Monday, 2 May 2022

How to create high-quality communications in the business?

 



 

Because organizations employ human beings, the most meaningful decisions and ideas are born through, or as a result, live communications. Their inherent share of spontaneity and unpredictability makes communication complex and, at the same time, challenging the object of control. This publication presents recommendations and reflections on creating a high-quality communication space in the company.


Have you ever encountered such situations: you ask a question by e-mail, but there is no answer; you take the time to prepare a detailed and clear message, and then you are surprised that you are not understood; You set up a meeting and count the empty chairs at the specified time. You tell employees about strategy and values, and then you notice that nothing has changed in real life. you have been conferring for two hours instead of twenty minutes and cannot agree; you think everything is fine because everyone is silent and then the best employees are fired.


All these situations are due to the low quality of communications in the organization. Each of them can be solved if you concentrate part of the corporate attention and energy on managing communications. In practice, however, this is rarely done. Partly because it is not very clear what and how to manage. And to a greater extent due to the fact that issues related to the human factor are the last in the list of management priorities.


To better represent the role of communications, we use several images. Communication is the glue that connects a company's micronutrients—individual project teams or divisions—and the entire company at the macro level. Without it, the entire structure will crumble to pieces. Communications is the air that brings in fresh ideas, new information, and knowledge. Without air, the atmosphere stagnates and becomes heavy and monotonous. Communications is a locomotive that can accelerate and slow down any initiatives in a company. An uncontrollable locomotive is dangerous.


Managed Communications


If you still decide to engage in communication management, then after prolonged reflection, the structure of this process will begin to loom in your head. Key rule: Communications should be linked to a corporate strategy that will define the goals and content of the messages. It is also important to remember about the three areas at the junction of which communications management is carried out:


•    People: motivation, communicative competencies, values, behavior models.
•    Processes: structure, orientation, periodicity, participants of communications, etc.
•    Technologies: information technologies that support communication, as well as methods of effective interaction, information exchange, decision-making, etc.


If you pay attention to each of these elements, the company's chances of creating a quality communication space are great.


High-quality communicative space


If we start from the task of creating the most effective and competitive business, then we can identify quite specific characteristics of internal communications, which will be presented in the framework of this article.
The main characteristics of a high-quality communicative space:
•    Involvement of employees in the communication process, their prompt response to messages, initiative and willingness to cooperate.
•    Quite informal, personal nature of communications, an atmosphere of trust.
•    High quality of communicative messages (it depends on the competence of the sender).
•    Openness, interactivity, extensive communication network.
•    Completeness, relevance and availability of the transmitted information.
•    Use of effective communication technologies.
•    Optimal use of communication channels.
•    The ability of employees to work with a large amount of operational information (this is ensured by the competence of the recipient).
•    Continuous improvement of communications through the efforts of all team members.
 

Communications of this level are one of the distinctive features of self-learning organizations. High-quality communicative space provides ease of formation of a single vision, high coordination of actions and speed of solving common problems, "drive" from joint work.


What obstacles may face a company that has decided to create a high-quality communication space:


1.    Obstacle one: understanding communications as one-way information. Since Soviet times, the idea of communications as the need to "leak" information to employees has taken root, and its effectiveness was measured only by the number of messages. Currently, a transition from informing to interaction is required, when the key is the reaction, the feedback of the recipient, showing how much he understood and accepted the message as a guide to action.
2.    Obstacle two: authoritarian management style and corporate culture. The authoritarian style, as a rule, generates one-way communications, an initiatory, distrustful environment, which is the opposite pole of open, multidirectional communications. The chances of changing the authoritarian communication space for the better are close to zero.
3.    Obstacle Three: The large scale of the company. In a large, geographically distributed enterprise, it is obviously more difficult to create a single, informal communicative space than in medium and small companies. However, this does not mean that in a small organization that does not manage communications, their level will always be higher than in a large company that pays attention to it.
4.    Obstacle four: communicative abilities of employees. The new format of communications places high demands on the values and communicative competencies of employees. Therefore, it is easier to create a high-quality communication space in companies where the cultural level of employees is quite high.


