The importance of communication in an organization
Communication is the cornerstone of any organization’s success; business comprises of continuous interactions with multiple parties – managers, employees and clients. Effective communication ensures the flowing of information between all relevant parties, reducing the potential for misunderstanding, dissatisfaction and lack of trust.
Communication within an organization takes many forms: from oral communication and written communication to communicate through email/intranet/IM/business networks and even body language, which can be so important in today’s increasingly multi-cultural workplace. And so, the way in which an organization communicates needs to be consistent and clear across multiple channels.
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Good managers possess good communication skills
Crucially, good communication needs to come from the top down. The way a manager communicates with direct employees is generally regarded as an indicator of how an organization communicates with its workforce. As described by Bisel (2012), “the supervisor-subordinate relationship is a microcosm of the organizational universe…when supervisors communicate with subordinates their interactions are an observable manifestation of an organization in action.”
An interesting survey of 46 CEOs/ Senior Leaders in the UK by the Marketing Society (2013), revealed what they considered essential leadership skills for senior management:
- Giving a clear sense of direction
- Bringing the customer into the boardroom
- Communicating clearly – both inside and out
- Being flexible but not floppy
- Taking risks but not ‘betting’ the company
- Building the team around you
- Listening with humility, acting with courage
- Earning your reward through building trust
What’s worth noting is that communication is, without a doubt, a basic function of management. Over 90% of personnel officials at 500 US businesses said increased communication skills are needed for success in the 21st century. This is supported by the list above where we can see that all of the named skills are in some way communication related and some, for example, number 3, are wholly focused on communication.
Create a culture where communication flourishes
“A crucial, but often overlooked function of leadership is creating a culture in which effective communication can flourish,” said Greg Satell in a Harvard Business Review article citing an incident at Google where a certain style of communication is understood because it is ingrained in the specific culture of the organization.
In this instance, “THESE ADS SUCK” could have been seen as a dressing down to Google AdWords specialists by Larry Page, however, because of the culture that had been created at Google it was instead seen as a call to action to technical engineers to use their skills to fix the problem.
What we can extrapolate from this example is that an organization’s communication style is a natural extension of its culture. An open, transparent culture will naturally have an open approach to communication.
Reap the benefits of effective organizational communication
Research has consistently shown that effective communication has a significantly positive effect on an organization. Among its established benefits are:
- increased productivity
- higher quality of services and products
- greater levels of trust and commitment
- increased employee engagement and higher levels of creativity
- greater employee job satisfaction and morale of employees
- better workplace relationships
- greater acceptance of change
- decreased absenteeism
- reduced staff turnover
- less industrial unrest
- reduced costs
Broadly speaking, consistent and open communication across an organization ensures all employees, from senior management to entry-level staff, understand the company’s goals and culture, as well as how it presents itself to its customers and clients. In this open environment, feedback is encouraged and sought out, either through face-to-face meetings or regular surveys.
A Business Outlook study revealed that US workers send and receive an average of 1,798 messages each day via telephone, email, faxes, papers, and face-to-face communications, while a number of industry experts estimate that the average business executive spends three-quarters of their day engaged in oral or written communication. What we’re seeing is that the need for good communication isn’t exclusive to one or two sectors, it’s vital at every level of every role, in every organization.