You are only a few steps away from making your communication more effective and fulfilling. Estimated reading time: 4 min
According to the Gallup State of the Global Workplace report, 85% of employees are not engaged or are actively disengaged at work. The economic consequences of this global ‘norm’ are approximately USD 7 trillion in lost productivity. Eighteen percent are actively disengaged from their work and workplace, while 67% are ‘not engaged’. Poor leadership and communication are at the heart of this issue.
Now, we all know that communicating with others is an essential aspect of workplace culture. Regardless of a person’s precise job description, from c-suite executives to every other person in the organisation, we spend most of our time planning or writing messages, actively expressing ideas or listening and responding to others. But, despite the effort that goes into this significant activity, I often hear the following frustrations:
• Why don’t they get it?
• Why am I not seeing a change in behaviour?
Well, I like to recall what George Bernard Shaw, a writer and recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature in 1925, said:
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’
Productivity suffers when we don’t get our communication right.
We live in a time of exponential change and information overload – and yes, delivering a message once, using only one channel, will most likely not cut through the noise and have the desired effect.
Below, I want to share with you some concrete actions you can take today to make your communication more impactful – and be rewarded for it:
Step 1. Decide that communication is essential and practise telling your story!
Take the time to prepare and practise every day! Communication is a skill. Sure, a lot of people have a natural approach to communication. HOWEVER, even the biggest stars in any profession hone their skills! Even if you decide to ‘only’ send out a nicely polished email – people will refer to you in a face-to-face situation, or you will be asked to present in a meeting or town hall situation – working out what you want to say and practising telling the story in your own words beforehand is very important!
Step 2. Experiment!
This might sound scary, but it is ok to experiment with gestures, tone and words at home or use your smartphone/laptop camera – try it out and find your own authentic way of telling your story.
Step 3. Ask yourself: how is your audience feeling right now? Articulate your messages by first of all understanding what topics are on people’s minds at this very moment.
You need to know what else is happening in the organisation – what are the things people are worried about – and only then should you draft your messages. There is nothing worse than being hit on the receiving end by, for instance, messages with attractive visions when, in fact, things are in bad way at this point time and no one in the organisation shows any sign of acknowledging the fact. Ask yourself what you want people to understand, feel and act upon? Use this simple approach to help you shape your communication:
WHAT? – SO WHAT? – NOW WHAT?
Bear these three questions in mind especially in crisis situations, when things don’t run smoothly. Such circumstances require not only timely communication, but also the skills to anticipate how everyone in the organisation is feeling. Also, don’t forget to provide your colleagues with the necessary resources (e.g. communication tool kits) to help manage their important client/supplier relationships and reputation with customers, suppliers, family members and friends.
Step 4. Don’t aim for perfection. Especially management should be encouraged to tell their own stories in their own words. Often, it’s the ‘imperfect’ words that catch people’s attention.
Message alignment is essential – not only do we want to win people’s minds, we also want to win their hearts, which can only be achieved by telling your stories in your own words and by using conversational language, by asking questions and being authentic – all this will lead to engagement, and people will remember what you said.
Step 5. Challenge employees on the issues you are facing as an organisation – there is no us and them. Find ways to work on issues together.
We are one organisation, no matter what role or level in the company. It is our company, and issues are more complex than in the past. And while it is completely reasonable to bring in specialist consultants to work on solutions, I also want to encourage you to ask your colleagues to share their views and experience. Communicate complex problems in a transparent manner and ask for help to find a solution from inside.
Step 6. Be creative – choose an appealing layout
Did you know that we retain 65% more information if it’s paired with visuals than if we merely read or hear text on its own?
Therefore, invest in your communication with your team members as you would in the communication with your investors, clients and other ‘external’ stakeholders. While focusing on the tone and style of your communication is important, you also need to look at the format and channels you use. Make your messages appealing – don’t simply settle for a PowerPoint slide deck or email when it comes to your communication. Invest resources in simplifying complex topics, and use designers, new technology and social media to make your messages stick and create a dialogue!
In summary: Look after your communication culture as you would look after your child – the same applies to social media and online application channels!
Let me reiterate that we should all be respectful of other people’s opinions, respond quickly and in a professional tone. We should also be mindful of other people’s circumstances – especially as regards our social media channels or when recruiting through online platforms. There is nothing worse than not following up on a question, leaving issues unresolved or receiving a standardised response. So, ensure you respond quickly, make your messages personal, ‘like’ other messages, applaud and comment! You need to build that relationship. It’s worth bearing in mind: if you are not responsive and respectful, you will lose the connection and trust – with your colleagues and potential candidates and customers!
And last but definitely not least – learn and grow with your organisation!
People and organisations are not static – they learn and grow. So, remain flexible in your communication strategy: if your communication is not having the desired effect, adapt it and move on quickly!
Also, there is no right way to communicate – it is your personal way. Apply kindness and patience and you will be rewarded for your efforts.
‘What gets measured, gets managed.’
(Management guru Peter Drucker)
But what about the real personal reward?
Of course, I use sophisticated measurements to understand the impact of communication efforts, to learn and to become better. However, the real and personal reward in internal communication definitely comes from seeing your colleagues’ energy, their willingness to help and go the extra mile, recommending your company to other candidates, talking in positive terms and being ambassadors for your company.
So, are you ready to be rewarded for your efforts? Also, feel free to share your scary but rewarding story with the community.
Rupal Purohit Ulrich is the founder of RPU Communication Concepts GmbH, an independent employee communication consulting company based in Zurich, Switzerland. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org
More blogs by Rupal
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SIT BACK, RELAX AND LET IT HAPPEN – A guide on how to organise successful townhall meetings.
SHARING IS CARING! Enabling real problem solving and first-hand experience sharing - with Employee Communication leading the way.
DO YOU HAVE A MOMENT? My story on human communication