Since I launched my blog and my first business in early 2009, I have written countless posts and articles, and talks, about workplace conflict, organizational effectiveness, leadership, and so forth. It’s been an interesting learning experience for me during my two-decade-long career as an HR Leader, particularly when it comes to the specific things organizations can do to improve employee engagement, employee productivity, operational effectiveness and team cohesiveness, customer service and so forth.
Within each one of our organizations and the complexities that exist within each, everything connects to one thing. That thing is “communication“. Communication means different things to different people, and the methods in which we communicate are as varied as they’ve ever been before, thanks to technology and our global workforce. If you ignore the communication channels (e.g. technology) for a second and only focus on why communication is so critical to all aspects of a successful organization you will realize that the root of what causes problems within organizations has nothing to do with the channels themselves, and everything to do with the emotional influences that communication impacts. Simplifying this statement, while it does matter what channels you use to communicate, people care more about things like the frequency of communication, transparency, clarity, feeling of connection to organizational mission, vision and purpose, and feelings of team cohesiveness and “safe to be oneself at work”. This feeling of safety is also called “psychologically safe” and it really matters.
So long as you satisfy these principles that tap into the emotions of your employees the channels you use to communicate on a day-to-day basis will become effective. More employees are working remotely and in teams with colleagues who do not sit together under one roof. The changing dynamics of our workplace is putting more pressure on what and how we communicate, ensuring all employees feel included and able to participate in necessary conversations.
The moral of the story is that no piece of technology alone will solve your organizational communication challenges. As communication is a real problem in every single organization, it starts with the principles of communication and tapping into the emotional core of each employee. Once you understand this and fix this problem you can then focus on how you go about communicating. And by the way, technology is where it’s at if you want to maximize your ability to communicate across organizations — cross-functions, demographic disparity and employee demographic group differences.
If you have access to employee engagement data you will likely find that the areas of opportunity funnel down to communication. If you do focus groups or engage in conversations with employees you will likely realize this fact. At the end of the day, employees today just want to be heard, have the opportunity to engage in two-way dialogue about the business, communicate across business functions (i.e. squash silos), feel connected to the broader purpose of the business and understand why critical decisions are made and how they will impact them operationally.