Good communication is the key to a healthy organization. The larger and more spread out your company is the more important a healthy communication culture becomes. Perversely, it also becomes increasingly difficult to maintain this healthy communication the larger you grow. For example, a small company with a handful of employees working in a shared office space has a much easier time keeping up good communication. When issues arise an employee can simply walk over to where the boss is sitting and get an answer to their question. Now this is not to say that communication problems and interpersonal conflicts can’t arise in a small office environment, they certainly can, but they are usually easier to spot and deal with. On the other hand, imagine an organization with hundreds or thousands of employees working in dozens of different locations across the country or around the world. Clearly, a situation such as this is going to require a much more concerted and coordinated effort to keep the channels of communication open.
Regardless of the size of your company a healthy communication flow should travel unimpeded in both directions. Directives, guidelines, and new projects or assignments flowing from the top of the organization will be balanced out by a steady flow of information from the front-line employees. Employees should feel comfortable taking things up the chain of command and they have a right to expect an answer, even if that answer is “no” or “not at this time”. Employees don’t get to dictate what the company does, but they do have a right to be heard and their opinions should be considered and taken into account. A healthy corporate culture will listen carefully to feedback from front line employees and will be prepared to make changes or even reverse course if a particular change is not working as planned. Ideas that sound great in the boardroom may not always translate as well to the shop floor. Similarly, when changes or new directions are announced the organizational leadership should include at least some reasoning or thought behind their decision-making process. Employees may not agree with it but they are more likely to understand and get behind the new effort if the rationale behind it is clear.
Communication strategies may vary based on the size of your company. Ideally, you would have face-to-face meetings with all the employees affected by a change and give them an opportunity to hear the explanation and ask questions. However, in bigger organizations, this is often not possible, and we are forced to rely on technological solutions such as email, video or teleconferencing, project drop boxes, and other mechanisms of mass communication. Whatever method you choose it is important to design your communication to the medium. In the case of an email, an explanation that is more detailed is going to be needed since your intended audience will lack clues from your nonverbal communication. If you are using a teleconference, the tone of your voice will be very important, and so on. Think carefully about the medium you are planning on using and change your delivery accordingly. Remember, a good two-way flow of communication will ultimately lead to happier and more productive employees and a more efficient operation.
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