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Organizational Communication Guide 2021

  2. Organizational communication used to be so simple. Back in the day, the whole workforce could comfortably fit in the board room for a meeting. And cross- team collaboration was easy when colleagues were just across the hall. Fast forward a few years, and it’s a different story. As your business has grown and expanded, so have your struggles with organizational communications. Distributed teams, remote working, multiple communication channels, and a global pandemic have complicated organizational communications. This practical guide is essential reading for anyone interested in organizational communication, including the following: • Start-ups want to get their organizational communications off to the best possible start. • SMEs with expanding employee numbers, working hybrid approaches in distributed teams. • Larger corporates looking to ensure their organizational communications are in line with best practices.
  3. WHAT’S INCLUDED IN THIS GUIDE  Definition  Why Organizational Communication is important  The benefits  The cost of poor organizational communication  Barriers to effectiveness  Different types  How to develop a plan  Selecting the right communications channels  How to measure the impact of your communications
  4. Organizational communication is a very broad term. And that’s one of the issues. Try googling ‘definition of organizational communication,’ and you will get many differing explanations. We prefer to keep it simple as follows: They are the lifeblood of every business. Simply put, without organizational communication, it would be impossible to get anything done. Within the broad category of organizational communications are several sub-categories. WHAT IS ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION? Organizational communication covers any interaction between employees or managers and can be multi-directional and multimedia.
  5. Formal Communications Sometimes called official communications, formal communications are how the business shares company-wide news and updates. It’s vital these important messages flow smoothly, accurately, and on time. Examples include the following: • Business updates • Crisis communications • Culture communications • Change communications • Information communications Informal Communications Informal communications are those casual conversations and interactions between staff. Spontaneous and quick, informal communications are unofficial but are critical to supporting strong relationships, team morale, and camaraderie. Examples include the following: • Water cooler conversations • Casual chats • Phone conversations Often included in this category are informal communications using official channels such as instant messaging apps or social intranets. FORMAL AND INFORMAL COMMUNICATION
  6. DIRECTIONAL ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Organizational communications take place on several levels: Downward Communications These are top-down messages and so are usually formal communications. Managers are responsible for disseminating communications from executives down to all levels of the business. Upward Communication This is when staff get the opportunity to communicate directly with managers and executives. Examples include employee suggestion programs, staff surveys, and focus groups on specific initiatives or issues. Horizontal Communications Also called peer-to-peer communication, this type of communication is between teams, groups, or individuals on the same level. Essential to cross-team collaboration, horizontal communication is often behind business innovation and ideation.
  7. CEO And Board Ultimately, the CEO and senior executives are responsible for ensuring effective organizational communications. This also involves identifying appropriate communication channels. Managers And Team Leaders Critical cogs in the communication wheel, managers are tasked with communicating up and down the company’s hierarchy. All Employees Every staff member has a responsibility to use their voice, provide feedback and collaborate with colleagues. As you can see, everyone has a role to play in organizational communications. DIRECTIONAL ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
  8. IMPORTANCE OF ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Organizational communication is the glue that binds the whole business together. And if you are in any doubt about the importance, these statistics make it crystal clear: According to Gartner, businesses with more informed employees outperform their peers by 77%. Research from McKinsey shows that productivity in organizations with connected employees improves by 25%. A study by ClearCompany suggests companies with effective communications are 50% more likely to have lower staff turnover. Holmes reports that the cost of poor communication to businesses is a whopping $37 billion.
  9. Company Culture Knowledge Transfer Improved Customer Satisfaction Employee Engagement Employee Productivity Increased Revenue Staff Recruitment And Retention Cross-team Collaboration BENEFITS OF ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION 01 02 03 04 05 06 07 08
  10. THE COST OF POOR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Various studies have tried to put a dollar figure on the cost of poor organizational communication. According to SHRM, this could be as much as $62.4 billion per year. And another study reports that 56 percent of project budgets are at risk because of poor communication. More difficult to put a figure on are some of the softer impacts of poor communications. Damaged relationships, misunderstandings, increased frustration, and a breakdown in trust are harder to quantify but have no less devastating consequences.
