Table of Contents
- What Is Organizational Communication?
- Why Strong Communication Matters in a Business
- The Consequences of Poor Communication
- Types of Communication in an Organization
- How to Create, Implement, and Manage Organizational Communication
- Organizational Communication Examples
- How to Start Improving Your Organizational Communication Now
- Poor communication can cost smaller businesses $420,000 per year.
- 71 percent of employees say they’re more productive when they feel a connection with coworkers.
- Confusion among employees may result from poor communication practices.
- Creating effective organizational communication policies depends on helpful feedback from everyone.
- Leadership needs to tackle communication issues directly.
Some may compare a productive, efficient organization to a well-oiled machine. Every part fits in well together with everything running as one. However, unlike a machine, which has its parts physically connected, a business connects through communication. If communication in an organization breaks down, the organization can’t run as it should.
When there’s poor organizational communication, the whole company suffers. According to a survey from Salesforce, 86 percent of executive leaders blame business failures on ineffective communication. Poor company communication can end up costing businesses, as well. Reports have shown that when there’s a lack of communication, it can result in companies losing anywhere from $420,000 a year (for smaller businesses) to $62.4 million per year (for larger companies).
On the other hand, effective communication can boost a company. Researchers from McKinsey Global Institute estimated that improved communication could increase productivity by as much as 25 percent. At the same time, a study from Connected Culture found that 71 percent of employees said when they felt connected to their coworkers, they were more productive.
In a sense, problems in organizational communication have become more complex in recent years. With more people working remotely, traditional face-to-face communication is rarer. But whether it happens face-to-face or on a messaging platform, ineffective business communication affects each individual. It can destroy important relationships, and once those relationships are ruined, businesses often struggle to survive. On the other hand, great communication glues people together and makes it easier to overcome challenges and barriers.
To avoid conflicts and high employee turnover due to poor organizational communication, learn the basics of organizational communication, what it covers, and how to implement effective policies.
What Is Organizational Communication?
Organizational communication refers to any communication that happens at work. That can include communication within a traditional office setting or the type that takes place remotely. It also includes both verbal and written communication.
Organizational communication isn’t just a description—it’s a field of study that people get degrees in. People who study and become experts in communication in an organization often find their skills apply well to jobs such as project managers, human resources representatives, business consultants, and marketing directors. With their knowledge, they can develop key organizational communication strategies that benefit all types of companies.
Noted organizational psychologist and author George Kohlrieser has written extensively on the need for effective communication within organizations. As he writes, “A hallmark of high performance leaders is the ability to influence others through all levels and types of communication, from simple interactions to difficult conversations and more complex conflicts, in order to achieve greater team and organizational alignment.”
In other words, only through communication can leaders create the changes they seek.
Why Strong Communication Matters in a Business
Without communication, businesses cannot grow and succeed—that’s the short explanation. If you’ve ever been part of a project where little communication took place, you know what this feels like. But that’s only the start of why effective communication among team members matters. Other benefits include the following:
- Provides Opportunities to Speak Up: At an organization with poor communication practices, employees may feel like their voice doesn’t matter. On the flip side, when there’s good communication, workers will feel like they can voice their opinions and be heard. And when that happens, they are nearly five times more likely to feel empowered.
- Improved Employee Retention: When people feel like their opinions are heard, they will want to stay with the organization. According to a report from Achievers Workforce Institute, more than half of employees indicate they’re willing to stay in a job when they feel supported and valued.
- Clears Up Confusion: If someone has a question, they can ask it when an organization has an open communication policy. The more open the communication, the more people can clarify when needed. This prevents unneeded confusion and puts everyone on the same page.
- Increased Production: An efficient organization is one that features effective communication at all levels. With more communication happening between colleagues, workers can get more done in less time, boosting the production of the company.
- More Trust in the Workplace: According to Lexicon, 80 percent of Americans say that good organizational communication is crucial to creating more trust in employers. As companies establish that higher level of trust, not only will employees benefit but the entire business will see good results.
