or services that met a market need. Or, they were mis-managed. But the primary culprit is often poor communication.
No matter what your work environment or your industry, if communication with employees is broken, you will never realize your corporate vision. What’s essential to success is creating a culture of communication.
According to an article in the Harvard Business Review, The Silent Killer of Big Companies, the main reason for the organizational failure of five major companies was “a grievous lapse in communication.”
If It’s Broke, Fix It
If a company’s internal communication program is broken, employee satisfaction suffers, which, in turn, hurts customer satisfaction. And, if that happens, the bottom line is bound to suffer as well. Change programs can fail when management doesn’t see the link between internal and external communications.
As the Harvard article states, “Those leaders who do effectively manage the flow of information within their company tend to share a certain outlook — and a certain set of practices. They adopt communication methods that enable them to get closer to employees.
“They put in place communication systems that promote dialogue, as opposed to monologue. They engage employees by allowing them to become active participants in the communication process. They rigorously pursue an agenda that aligns their communication efforts with organizational strategy.”
It is employees who are most often the primary interface between the company and its targets. Customers are the most obvious and important external audience. Without them there is no business.
But the media is an increasingly intrusive “partner” as reporters pounce on every bad piece of company news – often coming from the mouths of unhappy employees. Online chat rooms and social media provide a public platform for employees to vent their grievances and the media and customers are tuning in.
Why Communications Fail
The global economy and new technologies are transforming the way organizations do business. To bring their vision of a new, highly competitive company to life, it is essential for management to build and nurture a total culture of communication that includes internal and external audiences. Employee communication is too often a stepchild in this process.
It is not an overstatement to say that business transformation will only be accomplished by building a global culture of communication that gains the commitment of employees at all levels, driving growth and performance. The key to ensuring success is consistency of communications to the right people at the right time with the right messages.
Internal communication efforts often fall short because:
- Behaviors don’t match the message, especially senior executive behaviors
- Communicating is not viewed as an important process or asset
- Communication is blocked at many levels – up, down and across
- Complicated and lengthy approval processes prevent timely distribution of information
- Employees don’t hear things first, thus a loss of faith develops
- Too much is communicated and more important messages are lost in the clutter
The Tenets of a Culture of Communication
There are four tenets of a Culture of Communication. Trust is at the core – all communications must be reliable, truthful and contain the full story. At the heart of trust is:
- Openness – there must be an unwavering commitment to and support of a healthy two-way communications environment
- Simplicity – communications must be clear, meaningful and accessible
- Consistency – messages must be strategic and integrated
- Caring – there must be concern for the individual
Establishing a Culture of Communication will improve communications effectiveness that will help organizations achieve their goals and objectives.
Companies that create best practices in all areas of communications, both internally and externally, will truly transform themselves.
Thanks to Mary Lynn Coyle and Barbara Earley for contributing their ideas to this post.