I'm no keen gardener, but I know that mushrooms like to be kept in dark, damp conditions. If they get too much sunlight or are allowed to dry out, then they simply don't grow.
People, on the other hand, don't grow that well when they are kept in the dark, so why do many organisations do just that when it comes to their people.
I've worked with many organisations who don't communicate all that well with their people, keeping them in the dark. If people don't know what's going in the organisation, they find it hard to grow or perform.
So, why do they get it so badly wrong, and what can organisations do to improve?
No Communication Strategy
Some organisations haven't sat down and thought about why, what, when, who and how they will communicate. If this is the case, communication comes very last minute, and people are expected to react. A lot of head-scratching goes on when things are not changing as quickly as they thought it would and worse still productivity drops.
The organisation should have a clear strategy of communication that includes:
Why - Why they should communicate to their staff? The answer to this question should be straight forward.
What - What will they communicate? This should include things such as up and coming changes, vision, targets, goals, objectives, success stories; lessons learnt and pretty much everything else people need to feel bought into the organisation.
When - When will they communicate? Once the messages that need to go out are defined, when will they communicate it. For example, communicating a change on the day it happens isn't going to work. This should be planned in well in advance and, in stages leading up to an event. If it's goals and objectives etc., again this communicated in advance to people have to time to think about how they will achieve what's expected.
Who - Who needs to receive the messages from the 'what' question above? - Does everyone need to hear the message or just a small group of people? It should be defined which messages go to who and what level of detail.
How - How will those messages be delivered? Identify all of the communication channels available and pick the one best suited for the message and the audience. For example, if a detailed amount of information needs to go to a specific group then face to face may be better, but if a brief update needs to go to another, then a newsletter or briefing document would be suitable.
Heavy Reliance on One Method
In this digital age, we tend to rely heavily on email, simply because it's quick and easy. But, email isn't always the best method of getting a message across.
By identifying all of the channels available to the business, they can then work out the best method to get a message across. Talking to people is time-consuming, but so is fixing problems when things are miscommunicated by email.
This is where the management team pass messages down the hierarchy of the business and expect people to act. But, those people in that structure have a voice and actually may have some good ideas.
People working on the ground have the best view of the ground and will know what the issues are. A good communication strategy will include a process of two-way communication where people on the ground can feed back up the hierarchy so their ideas are heard and if warranted acted upon.
It can be extremely frustrating and de-motivational if people have ideas, but there is no forum or process for them do be listened to.
So, the challenge for organisations is simple - don't grow flowers that need to be out in the open to prosper as you would mushrooms.
Revolution Learning and Development Ltd
If you would like to know more about building an effective communication strategy or communicating more effectively with people, we run a communication skills workshop that covers all of the above points. See the Communication Skills Overview for more