- Two-Way Communication Becomes the Norm: More communication usually results in establishing healthy two-way communication. This type of communication involves listening as much as talking. When people engage in active listening, they are able to discover problems and address them early on.
The Consequences of Poor Communication
- Growing Frustration: The more workers feel like their voices are ignored, the more frustrated they will get.
- More Mistakes: When people don’t communicate, they don’t convey important instructions and clarifications. This can lead to more mistakes that afflict the organization.
- Reduced Productivity: Businesses simply don’t operate as efficiently when coworkers don’t communicate with each other. That means productivity across the organization suffers.
- Strategic Confusion: Employees will have a lot of questions if organizational communication is poor. What are the company’s goals? What strategies are they using to meet them? Who is responsible for which tasks? Without proper communication, people will be left without answers.
Types of Communication in an Organization
Communication in an organization revolves around several types:
Oral communication covers the face-to-face contact many people associate with communication. It also applies to phone calls. As long as it’s spoken, it’s part of oral communication. If you speak to a colleague during a meeting, you are participating in oral communication. Through remote work, oral communication can still happen if businesses use video platforms like Zoom.
Written communication involves messages you write to others. This can happen through text messages, email, written notes, or other messaging platforms. Written communication benefits from usually being less off the cuff and more detailed. However, written messages can also be misinterpreted in terms of tone.
Formal communication is any communication done as an official representative of the organization. This can happen through company-wide emails or press releases to the public. One significant characteristic of formal communication is its professionalism. Often, multiple people review a formal message before it’s sent out.
Informal communication is far more casual and common than formal communication. It often creates a more comfortable atmosphere where people can show more of their personalities. This can happen in casual conversation, over messaging apps, quick emails, and more.
Internal communication involves the interactions within the organization, such as when coworkers talk to each other. This type of communication can help strengthen employee relationships while ensuring everyone is on the same page.
Any communication a company has outside the organization is external communication. This can take the form of marketing messages, customer support, the hiring process (such as job postings), social media posts, or product services. External communication is usually kept on-brand and professional since this is the face the company chooses to show customers and clients.
Directional communication refers to different ways people communicate depending on the direction that communication is flowing. For example, upward communication would refer to a worker speaking with their manager, while downward would be when a CEO addresses the entire company. There’s also horizontal communication, where people on or around the same level communicate with each other.
How to Create, Implement, and Manage Organizational Communication
Creating Effective Organizational Communication
When it comes to the first step in establishing effective organizational communication practices, it all starts with organizational leadership. The top executives at the company, along with senior managers, are the ones who establish the guidelines for effective and respectful communication. They should do this with feedback from everyone in the organization, in particular team leaders and HR representatives.
What to keep in mind when creating policies:
- Determine what type of language is expected.
- Select which message platform all employees should use.
- Take into account the importance of cross-cultural communication.
- Think of the audience these policies apply to.
- Determine if any special considerations are needed and how many people will be involved.
Implementing Communication Policies
Creating organizational communication ideas is just the beginning. The hardest part is implementing them. One key part of implementation is training your workforce to understand not only what the policies are but also the meaning behind them. Every employee must know what is acceptable in terms of communication behavior and what methods yield the best results. Training should be part of the onboarding process, but it may be necessary to train existing employees if an organizational communication policy has changed during their tenure.
Here are other items to remember during the implementation process:
- Go into detail about what the business’s policies are in company materials such as the employee handbook.
- Announce changes as they occur.
- Train employees on any changes made.
- Continue to review what types of communication work best in certain situations.
- Be detailed in your approach. The more detail you go into, the less confusion there will be about what makes for acceptable organizational communication.
Managing Communication Issues
With your organizational communication policies up and running, you will still need to manage them. Part of that effort should involve rapid responses to any problems or issues people may have. This shows that the organization’s leaders are aware of what’s happening and doing everything they can to solve it.
