7 Steps to Improving Organizational Communication

Employees stack their hands for a team cheer.The time and effort that companies spend on internal communication is an investment in the company’s health. When internal communication is strong, employees see themselves as being engaged in the decision-making process. Furthermore, they believe their opinions matter and their efforts are appreciated. Strong and consistent messaging keeps everyone focused on the mission and dedicated to the company’s strategic vision.

Clear communication can also minimize ambiguities and confusion about a company’s approach to reaching goals, which can lead to more efficient strategic and operational execution. Conversely, poor organizational communication can foster a culture of distrust, which can lead to issues such as limited employee engagement and poor morale. It can also have ramifications outside an organization, such as poor customer interaction.

For business leaders with a Master of Business Administration (MBA) degree, identifying and improving organizational communication is paramount to an organization’s success. Doing so requires an ability to apply leadership skills in strategic ways, enabling a dynamic management approach that can be adjusted to meet the needs of a given situation.

Communication in Organizations

Communication within an organization doesn’t simply equate to dialogue. It encompasses the exchange of ideas, a confirmation of strategies, and a conduit for business functionality. Practically every aspect of a company’s operation requires strong communication to thrive, from product and project development to employee management and customer relations.

The purpose of organizational communication is to establish clear pathways toward accomplishing growth and strategies for stability. This is a layered process involving numerous parts within an organization. For instance, when a company’s C-suite establishes an organizational goal, they must communicate clear expectations to those in other leadership and management roles, who in turn must relay these expectations to their teams with equal clarity. A break in this chain can cause strategic disruption.

Positive communication can also help keep an organization focused on meeting an individual’s needs, or on providing positive and constructive feedback. This can establish a foundation for strong relationships. Building a strong network of communication can also make the exchange of ideas flow with greater efficiency and make it easier for teams to work as cohesive units.

Organizational Communication Strategies

Great communication is a balancing act, even for the most sophisticated companies. Too much communication feels overbearing; too little, and the company seems disjointed. Too much sharing and honesty may decrease morale during troubling times, but glossing over the reality of a difficult situation is disingenuous. Companies that wish to strengthen their internal communication would do well to apply the following seven strategies.

1. Choose the Right Medium

Not every medium is appropriate for every type of communication. Posters and signs in the break room are a good reminder about company picnics, but may not be the most appropriate vehicle to discuss ways to improve customer service. A good medium captures the eyes and hearts of employees in delivering its message.

2. Include Interactivity

The proper messaging medium should always be coupled with appropriate ways for employees to engage with and comment on the messages. Effective communication moves in both directions, from management to staff and vice versa. Communication that does not allow interactivity or comment from staff members feels more like an edict or command, rather than an attempt at authenticity.

Discussion boards and online forums are becoming an increasingly popular way for employees to interact with internal communications. Rather than seeing their inboxes flooded with messages, employees can log into the forums and interact only with the messages that apply to their jobs.

Video conferencing is also an important component of this strategy, particularly as more companies develop remote and work-from-home strategies. Routine engagement with a remote workforce via video can help foster a sense of inclusion, which can boost morale and productivity.

3. Communicate with a Purpose

The best internal communication is succinct and addresses a single issue. Communicating in this way accomplishes key goals. First, it occurs regularly, rather than in one giant message each month or quarter. Second, employees are far more likely to read and retain a short message than a four-page email. Finally, managers may be forced to re-evaluate the effectiveness of their chosen medium and consider a change, for example, from an email to a staff meeting or training session.

4. Eliminate Generalizations and Drive-by Accusations

Nothing makes an employee more defensive than an unfair attack against his or her job performance. Sometimes, internal communication may include snide remarks or jabs at employees or departments. If there is a problem with performance, managers should address the issue one-on-one, in private, not in a public forum like a company-wide or departmental email. Getting rid of unfair generalizations and comments about performance makes employees more receptive to the message because they are not immediately on the defensive.

5. Plan First

The worst meetings are those where it is clear the meeting organizer has no plan; they simply ramble on until they finish talking, and most of the topics get lost in a disorganized mess. Meetings, and even written communication, require planning and forethought. There must be a clear progression of ideas, one leading seamlessly into another, so attendees feel a sense of purpose during the communication session, whether it be in a meeting, email, or newsletter.

6. Dedicate Time

Whether the communication occurs in a formal meeting or happens informally through an email, employees need time to process the information and ask questions. If a meeting agenda is so full there is not adequate time for discussion, the meeting organizer should reassess the situation. Topics should be reevaluated, and shorter, more frequent meetings should be scheduled. In an online forum or discussion post, management should check the thread periodically for several days so that slow responders have a chance for their voices to be heard.

7. Follow Up

Most internal communication suffers from a lack of follow up. Management sends out a message or holds a meeting, then never addresses whether discussed items have been implemented, if there have been improvements in performance metrics, etc. Communication must be ongoing to be effective in the long term.

Effective internal communication establishes company-wide buy-in from employees and ensures everyone on staff is working toward the same goals. These seven steps to improving internal communication can help facilitate more open and honest discussions between management and staff.

Sharpen Your Organizational Communication Skills with an MBA

Improving organizational communication can help encourage business efficiency, boost morale and productivity, and make it easier for a company to meet its goals. But effective communication doesn’t occur magically: It takes strong leaders with advanced communication skills to lead by example. Those with the right skills can be instrumental in building a solid culture of communication within a company.

Ohio University’s Online Master of Business Administration degree can help equip you with the skills to be a leader who can leverage the power of clear communication. Our curriculum is designed with enough flexibility to fit your lifestyle, so you can develop the expertise to make a positive impact in an organization on your terms.

Learn how we can help you tap into future business career opportunities.

Recommended Readings

How to Navigate International Cultural Differences in Business

How to Lead by Example and Its Impact on Organizations

What Is the Value of Teamwork?

Sources:

Houston Chronicle, “How Effective Communication Will Help and Organization”

Marketing91, “What Is Organizational Communication? And Why It is Important”

The Predictive Index, “Five Steps to Improving Organizational Communication”

Society for Human Resource Management, “Managing Organizational Communication”