101 Series: Great Communication

Quite often I am asked to either implement or interpret an employee engagement survey.  I do not think there has been one organization whose engagement results I have reviewed that doesn’t have communication as one of its core issues to work on. The link with both job satisfaction and engagement is well researched and documented.

One of the issues with communication is that it means different things to different people. And of course, people hear, absorb and learn things in different ways. So there will be some people for whom reading an email is the best way to be communicated with, and others who have literally thousands of unread emails in their inbox. There will be some who love having an informal chat and others who need to know the detail.

We also know that in general, people need to hear (see, read) information seven times for that information to be properly absorbed and remembered.

In addition, given the overreliance that many organisations have on communication as their preferred (in some cases, only) aspect of change management; you can see how important it is to get it right.

Some tips to excellent communication:

  • Have multiple channels for communicating (not just email!);
  • Have a clear and consistent message that links with the vision and strategy of the business;
  • Make communication and interactive. Ask the employees what they want to know;
  • Make communication consistent and regular;
  • Make sure the management team is all “singing from the same hymn book”;
  • Don’t be random about it – spending time on a communication strategy that shows what, how and when you’ll communicate internally means you will really get “bang from your buck” from the time you invest; and
  • Finally .. (good) content is king…

 Some examples of different channels for communication could include :

  • Face to face (see below for some ideas)
  • Walk arounds (Manager visits every section every month or two to deliver a message but also to gather feedback)
  • Skype
  • Internal social media such as yammer
  • Pre recorded video (see www.lushtv.net for some great examples)
  • Text or voice mail messages from CEO or MD sent to all employees
  • Blogs or vlogs
  • Up to date and interesting intranet and internet
  • Technical discussion forum (where employees can post questions and contribute to answers)
  • Screensavers
  • Emails
  • Noticeboards and posters
  • Newsletters –emails and hard copy

Face to face: an approach

A few months ago on the blog, we focused on Gary Kerr who did some extraordinary things at ADI Munitions.  As part of that conversation, I asked Gary about his tips on communication.

He used a pyramid approach that builds the messages in different ways over a period of time. It’s an approach well suited to the manufacturing or logistics environment; but really it can be adapted to any environment or sector. Gary explains:

Daily: The team leader meets with the team for 5 minutes to cover the primary KRAs and yesterday’s performance. The tem quickly covers the results. The leaders shows appreciation and generates pride for good performance and shows NO blame for underperformance. The focus on what in our process lets us down so we can look for patterns and have the recurring issues fixed. Today’s tasks / assignments etc are issued.

Twice a week: Operations Manager, Production Manager, Supply Chain team member, Chief Engineer (and any other key members of the team) meets at each Team Notice board twice a week with the team leader  (or delegate) at a standard predetermined time for 7 minutes. Go over KRAs and ask what help they need and show appreciation for positive trends.

Monthly town hall: Operations Manager and the next level leader group members will discuss the direction and performance of the company, the facility and recognize high performance in teams or even individuals. This is a meeting not a speech (ie – it is two way not one way).. We invite questions and use the “rumour cards” to solicit sensitive or difficult questions. Eg “is there any truth to the rumour that…” “The thing I most want to know about is..” There would be multiple meetings to cover all areas and shifts. It is important to get to know everyone.

6 monthly company performance review: End of fiscal and end of calendar year. This usually lasts longer than the Monthly town hall and includes speakers from management and goes into greater detail than the town hall. This usually includes lunch (or a meal) and has the air of a celebration of what we have achieved.

The Communication Pyramid

What do you think? Where are there examples where you’ve seen excellent communication? What have been the hallmarks that have made it stand out?  What innovative examples have you seen that have made an impact?

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Tammy Tansley
I am a coffee loving, energetic human who loves words, bright colours and spots, silly t'shirts and good champagne. Mum to two beautiful mischiefs. Long time wanderer around the world. Author. Blogger. Speaker.
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