Few people would question the value of good communication in a business setting. However, espousing good communication isn't the same as creating an environment where communication happens naturally. Communication is deeply intertwined in an organization's culture, which is why it's crucial to keep good communication practices at the center of your business, no matter what industry you're in.
A common misconception in the business environment is that communication only flows in one direction: from management down to employees. Instead—as in any relationship—communication should be a two-way street, with employees empowered to give feedback and influence outcomes. Particularly in today's hyperconnected, always-on environment, multidirectional communication is more than advisable; it's expected.
The advice given by management experts is pretty straightforward and follows common sense. It includes things like employee "engagement," participation, and what I’d simply refer to as normal human interaction. There are unseen returns on the investment made in employees. Their collective skill set, irrespective of relevance or whether it appears on a resume, can be utilized to help grow a business. Instead of making employees “think” they are an important part of a business, the quality of communication can be improved when managers actively acknowledge the value of employees—especially if he or she believes that they were carefully selected in a well-organized recruitment process.
Too much communication can be just as challenging as not enough communication, particularly in the age of information overload. To manage the firehose of internal communications, define the office culture you want. Maybe that means no meetings during certain hours, or reserving email for essential communications and asking employees to call each other (or walk down the hall) for all nonessential questions. Either way, consistent engagement between management and employees is crucial.
Overlap between internal and external communications presents its own set of variables, including customer service, product support, and project management. The way you communicate with customers isn’t necessarily the way you'd communicate with coworkers, and trying to control that overlap can lead to communications that are fragmented and ineffective. Relying on your employees to make complex decisions in a three-way conversation involving coworkers and customers calls for trust and universal respect. It doesn’t hurt to convey those sentiments by investing in employee training programs in addition to constant reinforcement and engagement.
Megan Ritter is an online business journalist with a background in media marketing. In addition to covering start-ups and the importance of managing business communications, her writing also covers business technology, the impact of globalization, and unified communications. Follow her on Twitter today!