Managers should also follow up with their team members regularly, usually through one-on-one meetings. Doing this allows them to understand what employees think about the policies. Additionally, the team should feel encouraged to voice their thoughts.
To manage communication issues:
- Get feedback through surveys and regular reviews.
- Measure the results of your policies by recording data from responses.
- Track how those results either improve or decline over time.
Organizational Communication Examples
1. Quarterly Reviews
Every quarter, a manager should sit down with each team member and discuss how things are going and what can improve. This is the perfect time to review performance goals and identify possible issues. During a quarterly review, managers can also emphasize the vision and mission of the company along with management’s commitment to helping team members grow and succeed.
2. Changes to Benefits
On occasion, businesses may need to adjust benefits for employees. Every change must be communicated clearly and professionally. Leaders should meet with HR reps to discuss how this will affect workers and how they might view the company. Employees will likely have questions following a benefits change. Because of this, provide one-on-one meetings so they can get the information they need. Handy written materials and updates to the employee handbook clear up confusion, as well.
3. Regular Organizational Updates
Employees like to stay informed about what’s happening in the company. Part of organizational communication is sending out regular updates that keep them informed. Business leaders should provide these updates in meetings or through company-wide emails. When it comes to significant news, these should be handled in meetings that allow employees to ask questions.
4. Emergency Communications
At times, your organization may experience emergencies from extreme weather events, earthquakes, ugly situations involving employees, or other unpredictable circumstances. Before such events happen, establish a reliable line of communication whereby you can reach out to all employees. Have a disaster plan in place, and educate everyone about what to do in each situation. In this way, each person will know who to contact in an emergency.
5. Regular Operations
Communicating what standard organizational procedures are is equally important. The best way to address these procedures is through the employee handbook. Business leaders can ensure that the information about procedures remains consistent across the entire organization. The handbook is also a great thing to point to whenever people have questions.
How to Start Improving Your Organizational Communication Now
Improving your organizational communication isn’t something that happens overnight. You need a solid plan in place and a willingness to practice assertive communication to get everyone on board.
To start improving right away, follow these steps:
- Identify current problems with communication you’re having.
- Work with others to create solutions that tackle the problem directly.
- Be willing to test out different plans to see which ones are most effective.
- Keep changes in line with your company’s core values.
- Answer any questions people may have immediately.
You’ll also want to continue learning about the best communication practices. Start by reading the following article:
Leaders Media has established sourcing guidelines and relies on relevant, and credible sources for the data, facts, and expert insights and analysis we reference. You can learn more about our mission, ethics, and how we cite sources in our editorial policy.
- “New Study Reveals Boost in Employee Productivity and Well-Being Among Companies That Foster a ‘Connected Culture’ in Work from Anywhere Environment.” Business Wire, 11 Nov. 2020, https://www.businesswire.com/news/home/20201111005284/en/New-Study-Reveals-Boost-in-Employee-Productivity-and-Well-Being-Among-Companies-That-Foster-a-%E2%80%98Connected-Culture%E2%80%99-in-Work-from-Anywhere-Environment.
- Chui, Michael. “The Social Economy: Unlocking Value and Productivity through Social Technologies.” McKinsey & Company, 25 Oct. 2022, https://www.mckinsey.com/industries/technology-media-and-telecommunications/our-insights/the-social-economy.
- George Kohlrieser. Home. (2022, June 3). https://georgekohlrieser.com/
- How Soft Skills Are Crucial to Your Business. (n.d.). Salesforce Canada Blog. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.salesforce.com/ca/blog/2014/08/how-soft-skills-are-crucial-to-your-business-.html
- LexiconDSM. (n.d.). 9 Statistics That Prove You Need Internal Communications. Retrieved October 25, 2022, from https://www.slideshare.net/LexiconDSM/9-statistics-that-prove-you-need-internal-communications
- Torres, E. (2022, January 28). Communication in the Workplace Statistics for 2021. Lead Grow Develop. https://leadgrowdevelop.com/communication-in-the-workplace-statistics-for-2020/