We’ve been talking about what it means when an organization says ‘We value our people” (and they almost all say this). We’ve discussed why it means different things to employers and employees and how to recruit for culture versus just skills. Another thing I have found in every organization I’ve worked with or in is that they have identified ‘communication’ as an issue. Because this is so endemic, I thought it useful to unpack this.
When ‘Communication’ is identified as an issue, it is because a pain point is being triggered. Employers and employees have different pain point around the topic of communication, but the pain points usually center around:
Delivery: The person communicating is perceived as rude, abrasive or untrustworthy
Frequency: The communication doesn’t happen often enough, so people feel uninformed
Promptness: It is taking too long to receive a response to your request for communication
Content: There is not clarity about instructions, roles, responsibilities or expectations
Everyone has different thresholds about what is acceptable in terms of delivery, frequency, promptness and content. If your needs are being met, you think there is good communication. If your needs are not being met, you will not. It is not possible to satisfy everyone based on this. The answer is not simply to push more ‘information’ throughout the company. So what is the answer?
Again, it lies in expectations. Unmet expectations always result in frustration, so it is critical for leadership to develop a communication protocol. Decide for your organization what your protocol will be for the four factors. Be realistic but optimistic when developing this. Hopefully, your goal is to create as pleasant and functional a culture as possible, so you want to make sure you are creating standards that will result in efficiency and positivity. On the other hand, you also want to be practical and create something that will work based on you as well as the industry you are in.
Let’s take an example. You have identified that delivery is an issue. You are in a fast paced environment where attention to detail is paramount and it has been communicated that employees find some leaders ‘abrasive’. You do not want rude or abrasive communication from your leaders, but you also know that you are not going to get particularly ‘warm and fuzzy’ on a regular basis. You can set an expectation that communication will be direct and succinct, and also work with leaders on adding more warmth.
Go through each factor and develop your communication strategy, then COMMUNICATE IT.
Your communication strategy needs to be communicated to new and existing employees often. And it goes without saying that leaders in the organization must model this, adhere to it and live it. What will happen is that you will define your culture through this process. This does not mean you will retain every employee. Those for whom your communication philosophy is unacceptable will not stay. That’s okay because you will attract people for whom this is the perfect environment and at the end of the day that’s what it’s all about.