Mary B Young and Professor James E Post, from the Boston University School of Management, have dedicated a large part of their careers to studying activity and conditions in leading companies.
They have concluded that the most important quality of a successful organization is its capability for internal communication. Thomas Gilbert, the father of “Human Performance Technology”, also demonstrated that people who are well-informed work up to 50% more effectively than those who are not.
Peter Drucker stated that 60% of business problems are caused by a lack of communication. I wouldn’t like to say whether or not this is the exact percentage, but, evidently, it is a chronic problem affecting organizations. I have worked in many companies, in different sectors, on a wide variety of projects, and I would go as far as to say that no organization is completely free of internal communication issues.
When asking company managers about communication, I usually receive a similar answer: the company communicates a lot of information and does it well. The managers go on to high- light the fact that the company periodically publishes a glossy internal communication magazine and also provides updated information through its intranet. Many managers drop the phrase “digital communication strategy” into the end of our conversation as if they were using the latest buzz words designed to impress.
However, when I ask their employees the same questions about internal communication, the answers I get are completely different. They complain that they are not informed about anything, they are the last ones to find out about changes and their bosses explain nothing about the purpose of their own jobs, let alone company strategy. When I mention the internal magazine, I am told that people have given up reading it because it always says the same things. The employees scoff when I bring up communication on the intranet and complain that it is boring, hard to read, written in the language of “big brother” and does not even acknowledge their opinions or feedback.
Companies are more used to “informing” than “communicating” and this might be the root of the problem. Perhaps the majority of firms confuse information with communication. However, communication comes from the Latin communication meaning participate, bring together, share. Information, on the other hand, comes from information, meaning image, representation. Information is a datum, it is reason, a cold, hard fact to be analyzed by the head. Communication is feeling and emotion, and should be aimed at the heart.
There is no silver bullet to solve internal communication issues. However, it is clear that having sophisticated tools and information support is not sufficient in itself. I am not suggesting that we should do without magazines, intranets, employee- portals, social network communication policies and so on. On the contrary, they are absolutely necessary.
However, the real solution to internal communication issues, lies in the chain of command. The majority of workers want a more direct link to the top, so that the boss “talks to me a bit more”.
Authored by José Manuel Casado González, President, 2.C Consulting