  11. BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Before you can begin to improve organizational communication, it’s vital to understand the barriers which may be getting in the way. They can be divided into three broad categories: PHYSICAL COMMUNICATION BARRIERS This category covers all physical barriers to communication. It could be closed office doors, geographically dispersed workplaces, remote working, and since Covid, social distancing rules. 01 LANGUAGE COMMUNICATION BARRIERS Multi-national companies may employ workers who speak different languages. These employees often also have different cultural experiences that impact communications. This category also covers tone, clarity, and the use of jargon in organizational communications. 02 EMOTIONAL COMMUNICATION BARRIERS A lack of trust, Disengagement, and even fear can impact the effectiveness of organizational communications. 03
  12. Remote Working The gig economy, more non-desk roles, tech advances, and the global pandemic have accelerated the shift towards remote working. Distributed teams encompassing freelancers, contractors, and employees often working inter- state or even in different countries have become standard. Distraction The constant ping of email notifications, instant messaging apps, and the lure of social media make it harder for staff to stay focused on what’s important. All that noise is simply overwhelming. Shrinking Attention Spans Our attention spans have decreased in response to information overload and our distracted lifestyles. According to Forbes, the average attention span is now just eight seconds, down from twelve seconds in 2000. Information Overload Information overload has worsened. In one recent UK survey, 47% of respondents agree that the number of information sources they check each day has increased in the last 5 years. And with potential information sources including email, newsfeeds, social media sites, company intranet, shared drives, plus many more, it’s no wonder workers feel swamped. Complexity Of Communication Channels Nowadays, the sheer number of channels makes it harder for employers to select the most appropriate channels to keep workers informed. And it becomes more challenging for staff to find the information they need. According to McKinsey, the average employee spends 20 percent of their time searching for internal information. BARRIERS TO EFFECTIVE ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
  13. DIFFERENT TYPES OF ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Here’s an overview of the types of messages businesses need to get across every day. Understanding the kind of message will influence choices on how best to deliver the message and what channels to use. General Business Updates Information Communications Change Communications Crisis Communications Culture Communications Keeping everyone informed of what’s going on is a primary focus of organizational communications. Usually top-down, it includes messages around company performance, industry news, product updates, or new services. Staff need a wide variety of information to get the job done safely and effectively. This includes policies and procedures, SOPs, product manuals, plus any new products or services. Effective and timely communications are needed to support change management. This type includes news about mergers and acquisitions, restructuring, staff movements, or new software. It also covers changes to the external operating environment, such as new rules or changes to legislation. The global pandemic is an excellent example of crisis communications in action. However, this category also includes natural disasters, police or fire incidents, plus cyberattacks and system outages. These messages reinforce company culture and shared values. It could be team- building events, employee recognition, corporate charitable initiatives, or even social activities.
  15. REVIEW YOUR CURRENT ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Starting with a blank canvas is always daunting. Start by reviewing where you are at. And make sure you involve employees in the review. After all, the success of your strategy depends on staff joining you on the communications journey. Use the following questions to guide your thinking: • What communications channels work well? • How do employees like to receive information? • Which channels prompt the most action from workers? • How are you engaging with distributed teams? 1
  16. KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE Even small businesses are made up of a diverse group of employees. These workers will be performing different roles in various teams, but they will also have individual communication preferences. Identifying your audience is a critical step to successful organizational communications. Today’s diverse and tech-savvy employees expect segmented, personalized, and most important of all, relevant communications. So, who are the internal audiences in your business? There are various ways you can break down your internal audience: • Full-time and part-time staff members • Remote workers • Freelancers and contractors • Non-desk employees (perhaps on-the-road sales personnel, field technicians, or manufacturing staff) • Multi-generations – Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials, etc. • Role-based audiences – admin, managers, sales staff, and so • Departmental workers – HR, marketing, finance, etc. Once you have identified your internal audiences, it’s time to think about their likes, dislikes, and communication styles. For example, digital natives like Millennials and Gen Zers are more likely to favor social communication platforms. Whereas Baby Boomers usually prefer face-to-face communications or traditional media like staff newsletters. Furthermore, non-desk staff will want mobile-friendly communications. And head office- based employees are likely to be using desktops for organizational communications. A better understanding of your audiences and their information needs will help you tailor your messaging. And it will help you to select the most appropriate communication channels. 2
  17. SET A BUDGET FOR YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Be clear from the start about what funds and resources are at your disposal. After all, organizational communications are a business- critical activity and deserve to be properly resourced. Plus, setting objectives and goals without knowing the financial parameters is tough. A clear budget helps you prioritize what’s achievable. 3
