Internal communication – a recipe for success | Part I
We constantly communicate. In different ways and with different people. Sometimes with pleasure, sometimes with reluctance. In different situations we are different and always want to be heard and understood. But let’s admit that every day we have this feeling of inadequacy that we could have said better, could have put more emphasis, or could have kept silent instead of quoting something. We constantly communicate. And we always want to do it more effectively. Particularly, when it comes to communicating within the organization and is the cornerstone of the professional activity.
Let’s take a look at the statistics. A recent survey of 400 companies having at least 100 000 employees revealed that organizations are losing $62.4 million annually due to the communication problems with and within their employees. In another survey, 80% of HR professionals consider effective interpersonal communication a very important factor in their career growth. And… 87% of executives and 83% of CEOs consider effective internal communication a priority for success.1
Turns out that in any organization a misguided or ill-conceived communication policy adopted for its growth and success can lead to serious disadvantages and challenges.
This is for the beginning. However, before going forward, let’s agree on what we mean and how we define what communication is. Just to avoid misinterpretation. The word communication originates from the Latin word “communicare”, which means to make common, to share, to impart, to communicate, transmit.
Communication is the process of creating and exchanging meanings through symbols (words, images, gestures, mimics). The meanings include thoughts, ideas, and perceptions shared by the communicators/narrators. As a result, communication can have two options: the action at the end of the communication and the transmission and understanding of certain information. In short, communication is the exchange of information for the purpose of cross-understanding. Within the organization, it involves cross-understanding among employees, managers, departments, sub-departments, and within the entire system.
As a rule, any transmission of information does not imply that the other will perceive, analyze, and digest it the way we intended. Why? Because people are different and we all have unique and individual features of perception that are determined by a variety of physiological, social, demographic, situational, and etc. factors. Let’s analyze some important factors that can be misleading for the other side in communication:
Reason 1. Information filtering by the transmitter – sometimes, the transmitter of information presents the information in a way that is more desirable to the recipient, more enjoyable, less offensive and irritating. The more vertical levels in the organization, the more filtering. As a result, sometimes people do not realize that, for example, they have received a warning or that they cannot be late. There have been cases that have really surprised me with completely contradictory decoding of information between the two sides. Thus, in one of the companies, the manager thought that in his feedback he explained to his subordinate that he was very unhappy with him. And the employee, as a result of that same conversation, thought that he was about to be promoted. Thus, as a golden rule, remember that of course, the information should be refined, but you should not miss out on the most important parts.
Reason 2. Selective perception -the recipient perceives information according to his/her needs, desires, motivations, past experience. In other words, when decoding information, we project our expectations and desires. Hence, during a job interview, a young man who loves traveling misses the point of having a low salary and focuses on the communication on business trips transmitted to him. After leaving the interview he tries to remember what he was offered and of course, he does not remember. It is just important to remember here that no matter how confident we are that we have said and formulated our thoughts well, it is important to check whether the key points of the message have been understood by the others.
Reason 3. Emotion involvement – the encoding and decoding of information depends on the emotional state of the recipient. Strong emotions, stress impede communication, especially anger is the greatest enemy of communication. For example, after a family dispute, an angry and offended woman often cannot physically perceive her partner’s call for a creative approach. The golden rule here is to try to feel the emotions of a person, recognize them and guide them. No wonder the world is screaming about emotional intelligence.
Reason 4. Semantic Problems – let’s admit that although we all speak the same language, the meaning of words is often different in different contexts and for different people. It is essential for the sender to encode his message in such a way that the recipient understands it correctly. That is, before saying anything, let us understand what words to use so that the other understands correctly. In this process, it is very helpful to repeat what the other one says, the so-called “echo” technique. Also, it should be remembered that any message should be short and clear so as not to lead to misinterpretations.
Reason 5. Lack of planning – any message requires some planning. It is even more important within an organization that has deadlines, business processes, decision-making hierarchies, and so on. As a result of poor planning, we often choose the wrong channel of information, wrong place and time, or use incorrect wording. As a golden rule it should be emphasized that in order to avoid all possible misinterpretations, the most important messages must be communicated in several channels. An example of inaccurate planning can be the dissemination of hasty and miscellaneous emails to the staff when drastic changes have taken place in the organization (such as the need for reorganization) without realizing that people need time to adjust.
Reason 6. Information overload – often, due to work, we have to communicate a large amount of information, sometimes the content of information is disturbing one another. Then there is a risk that the important message of the transmitted information will be mixed with inappropriate details and ignored by the recipient. Therefore, the information that is being transmitted must be filtered and relieved. At the same time, the message should be addressed to people who may benefit from it. Important points should be highlighted, leaving out inappropriate details. The rule here is to make it as simple and light as possible, without mixing some important emphasizes. It is better to give several separate messages than to mix them all into one.
Of course, many other reasons can be noted as well, such as a lack of listening skills that is considered one of the biggest issues, wrong assumptions, physical barriers, fear of being punished, a lack of presentation skills, and so on.
As for the effective communication formula, I will present it in the next article.
1Up, Down, and Sideways: High-Impact Verbal Communication for HR Professionals By Patricia M. Buhler & Joel D. Worden, 2017