Effective Communication is the centrifugal force under which successful organisations predicate their good tidings and therefore a panacea to incessant organisational headaches, so goes the adage. Parkinson’s Law states that the vacuum created by failure to communicate will quickly be filled by rumours, misinterpretation, drivel and poison. If the truism that organisations are people and not the infrastructure is anything to go by, then suffice it to confirm that effective communication is the glue that electrovalently bonds an organisation together. It is the remedy to organisations’ numerous tests and challenges.
Communication scholars infer that poor communication is the number one cause of management failure. They say because employees are the organisation’s best/worst ambassadors, poor employee communication can lead to inexplicably soiled reputation for an organisation. The knee-jerk reaction to a soiled reputation can turn out to be too costly and can negatively impact an organisation’s bottom line.
Managements, therefore, have a responsibility to critically consider effective employee communication for the following six reasons; Envisaged changes in the composition of the workforce, Skills’ mix in employees, the need for increased quality and productivity, cut throat competition for attention in the market, image and reputation and business survival.
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A sound human resources policy that commits an organisation to providing regular work, enviable working conditions, fair compensation, opportunity for growth, recognition for excellence, appropriate supervision, opportunity for self-expression, fairness and desirable benefits to employees informs a sound foundation for productive employee relations. Such information should be coached to inform employees about company practices they (employees) have personal interest in. These may include working conditions, fringe benefits, new products, company financial position, wage negotiations, company expansionist policies, promotions as well as other welfare matters.
For an informed, well structured, factual and effective employee communication, an organisation needs to undertake a communication audit prior to communication roll out. The purpose of the audit is to ascertain the degree to which employees understood various issues in the company. The audit will reveal the existing gaps and therefore possibilities of devising appropriate mechanisms to fill the gaps. Similarly, to determine employees’ views of the organisation, regular opinion surveys vide structured questionnaires are inevitable.
A good and effective two-way communication between management and employees is based on the following principles; Genuineness, System, Clarity, Medium, Speed, Repetition and Quantity. Managements should find it easy sharing information with employees. They must recognise that communication is a major responsibility and that the total performance of the company is grounded on information flow. Communication must function as a well-oiled system with no bottlenecks. The information flow should be seamless. Like un-adulterated product, information to staff should be as clear as possible to avoid misinterpretation and or distortion. The sender (Management) should have the same meaning as the receiver (employee). Use of familiar words to the employees is paramount.
The preferred medium of communication should resonate well with the employees. Those entrusted with passing on the information should be experienced enough to communicate only the intended message. Communication to staff should be fast enough to stem possibilities of the grapevine. Information should also be timely and factual. When and if need arises, information should be repeated for proper understanding and internalisation. Information should be rolled out in manageable pieces. Information overload can occur whenever an organisation bombards staff with a litany of issues.
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Communication scholars infer the following as the major objectives of effective communication: To inculcate and foster the sense of unity and belongingness: To keep employees abreast of the company activities; To introduce some major changes in the company policy; To introduce new activities, product and benefits; For employee understanding of where the company is and headed; Communication audits have revealed that staff prefer receiving information vide the following avenues; Staff newsletter, small groups, supervisor, executive, employee handbook, induction, house journals, notice boards, reports, mass media, meetings and the grapevine.
Because not every information communicated can be music to staff, an organisation must decipher the kind of information to disseminate to staff lest it creates panic and despondency. Successful organisations go beyond the conventional communication channels to employ product exhibits, payroll-envelop inserts, audio visual videos and films, reading racks, management letters to staff as well as shop floors to communicate to their staff. For employee relations, the institutions use social events, management-employee meetings, inter and intra departmental consultation fora, service award sessions, employee visits among other personalised outreaches to effectively disseminate intended information to staff.
In today’s cut throat business world where meritocracy both in goods and service provision informs repeat business association, it is increasingly becoming evident that only organisations that will stand head and neck above others in effectively communicating with their employees and successfully transform their staff to their first line of defense and ambassadors, will successfully navigate the tempestuous sea of stiff competition. Those that twiddle their thumbs waiting for benevolent spirits to come and break for them the palm oil kernel will drown in the sea of forgetfulness.
Mr Onyonyi is a communication expert with vast experience in Media and Corporate Communications