I’ve lost count of the number of times I’ve heard my clients’ people say “communication in our company isn’t very good”. Now they may well mean what they say, but when I probe and ask for a bit more detail and nuance, it’s often lacking.
Moaning about poor communication is sometimes the easy way out. It covers a multitude of sins (or it least that’s the perception).
In a recent survey, effective communication is the #1 expectation employees have of employers in their organization. However, only 42% of surveyed employees admit that their company has good overall communication.
And of course “communication” means many, many different things.
Let me explain.
- John raises the fact that he didn’t know the team were going our for drinks after work tomorrow night. “Nobody told me. Communication round here is rubbish.”
- Jenny complains that she doesn’t understand how the benefits scheme works within the business. “No-one has explained it to me. Communication stinks here”
- Jack just wants to hear some more information about how the business is performing in the market. He went to the recent presentation but felt the slides didn’t tell the full story and there were bits missing. “They are so secretive, communication here isn’t transparent.”
- Jill in Marketing has only recently learnt that Dave in the Finance team has left. “Surely that’s something they should be telling us. It’s important for my job to know who I am dealing with now that Dave has gone. Communication isn’t very well structured here.”
There are endless examples of this kind of comment.
One by one, these are clearly demonstrating the following gaps.
- Maybe John didn’t come along to the weekly team meeting and missed the information about the after-work drinks.
- Maybe Jenny isn’t very good at using the company intranet / portal and can’t work out where to find the information she wants. It’s there, but it’s invisible to her.
- Maybe Jack didn’t get a good enough understanding from the slides because it’s not his strong skillset or there were levels of detail in the information he just didn’t see. Or perhaps the company chose NOT to share the deeper detail of the performance data for a very specific reason.
- Maybe Jill chose not to read the email which contained the information about Dave’s departure because the company always sends around a fortnightly ‘people changes’ message and it’s never high priority because it’s always about people you don’t actually know.
It’s slightly ironic that when people have a gripe to air about communication, that they aren’t very good at communicating exactly what they mean by that. And some of those complaints could be easily resolved by them taking more ownership of the issue.
Internal communications teams work super-hard to share information with the business. They have to make a choice about what to share, how best to share it and when is best to share it. And even when that’s all done and dusted, there’s no guarantee that staff will take the time to consume the information.
And whose fault is that?
The company’s of course.
Because communication in our business is awful.
Rich Lambert is the founder of Morale Solutions Ltd. He specialises in helping professional services firms create brilliant workplaces through bespoke research and data-driven strategies.