Creating effective communications


Sincere interest in this topic, as well as practical work on the creation of Internet communities, allowed the author to form an approach to building effective communications in the company, based on the following principles:


1. It is important to create communications on the "working" material


This will make communication initially useful and minimize the risk of non-targeted, clogging the message space. Choose an up-to-date workspace, a process in which you will begin to create a quality communication space using its issues. It is best if the actions to create effective communications are part of a comprehensive project to improve the process.


2. Changes must be "lifting"


The "impossible" task is to establish communication throughout the organization at once. In a small company, the area of change can immediately cover most employees. In a large one, it is better to limit yourself to the scale of the structural unit or project team. Having received a positive result in a microgroup, you can use the wave of success to translate this experience to other areas and structures, until, finally, there is a critical mass of quality communications that will take the entire company to the next level.


3. Get started now


If you don't have the resources to fully implement a comprehensive process improvement project, don't put off managing communications until better times. Improvements in communication alone can significantly improve the quality of a process or structure and serve as a catalyst for further optimization.


4. Support change with energy and attention


You definitely need a passionate person or a group of people who continuously (!) feed the process of creating high-quality communications with their energy - the so-called "engines" of change. Because until the locomotive picks up speed, every moment of stopping can negate all the results achieved.
After you have chosen an experimental site for a project to create high-quality communications, take a closer look at the current situation and assess whether it is necessary to create communications "from scratch", or there is already material for work to improve them.


Stages of creating a high-quality communication space of the company


1.    "Swinging": creating a flow of communications. Work with people.
2.    "Improvement": optimization of the flow of communications. Work with the elements "Processes" and "Technologies".
3.    "Broadcast": dissemination of local experience of effective communications to the whole company.
 

First stage. "Swinging"


Most of the communication spaces I've come across were initially quite lifeless. Messages arose from time to time, groups of employees stewed in their own juice, the exchange of knowledge was chaotic and optional, it was possible not to respond to letters, and there was no question of contributing to the creation of general awareness, involvement and energy at all! The only thing that existed was a system of meetings and planners, informing about significant events in corporate life and management decisions. So far, there has been nothing to improve or use fruitfully. It was necessary to first rock the environment: to involve people, to create interest, motivation, to form the necessary values and behaviors.


How to "rock" communications:


•    There must be someone who will sincerely want to do this and invest their energy in this process.
•    Be sure to enlist the support of the leader (formal or informal) and captivate him with your idea.
•    Conduct an audit and select 1 – 2 main communication channels, key for this process, which will be used for "swinging". It can be an e-mail, a forum, a corporate portal or a publication, a video conference, etc. The main thing is not to spray at this moment on the resuscitation of all possible channels, but to rock people through the most convenient channel.
•    To rock the environment through the chosen channel – to demonstrate high-quality and effective communications by personal example, to support any initiative, to emphasize the importance of the results obtained in the course of joint active communications, to "PROMOTE" the successes achieved through communications, etc.
•    To form the necessary values – to talk about the importance of communications, openness, the creation of a communicative space, to explain why it is important, to encourage the manifestation of significant values, etc.


The key task of the first stage is to create motivation for communications, to cause active circulation of messages in the environment. For this, you should not use material incentives. It is important to evoke a sincere inner desire to "communicate", and this can only be achieved by making communication part of a person's value system. Therefore, use all possible methods of non-material motivation and actively support the desired patterns of behavior. A common mistake is too much with restrictions, the severity of which may not withstand the first shoots of communications. Keep the flow within the "working" channel, and otherwise - do not limit.


The criterion of success is that a lively communicative flow has appeared: a huge number of letters, meetings, discussions, etc., with which people, using old approaches, begin to cope with difficulty. This is a good sign and victory! The first stage has been successfully implemented - it's time to move on to the second.