  18. Having an overarching objective for your plan provides a focus and framework. Whichever you choose, please keep it simple. It’s best two have one or two main objectives. Too many goals become unachievable and also dilute your primary purpose. Don’t forget that your priorities will change over time. Next year’s plan may well have an entirely different focus from this year’s one. When formulating complementary goals that feed into the overarching objective, be sure to use a planning tool to help. Some people find the SWOT (strengths, weaknesses, opportunities, and threats) analysis a helpful technique. Others prefer the 5 Ws and H (why, what, who, where, when, and how). Whatever technique you use, make sure your objectives are SMART: Always make a direct link with corporate goals and KPIs. Organizational communications should support your overall business goals. SET OBJECTIVES FOR YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION 4
  19. TEST OUT YOUR PLAN ON STAFF Before you finalize the organizational communications plan, test it out with a sample group of staff. This vital step will help you fine-tune the strategy and provides validation that you are on track. Ask workers to review the draft objectives and identified communication channels. Is the language accessible, and does it set the appropriate tone? Are the specified channels the right ones? Is it clear who is responsible for what and when? Does the plan address the ‘what’s in for me’ question in the minds of the workforce? Take the feedback on board and revise your organizational communications strategy accordingly to reflect the learning. 5
  20. The right communication channel depends on several factors. These include the audience, the type of message, your budget, and the urgency of the communication. In the following slides, we present you a run-through of some of the most popular channels:  Intranets For many businesses, company intranets are the number one medium for organizational communication. Cloud-based and mobile-friendly intranets are accessible to all staff regardless of location. However, the best thing about intranets is they offer several tools and features to support organizational communications. Under one virtual roof are all these great communications channels: • Personalized newsfeeds • Company blogs and vlogs • Instant messaging • Document sharing • Forums and collaboration project spaces • Employee profiles • Team or individual activity walls • Follow-me functionality HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT COMMUNICATIONS CHANNELS
  21.  Town Hall and Team Meetings Town hall or team meetings over video conferencing apps are still a popular option. Use them to bring all staff together to share company-wide or team news and celebrate success.  Webinars These online events are smaller versions of the town hall meeting and are a good platform for connecting with freelancers and contractors. Use them for team huddles, knowledge-sharing, and inviting feedback.  Email An oldie but still a mainstay in many businesses. Email allows you to reach large groups of people quickly. However, with email, there’s no room for interaction or feedback.  Staff Newsletters Nowadays, the staff newsletter is more likely to be an online version rather than a hard copy. Some companies are even incorporating video and podcasts to tell stories.  Instant Messaging (IM) IM apps and team chat provide real-time communication. Available as public or private chats and with familiar # channels, IM is instant, accessible, and user-friendly. It’s perfect for encouraging water cooler conversations among remote workers. And it also supports faster, more agile decision-making.  Employee Surveys Annual staff opinion surveys have been around for a long time. However, these days employers are using shorter snap polls and pulse surveys to invite feedback on specific issues. Employee surveys support two-way conversations between the workforce, managers, and executives.  Social Media Social media is a part of everyone’s daily lives. So, it’s no surprise that businesses are leveraging social media to connect with and inform employees. The likes of Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn are now also essential business communication tools. HOW TO SELECT THE RIGHT COMMUNICATIONS CHANNELS
  22. QUALITATIVE DATA QUANTITATIVE DATA Employee pulse surveys and focus groups are possibilities, especially when used to obtain feedback on a communications initiative. Another possibility is periodically analyzing employees’ feedback and comments on company blogs or the intranet’s newsfeed. Also, keep an eye on staff reviews on sites like Glassdoor or Indeed. And why not set up a dedicated #channel on IM so staff can share their insights and ideas. HOW TO MEASURE THE IMPACT OF YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION Devising a set of metrics will help you track progress, measure success over time, and will also help you demonstrate ROI. However, a mix of quantitative and qualitative measures is needed to help you build a comprehensive picture. Possibilities include statistics on reach – number of views, downloads, attendees, or click-through rates. Furthermore, monitor employee retention rates, staff turnover, and increased employee satisfaction, as demonstrated through employee surveys and snap polls.
  23. Just as important as monitoring progress is reviewing the plan to ensure it’s still fit for purpose while continuously improving. Organizational communications will evolve over time, and your priorities will change. Incorporate a high-level review at least annually to ensure your organizational communications are still hitting the mark. And it almost goes without saying, but don’t forget to keep the workforce informed of any changes. After all, organizational communications are the shared responsibility of every employee. MONITOR AND REVIEW YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATION
  24. Our final tip is to develop a company-wide communications calendar. Accountability and transparency are important in organizational communications. You should, of course, publish the entire document on your intranet and publicize it widely among the workforce. But few employees will read and digest a lengthy plan that may not be entirely relevant for them and their daily jobs. An organizational communication calendar is more accessible and allows staff to see at a glance what’s coming up and when. Showcase your internal communications initiatives alongside team or role-based events, launches, and webinars. DEVELOP A COMMUNICATIONS CALENDAR
  25. Use the steps in this ultimate guide to ensure your organizational communications are ready to meet the challenges ahead. MyHub’s cloud intranets support organizational communications in businesses worldwide in a wide variety of industries. Designed by the experts with the non-expert in mind, our super-easy intranet solutions can transform organizational communications in your business. Find out more with a free demo or no-obligation trial. TRANSFORM YOUR ORGANIZATIONAL COMMUNICATIONS