“We treat employees as units of productivity, workers to do our bidding. We interact with people but don’t form relationships. Unsurprisingly when we treat people this way they do not feel empowered or motivated.” – Be Understood or be Overlooked, Mastering Communication at Workplace1
The belief that one needs to have a different professional self, and thus change the way s/he communicates, is deeply engrossed in almost everyone currently employed. This has led to the self-formed communication patterns in a workplace that are, in many cases, orthodox.
People in position of power, without realizing often times send subtle cues of their strength and this can lead for their employees to repress their opinions. This notion of unsaid, and often unsettling norms of communication within an organisation are prevalent and have now ingrained themselves quite deeply in organisational society. Thus, it is important for companies to notice if the currently followed patterns are negatively affecting the company culture. If yes, then measures need to be taken to encourage a healthier style of communication.
How Does Your Company Communicate?
The nature of communication is dependent on the organisational culture and the culture itself is dependent on how the organization communicates. However, seldom do companies realize what communication patterns are within the organization and how are they getting affected by them. So how do companies get affected because of the communicational patterns they practice?
Do employees have the freedom to talk?
Various management concepts such as job satisfaction, organisational performance, and decision making processes are valued by employees. When it comes to the satisfaction of employees in these factors, open communication plays a vital role (Rogers, 1987) 2. Speaking up cultures exist when employees feel a sense of freedom to talk about their negative along with positive opinions. This way of communication also demands not to engage in discriminatory practices; all opinions, and from every direction are welcomed.
Harvard Business Review conducted a number of studies where they found increased retention and stronger performance was positively correlated with how much liberty employees were given to voice their concerns. Moreover, companies whose employees spoke up more often had better financial and operational results. At a national restaurant chain, when managers were able to persuade their leaders to create a speaking up culture the employee attrition was reduced by 32% which saved $1.6 million a year, at least3.
Do employees feel that their opinions are being valued?
Declaring open communication is only a stepping stone. However, making sure of its implementation requires consistent efforts. Thus, for employees to open up, companies truly need to listen, and respect views coming from their employees. Companies should contemplate upon things their employees have said. It entails taking in negative reviews and acting wisely and reasonably, instead of getting defensive.
However, as senior leaders encourage employees to speak up, they should also focus on and work towards training their middle managers on how to respond to their employees’ opinions and thoughts. Companies should encourage their employees and their managers to communicate candidly without the fear of repercussions.
Harvard Business Review did a research in eleven growth markets in 2015 and unleashed six behaviours4: 1) ask questions, and listen carefully; 2) facilitate constructive argument; 3) give actionable feedback; 4) take advice from the team and act on it; 5) share credit for team success; and 6) maintain regular contact with team members. According to the research, people spoke up more when leaders behaved in a way consistent to minimum of three of these attributes. Moreover, this further helps in collaboration among diverse team members.
Do employees know about the major events that take place in the organisation?
Today, employers have started involving employees by asking for their input on how to improve, substituting the previous ways of action where employees were told what to do. The benefits of this approach includes high quality and diverse options and strategies, newer directions, greater organizational opinions in an agile manner, and ultimately, better organisational performance.
BetterWorks recently did a survey with Wakefield Research, and the results revealed a strong correlation between ‘transparency’ and ‘worker productivity’. The belief that company leadership is not completely transparent about its goals is shared by 64% of the employees and 37% of respondents believe if there is an increase in visibility and transparency, their performance will improve. About 92% of the employees said their hard work would improve if they could see their goals5. Clearly, employees in an organisation are interested in transparency when it comes to relevant organisation information. Engaged employees commit themselves to their company and thus, care about how it is doing.
Figuring out and implementing effective communication patterns
It is not possible for every company to have, in practice, a similar communication pattern. To figure this out, companies need to invest effort in finding out what suits their organisation best. Otherwise, absence of proper communication patterns could add to the company’s costs which could be as much as $7000 a day6. These costs could be in a way of bad decisions occurring out of assumptions and unreliable data. Undoubtedly words are powerful, hence, the kind of communication that is incumbent in a company becomes very important. A good communication pattern can enhance the company to a great extent by building stronger relationships and better trust with their audience.
While working on communication, companies should keep in mind what values it holds and how their internal way of communication is going to help them achieve the company vision. Eventually, it comes down to creating a company people want to join, and work hard for. Mainly, an effective communication pattern, as discussed above, helps in ensuring better employee productivity and a more satisfied culture which adds to the overall company successes.
- Andrewartha, G. (2002). Be Understood or Be Overlooked – mastering communication in the workplace. Australia. Allen & Unwin.