Second stage. "Improvement"


If within the framework of the first stage we formed motivation, values, behavior models, then within the framework of the second stage the company will have to improve the quality of processes and technologies. When there is too much information, all the shortcomings of communication appear and it becomes clear what exactly needs to be improved.


In fact, you will begin to germinate the seeds of high-quality communications already within the framework of the first stage, slowly, so as not to scare off the initiative. At the second stage, this task becomes key, because people are increasingly experiencing communication overload and, as a result, fatigue, apathy and irritation.


Organizations have a similar list of communication challenges.


Barriers to information transfer:


•    "Raw" source material. The sender, saving his own time, creates a low-quality message: incomprehensible language, fuzzy logic, overloaded message; it is not specified to whom the message is intended, the significance of it for a particular recipient, the surrounding context, what actions or reactions are expected.
•    There is no single convenient and recognizable form (standard) for submitting certain messages.
•    Message inconsistency. Messages are duplicated or not published at all, contradict each other; the distribution of communication roles is unclear, etc.
•    Weak structuring of messages. Recipients receive a large amount of information that is not relevant to them due to the fact that communication groups and priorities are not clearly defined.
•    Materials intended for discussion do not contribute to the discussion, but are more like a presentation or a report.
•    When transmitting a message, the sender often has little idea what kind of feedback he needs, therefore, receiving a response message, he is not ready for it, does not take reciprocal actions, which reduces the motivation for further feedback.
•    Inconsistency of the message with the communication channel, inconvenient, untuned channels that make it difficult to transmit the message.
•    Messages are too formal and impersonal.
•    Barriers to receiving and processing information:
•    The psychological unpreparedness of people to face a large amount of information is stress and panic.
•    Suboptimal personal tools for working with information (mail client, organizer, etc.)
•    Lack of necessary technologies to support communication (e.g., group discussion management, group decision-making, etc.)
•    Lack of personal discipline to effectively manage your own communications. Inability to work with a large amount of information.
 

This list of problems reveals the dual nature of communications, in which the sender and receiver are always involved. That is, it is also necessary to improve communications in two directions: to form the competencies of information transfer and the competence to receive and process information. It is very important that each employee has both.


How to improve communications:


•    As in the "swing" stage, you need to find the "engine" of change and the leader supporting the changes (these can be the same people as in the first stage).
•    Conduct an audit and make a list of the main communication problems within the microgroup, talk about the results to the team and discuss the possibilities of change.
•    Develop the necessary communication processes, standards, choose technologies that contribute to solving the identified communication problems and begin the introduction of high-quality communications.
•    Create motivation for high-quality communications.
•    Form the necessary communicative competencies.
 

The key tasks of the second stage are to form motivation to comply with rules and standards and the necessary communicative competencies. You can use such management levers as job descriptions, internal regulations, material incentives. It is good if you manage to make high-quality communications part of the company's culture and personal values of employees thanks to all the same methods of non-material motivation.


The criterion of success: with the same (or even increased) volume of communications, people began to enjoy them, because the quality and effectiveness of each message and interaction significantly increased, the speed of decision-making and their implementation in practice increased significantly. If you observe all these manifestations, then you are on the right track.


«Broadcast»


If you managed to create a high-quality communication space within the microgroup, translate the success further, to other departments and processes of the company.


To do this, it is necessary to find in the new microgroups the "engines" of change and interested leaders, and taking into account the accumulated experience, as well as the specifics of business processes in which representatives of microgroups participate, consistently "swing" and improve communications.
By creating a high-quality communication space, we produce the tool necessary for the implementation of strategic initiatives. This is the main purpose of communications.


Only when a high-quality communication space covers the entire organization, it will be possible to solve corporate-scale tasks with its help as effectively as possible - the implementation of changes, knowledge management, the formation of corporate culture, innovation management, etc.




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