Organizational communication is the process by which groups of people convey company goals and the way to reach them. Organizational communication is an integral part of effective management practices within the workplace: productive and thoughtful dialogue can make or break an organization and the relationships within it.
Free online tools for work:
1. Fluxes.com — Free Project and Task Management Software
2. Status.net — Software for Effective Communication
- Types of Organizational Communication Part 1
- Communication’s Link to Collaboration Part 2
- Organizational Communication Impact Part 3
- Challenges to Organizational Communication Part 4
- Best Practices Part 5
Types of Organizational Communication
To understand the far-reaching impact organizational communication has on companies, it is important to understand the various types that take place within companies:
Informal and Formal Communication
Another word for these two are official and grapevine communications respectively.
Formal communications are pre-defined channels that employees or leaders can use to reach out to others.Informal communications do not rely on already established channels; as a result, contacts can spread to any number of channels.
Vertical and Horizontal Communication
The defining characteristic of these communications is hierarchal.
Vertical communication happens between superiors and subordinates while horizontal communication between individuals on the same employee level.Vertical discussions are further split into upward and downward depending on where the dialogue is coming from.
Both groups of communications address more specific interactions between employees, managers, and upper management. Even a basic understanding of these is critical for anyone looking to increase the communication flow in the organization.
Communication’s Link to Collaboration
If organizations represent buildings, departments are the building blocks and communication is the substance that binds them together. Marketing, human resources, finance, accounting, operations, and management all have to collaborate with one another to reach departmental and company goals. Effective communication positively contributes to organizational collaboration that needs to occur.
Valuable collaboration is synonymous with efficient communication. However, the structure of today’s workplace, a penchant for silos, and generational gaps have contributed to a landscape that is not always conducive to satisfactory communication practices. Here are some statistics that reveal the state of today’s workplace collaboration culture:
- 44 percent of top executives feel that soft skills (like communication) are the most considerable part of the U.S. skill gap.
- 80 percent of millennials would prefer real-time feedback over traditional performance reviews.
- Three out of four workers rated teamwork and collaboration as “very important.”
- Only 18 percent receive communication evaluations as part of their performance reviews.
- 27 percent of workers receive communication training. This group also felt more confident in their workplace communication abilities.
- 39 percent of those surveyed think that people in their organization do not collaborate enough.
These statistics from this survey conducted by the Queens University of Charlotte show the complicated relationship between communication and collaboration. Executives and business leaders desire employees to have communication skills already, but once they arrive at the organization, there are not a lot of opportunities for them to further the develop the skills they do have or learn new ones. This has a negative impact on how communication flows throughout an organization.
How Does Organizational Communication Impact Productivity?
So much can become lost in translation. Different personalities create diversity in learning and listening styles.
People communicate the way they were taught, and as individuals grow into adulthood the way people explain themselves and the way they listen to others becomes even more solidified. This makes it difficult for people to take on new communication skills, but statistics show that being flexible and open to new ways of communicating are essential.
According to a survey of 4,000 employees by HR Magazine, almost half were unsure of what was being asked of them by managers who gave them a task to do.
What was even more troubling is that 36 percent felt this uncertainty between one and three times in the workday. This reveals that managers think they are saying one thing while workers feel they mean something entirely different. This can have detrimental effects on company productivity. An employee can get halfway through a project and find out they misheard the directions. This impacts time and money spent for the worker to finish the project. Communication contributes to the overall bottom line, so leaders should recognize its connection to productivity, and create strategies to improve lapses in communication.
Challenges to Organizational Communication
The key to creating an environment of effective communication is building a comprehensive organizational communication plan. Business leaders and employees who participate in creating this plan need to prepare for communication challenges that come into play in modern workplaces.
Taking Size into Account
The size of an organization can create a barrier to communicating effectively. If there are hundreds of employees with multiple departments and sub-departments under those, getting out various formal messaging from upper management to every employee level can be daunting.
Check how status.net helps solve the problem of interdepartmental communication.
How Can You Ensure Accountability?
Managers and leaders can mix up messaging all of the time, but how can anyone keep track of where the lapse in communication happened? If there is not a culture in place that acknowledges that mistakes are inevitable and uses them as situations for people to learn from, then accountability will be difficult to implement.
Creating A Plan That Is Relevant to Everyone
Different roles and functions within a department require various solutions to communication problems that may arise.
How can a plan be relevant to units who have virtual teams, managers who favor weekly meetings, and teams who are on autopilot and do not see the need to meet frequently?
Is there a uniform approach that everyone should adhere to or is there no one right way for everyone? If policies are changed to favor one style over another, what is the backlash? Should that even be the right approach in the first place?
