Here’s A Symptom Checker for Your Internal Communication System
Updated: Apr 22, 2018
It is the web that holds everything in an organization together. Sending and receiving meaningful messages is integral to an organization as air is vital to human survival. It is the bottom line of all systems, processes, and workflows. It is the common connection that keeps people working together.
Internal communication in organizations encompasses and affects a vast number of activities, some of which are stated below:
Making clear the organization’s vision, and aligning employee motivation with it
Making changes in workflows, processes, and policies
Sending out directives and memos
Defining leadership, making leaders’ presence felt, and their concern genuine
Training and knowledge sharing
Collaboration and team-building
Supporting project startups and change initiatives
When channels of communication are blocked, unclear or rusty, messages become vague, misinterpreted, or even lost. And when that happens, your bottom line would slowly erode, perhaps not obviously at first, but in time the repercussions and damages may be too big and too costly to handle.
Some of the damages that may be incurred are increased employee turnover, talent drain, increased errors, increased legal expenses, unsuccessful initiatives, poor ROI, and a damaged reputation, among others.
It is, therefore, important not to overlook your internal communication system, and be vigilant of the warning signs of a faulty communication circuit. Here is a list of things to watch out for:
Rare or hindered flow of innovative ideas
Innovation is what makes an organization leap forward, and every innovation starts with bright ideas. Brilliant ideas come from employees and leaders alike, and unless these ideas reach the decision-makers, nothing would ever be done about making those ideas come to action.
Ask yourself these questions: Is there an existing knowledge-sharing protocol? How is the mechanism being used? How does the management react to those ideas? How does your org receive suggestions from both client and employees? If you do not have an immediate response to these questions, and if you find yourself scrambling for an answer, that is a red flag.
The story of “too much and too many”
Too many inboxes… too many emails…too much face-time… too many notifications...
The flow of information is there but is just too much and in the wrong place. Pressure builds up, and the pipeline is leaking and on the verge of bursting. Like a leaking pipe, there’s water everywhere, except in the place where you want water to flow. Productivity suffers as employees get lost in piles of emails, or taken away into conference rooms for the nth face-to-face meeting, but with them busy with either mobile apps or doodling.
Employees have bewildered looks when given new tasks related to a change initiative
There’s nothing more frustrating at work than doing without understanding. Employees grope in the dark, blindly following things-to-do lists. Change initiatives become the stirrers of complaints, exasperation, and confusion. Failing to involve employees in the earliest stages of change, such as in the creation of an organizational vision for change, leave employees disengaged. Check your feedback mechanisms. They may be either poorly constructed, lacking or missing.
‘Cascading’ information from the C-suite to middle managers and then to front line managers becomes, intentionally or unintentionally modified, adding further to the already dampened employee spirit. Can you still see ‘cascading information’ taking place traditionally? Do you still hear employees ask, ‘Why are we doing this?’
Also, how do managers communicate their intentions to give recognition? Do they give recognition only once a year during their annual gathering? If you say yes to these questions, then again, these are red flags.
Everyone is busy and looking overworked, but the output doesn’t measure up to the effort. Crippled productivity is the result of poor collaboration and teamwork. You see redundancy of tasks, repetitive mistakes, and hear people ask, ‘Who’s in charge of that?’
There are many absentees and latecomers in meetings. There seems to be more time gathering team members, pulling them out of their tasks, or convening after work hours to deliberate about a common project yet accomplishments come in small trickles.
Change initiatives are met with resistance and resignations
An organizational transformation will not happen if changes are met with resistance and if people, especially the talented ones, leave their jobs. Resistance occurs when there is poor collective buy-in.
Were the stakeholders involved in the planning stage? Is there adequate representation of the departments to be affected by the change? Is the project stand-alone or is it just a version of a previous mistake? If you answer no to these questions, then your internal communication needs your utmost attention.
The lines between levels of the hierarchy are clear and bold, and crossing the line means posing a threat to one’s job
Communication is mostly downward and unidirectional. Were the opinions of front line employees considered? Does the organization employ an authoritarian leadership, or at least the employees think so?
If you see any of the signs above in your organization, then it is high time to work hard on your internal communication system. Finding the right solution removes barriers, prevents information overload, communicates recognition, and enables feedback.