Although effective internal communication is not something a company would usually set aside some budget for, making it a priority is one of the best steps any business – whether big or small – can take toward improving performance. According to a study made by Towers Watson in 2010, organizations that have effective internal communication practices in place have 47 percent higher shareholder returns, compared to companies who do not have proper communication strategies in place.
So what’s the plan?
If you own a business, then you must know that it is not just important, but also crucial to have an effective internal communication plan. You may be wondering why you need one, since you do not see any problems in your company. You talk to your people through meetings and emails. You hold regular meetings with your managers and supervisors. Whatever message or information you have can be cascaded to all the employees through the middle management; why waste your resources on an internal communication plan?
You may not see it now, but in the passing of time, your business will feel the negative impact of not having an effective internal communication plan in place: poor performance, low morale, dissatisfied customers, high turnover, increasing costs and decreasing revenue.
How does internal communication fail? Let us look at the most common problems in fostering effective communication in an organization:
1. The assumption that everyone is informed of all the goings-on in the company. More often than not, top management makes the mistake of assuming that the employees know what the leaders know. However, this is not true most of the time. Unless management deliberately releases information, the entire organization will be left in the dark.
2. Resistance to written policies and procedures. Startup business owners tend to frown upon having many departments and having things written down, feeling it makes them a bureaucracy. So maybe organic communication between management and staff is okay for now, since the company is just starting; but what happens when the company starts to expand? Things need to be put in proper perspective, including communication. This is where an effective internal communication strategy comes in.
3. Misunderstood/misinterpreted messages. Not having an effective communication plan in place can lead to misunderstood information, especially now with a highly diverse workforce. The problem with misinterpreted information is that no one learns about it until it has caused some major issue that causes a great impact on operations.
4. The misconception that there should be communication only during times of crisis. Less experienced leaders think that their job is to smooth out any problems or concerns; when there is no problem, then they do not see the need for any kind of communication. This also takes place when the management sees no value in getting insights from the staff.
5. Mistaking data for information. Naturally, the business will grow and, unfortunately, the management will most likely focus on the efficiency of processes and operations. Doing this will generate huge amounts of raw data that are more often than not mistaken for information. Unless this data is studied and used to create strategies, it will not bring value to the organization.
No matter how promising a business is, or how successful it is at the moment, it will crumble if the management does not put careful attention and importance to the way it communicates with the rest of the organization. By being aware of the barriers to effective internal communication and setting up good internal communication plans and strategies, you can prevent issues in the running of your business even before they start.