Organizational Communication Plan Best Practices
There are many ways leaders can address the challenges faced when creating a comprehensive communication plan that enhances the flow:
Assess the Current State of Organizational Communications
• Are employees regularly missing deadlines?
• Are teams unaware of the quarterly goals they have to meet?
• How are virtual teams involved in modern communications?
These questions are ones business leaders have to consider when they create an organizational plan.Identify problems to develop applicable solutions within the organizational communication plan.
Think About Incorporating Digital Tools
Technology is not a cure-all for everything, but there are times where software can be a fix for organizational communication. When 1,000 millennials were surveyed by Microsoft about the type of workplace they prefer, 93 percent said the latest technology was a major factor in their decision to work for a particular employer. For the largest generation in the United States, smart uses of technology matter.
Modern communication software like status.net and free collaborative software like Fluxes can keep teams in touch with each other in real-time at their work and personal computers; while Google Docs can allow teams to work on documents simultaneously.
Find Ways to Appeal to a Variety of Communication Styles
Everyone digests information differently, so managers should try to incorporate face-to-face meetings, online updates and private feedback, data visualization for goals and benchmarks, and motivational quotes to get team members inspired. Communication should not have a one size fits all approach. The plan should include communication options and ideas for various types of workers. People should be given as many options as possible.
Remind Employees Why They Come in Every Morning
Employees do not have to be beaten over the head with the organization’s cause, but it is crucial to remind the team of the organization’s mission and vision for the future. These will likely align with the goals of the company so posting these messages around the office or mentioning them during meetings brings unity to the team. When everyone feels they are on the same page it is easier for the team to rally around communication efforts.
Get Rid of Unnecessary Silos
It is disheartening when two or more departments in a mid to large-size organization are doing similar work or are completing projects that complement one another, and they are not aware of their synergies because they do not communicate. A communication plan should facilitate department Q&A sessions or “Lunch and Learns,” for employees and managers to come together and discuss what they are working on. Alternatively, a few simple interdepartmental feeds with regular updates on status.net can allow business leaders and managers significantly improve communication between departments.
Status.net is a cloud solution for effective organizational communication. It brings a more light-hearted tone to messaging making it easily digestible, and makes it easy for team members to provide and receive updates regularly.
How to use status.net for effective workplace communication:
- Upward communication:
a) Easily implement daily or weekly status updates for your team members by creating a status feed “How did you contribute to the team’s goals this week?”.
b) Create automated scheduled questionnaires with questions like “How can we improve?”, “Do you have any obstacles?”, etc.
Status.net allows you to configure granular access permissions to set up who can view the answers (optional).
- Downward communication:
a) Build trust and improve leadership communication by sharing regular updates and reasoning behind your decisions.
b) Share information about company announcements, branch news, new hires, etc.
c) Share company goals and objectives regularly.
- For recurrent questionnaires: no one forgets to post an update because status.net sends automated reminders according to the recurrence schedule you chose.
- Increase workplace satisfaction by improving transparency:
Each status update has a separate section for comments, which is used by team members to clarify information, including upcoming goals, and by leaders to provide feedback and coordinate better without micromanagement, post congratulations and acknowledge job well done.
- Use status updates for future reference and decrease time and efforts spent on monthly, quarterly, and yearly reporting thanks to powerful filtering and export features.
- Optionally, enrich reports with the latest updates automatically added from web apps your team uses (such as project management tools, version control systems, support systems, financial applications, CRM, etc.) by connecting these apps to your status feed.
- Spend less time on meetings by making them more productive because everyone is on the same page at all times.
- Sharing: Status updates can be either— exported to files and printed, or sent by email;
— shared with manager online; or
— shared online as company-wide or team-wide status reports, i.e., all team members share their progress with each other.
How to configure status updates:
- Create a “Status Update” feed and set up a recurrence.
- Configure who will write and read status updates by choosing the “Participants” tab and then clicking the “Cog” button near “Feed Participants” title.
- Set the status feed as “Team-wide” if you want all team members to view each other’s status updates.
- Alternatively, you can allow access to status updates for certain participants only (such as yourself if you’re a team lead). In this case, turn “Team-wide” mode OFF and restrict viewing by unchecking “View” properties for other participants. Team members with the “View” checkbox unchecked will only be able to view their own status updates.
- If you’re a manager and you don’t plan to share your status updates with your team, uncheck “Update” for yourself – in this case, you won’t receive reminders.
- The Recurrence setting configures how often participants receive email reminders to fill in their status updates. This feature is optional and can be turned off.
- You can add, remove, and assign new team members at any time.
Step 2: The text of the status update should be added to the “Update” field of status feed.
As soon as a new status update is added, participants with “View” rights can view it in real time when they log in to their accounts. They will also automatically receive emails with the full text of status updates.