Poor communication

Six Ways to Keep Poor Communication from Killing Your Company’s Performance

Have you ever gotten the silent treatment from your spouse? It’s disorienting, to say the least. Especially if you don’t know what you did … or didn’t do. It’s all about communication. Home life runs far more smoothly when communication is good, and pretty much tanks when it isn’t.

Same thing goes for life at work. So why is communication such a pariah in the business world? Time and again in i4cp research, communication within organizations emerges as a vital component of issues that are the lifeblood of businesses: effective leadership, innovation, change initiatives, M&A, employee engagement, performance management, teamwork, retention … and the list goes on. You’d think communication would get more attention, especially when organizations are expanding globally (or at least sending portions of their work overseas) and using more outside contractors and remote workers.

When i4cp surveyed organizations about internal communications, 53% of respondents admitted their companies don’t have an internal communication strategy. Among lower market performers, 60% reported no strategy. Respondents acknowledged they aren’t good at communicating with regional or international employees. Low-performers were particularly bad at it. They also don’t communicate effectively with remote workers and telecommuters. Frankly, it became apparent that most companies don’t think they communicate well with anyone below the senior leadership level.

Business leaders expend a lot of energy claiming that employees are their biggest asset, differentiator and competitive advantage. Really? That asset – often a company’s most expensive one – is being wasted. Failing to communicate with your workforce, yet expecting employees to perform well, makes as much sense as expecting to drive your car to work when you’ve removed the steering wheel.

People respond to a variety of motivating factors, but communication is one of the most basic. If you don’t tell me what you want, it’s likely I’m not going to deliver the performance you’d hoped for. If you don’t tell me what the company’s goals are, I can’t know how to contribute toward them. And I can’t be creative about how I work because I don’t know what we’re trying to accomplish. You get the idea.

If you’re serious about business results, you have to be serious about internal communication. Here are six ideas to help keep poor communication from killing your company’s performance:

    1. Create a strategy so you know what to communicate, when and how to do it so that important messages get to the right audiences and don’t get lost in TMI. Information overload is the biggest challenge to effective communication.
    2. Devise special strategies for communicating with remote workers and those in other regions or countries. Address cultural and language differences, access to computers and any other relevant concerns.
    3. Talk is cheap, but good communication needs resources – financial, people and technological. You invest in recruitment, compensation, training, rewards and other factors that support development and drive employee performance. Communication is another part of that package.
    4. As you work to hone managers’ competencies in talent management, include training in communication for this very important link in your organization’s chain of productivity and performance. Managers’ lack of communication skills is a major obstacle for more than one in four organizations.
    5. Don’t overlook accountability. What gets measured, gets done. Make communication goals an ongoing part of performance appraisals at every organizational level.
    6. Take it to the top. Senior leaders often need help with their communication skills, too. Their active participation in and support for internal communication efforts is crucial to communication (and performance) success.

Do you feel that communication in your organization is effective? Share your communication tips or any pitfalls to effective communication you’ve noted in your organization.

Carol Morrison
Carol Morrison is a Senior Research Analyst and Associate Editor with the Institute for Corporate Productivity (i4cp), specializing in workforce well-being research.