One of the most common complaints you’ll hear in any struggling organisation is that it has a communication problem. All too often, however, these complaints mask much bigger, unresolved issues.
Before taking a look at what some of those issues might be, it’s worth examining why employees so frequently cite communication as an issue of concern.
When people take aim at the communication in an organisation, it’s usually as a result of one of two scenarios. In the first scenario, something has gone badly wrong and communication (in a “the left hand doesn’t know what the right is doing” sense) is blamed.
The other time communication comes up as a major organisational issue is during a company-wide survey.
As Art Markman points out in an HBR article, both scenarios are down to the way people’s brains work.
Most of us know whether we work for an organisation that makes us feel good or bad. When we’re asked more specific questions around what’s good or bad about the organisation, we find it difficult to come up with an answer. Reaching for something, we frequently turn to communication.
Information vs Communication
When managers are told that their organisation has communication problems, the default reaction is often to try and put new communication methods in place.
If the problem lies elsewhere, this can be a massive waste of everyone’s time and energy.
Instead of trying to address a perceived communication problem, you should therefore try and get more information from your staff around what specific issues they have with communication in the organisation.
You might, for instance, find that people are unclear about their roles and responsibilities within the organisation, especially if they’re newcomers.
This is a common problem for organisations undergoing periods of high growth. In the early stages of the company’s life, everyone would’ve grown into roles as the company evolved. As the company grows, that becomes more difficult. Consequently, newcomers may feel unsure of what it is they’re actually supposed to be doing.
With this information, you can work on your onboarding processes, rather than implementing a completely new communication system.
Symptom vs Cause
Let’s say your organisation had the kind of issues we highlighted below. If you’d treated the symptom of “poor communication”, you probably would’ve spent time and resources implementing a new communication system. Imagine the frustration then if you circled back a few months later only to find that you still had had a communication problem.
In order to find the real cause behind the symptom, however, you would’ve had to be prepared to dig a little deeper and find out what was really concerning them.
That, in turn, means putting time and effort into really understanding your employees’ concerns.
A company-wide survey therefore shouldn’t be the basis for a shift in strategy of any kind. Instead, it should be a jumping off point that allows you to further explore the points raised by your employees.
Getting the answers you need won’t always be easy. Remember, people may battle to articulate themselves properly.
With that in mind, it can sometimes be useful to bring in outside experts, such as Engage Me, who know what questions to ask.
Bring them in from the start and your organisation’s much less likely to be diagnosed with a communication problem.