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IC Matters

Employee Comms

What is Organizational Communication?

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 — December 23rd, 2019

What is Organizational Communication?

Organizational communication is formal and informal communication throughout an organization, including communication among employees and employee-manager communication.

Open communication across an organization ensures all employees, from senior management to entry-level staff, are aligned with the company’s goals and culture, as well as how it presents itself to its customers and clients.

Communication within an organization takes many forms: from oral communication and written communication to communicating through email/intranet/IM/business networks and even body language.

The Changing Role of Internal Communications in Corporate Communications

Some of the main purposes of organizational communication include:

  • Creating a positive employee experience
  • Helping employees understand the terms and conditions of their employment
  • Encouraging employees’ to share their voices
  • Helping to decrease the chances for misunderstandings
  • Improving cross-departmental communication and collaboration
  • Helping employees align with the company’s mission, vision, and core values
  • Driving higher employee engagement
  • Making it easy for employees to find important and relevant information whenever they need it
  • Streamlining the flow of information within the organization
  • Improving employee productivity
  • Building better relationships between employees

Examples of organizational communication

Informal Communication

Informal communication is the free-flowing and spontaneous spread of information throughout the workplace. This type of communication takes place between employees one-on-one or in small groups. It can also involve quick interactions between employees and customers or shareholders.

The downside of informal communication is that it can be inaccurate and misinterpreted because it is not carried out in a professional manner. However, many organizations favor informal communication over formal communication because it allows employees to be more creative and self-motivated.

Formal Communication

Unlike informal communication, formal communication moves at a slower pace and generally has a specific organizational structure and a carefully crafted message.

Formal company news that is for customers may be sent through an official press release. Formal communication involving employees may be sent through a memo or be conveyed through meetings.

Downward Communication

Basic forms of organizational business communication are also directional and this means that information can flow downwards from managers and supervisors to front-line employees. This kind of communication often involves instructions or tasks that employees must complete. It can also include organizational policy or performance appraisals.

While most downward communication comes in written form, such as emails, memos, and policy guidelines, it is also verbal, such as through meetings and phone calls.

Upward Communication

The parallel of downward communication is upward communication, in which messages flow from lower-level employees to supervisors. This type of communication can include plans or materials that employees need to show their superiors.

Upward communication also means that workers can give feedback and proposals to their managers. This information provides upper management with insight and data that is used to make important company decisions.

Horizontal Communication

Another way communication flows throughout a business is horizontal. This means the interaction is taking place between employees and co-workers who are on the same professional level. They can be in the same department or in other areas of the company.

Similar to informal types of communication, horizontal communication is often casual and quick and is generally verbal as opposed to written.

Strategies for improving organizational communication

Keep it Real

When delivering a message, organizations should be as truthful and transparent as possible with employees. The more information workers have the more equipped they are to handle tasks. If there are some details that cannot be shared due to confidentiality, businesses should be honest and open with employees about this. Even if they don’t have all the pieces of the puzzle, employees will appreciate the honesty and likely be more supportive and, as a result, more engaged and productive.

Be Timely

It is important for companies to work quickly to deliver new messages to staff. If the message doesn’t come from the company directly, people will fill in the information gaps with rumors and assumptions, which will result in low morale, wariness, and a lack of motivation. This is why it is vital for companies to share as much as they can as often as they can.

Focus on Consistency

When communicating ideas with employees, organizations must ensure the message being delivered aligns with the company’s mission, vision and values. Sharing the “why” behind a decision or change in direction aids in employees understanding the reason behind the decision. This builds trust and a strong team mentality.

Tailor the Message

A message to employees should be meaningful and ensure they understand the value and importance of their role within the company. This will create a sense of purpose that motivates employees to get clear about their contribution to an organization’s goals and targets. Employees who feel like they belong to something bigger than themselves will become a business’s greatest asset.

Reinforce the Message

Sometimes hearing a message once is not enough for it to completely register with employees. Each worker learns and processes information uniquely, so it’s critical that leaders communicate using diverse channels. Company meetings and email may be more appropriate for delivering formal messages, while small meetings, social media, and messaging platforms, and a company’s intranet can provide an informal forum for strengthening interaction.

Encourage Feedback

Another way of utilizing the channels used for communication is to set them up to encourage feedback from staff members. It’s important that employees feel comfortable sharing their questions and concerns. Encouraging employee response and listening to what employees have to say, sends an important message that their opinions matter.

Empower Managers

Middle managers should always be kept in the loop as they are the voice of an organization and deliver messages between upper management and employees. By leaders empowering them with information and effective communication strategies, they will be better equipped to deliver consistent messages to their teams and provide answers to any questions that may come up.

The Changing Role of Internal Communications in Corporate Communications

Why is Organizational Communication Important?

A key component of any company’s success is both its internal and external communications. The business comprises continuous interactions with multiple parties that include managers, employees, and customers. Effective communication ensures the flowing of information between all relevant parties, reducing the potential for misunderstanding, dissatisfaction, and lack of trust.

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