This week’s blog post is a guest post by Workplace Culture Expert Michelle Howison. Michelle holds Master’s degrees in Behavioral Sciences and Industrial/Organizational Psychology. It was this training that sparked her interest in the psychology of company culture: What happens in organizations that makes people stay or go. Michelle started her career in organizational development and human resources in the mid-90s, and has been a top-level human resources executive for more than 10 years. She’s built and expanded human capital systems in several companies. In addition, Michelle has developed an acquisition process that focuses on people, culture, and systems. For more information about Michelle and the work she does with organizations to build and improve cultures, go to www.michellehowison.com.
There are many variables that impact workplace cultures, but the number one thing that has the most significant impact might surprise you: communication.
Communication is the first place cultures begin to breakdown and it is also the first place where one can have a significant positive impact on the company culture. Just like in any relationship, when employees, the leadership, and the owners have open, clear communication, everyone works better together. Trust gets built up; the mission and values of the business are clearly understood; and targets are clear, and thus easier to hit.
What are some things you can do to improve communication?
1. Take advantage of technology!
With today’s technology, it’s pretty easy to send out your message in a variety of ways. Social media, videos and audio messages, and in-company email blasts are just a few ways communication can be open to everyone at every level.
2. Realize that “one and done” won’t cut it.
Many leaders think that communicating once will get the message across. For some, it’s laziness and the “cop out” that they’ve communicated and can prove they’ve done so. For others, it’s a mistaken assumption that because they’re the leader, employees are sitting at their computers waiting for their golden nuggets of information and devouring every word. Unfortunately, the research has proven that communication should occur AT LEAST SIX times to be effective. This does not mean sending out the same message, six times, but instead, varying the message and the method of communication to keep things interesting and engaging.
3. Don’t rely on word-of-mouth communication.
If you remember playing “The Telephone Game,” as a kid, you know what happens to messages as they get transferred from person to person via word of mouth. Messages get distorted, details are added and deleted, and some people choose not to pass the message along at all. Your managers and leadership teams are not infallible and they’re very busy. Relying on them to pass the messages along almost guarantees that information will get lost in the shuffle.
Finally, how do you tell you’re not communicating enough?
Well, if your rumor mill is going crazy at the water cooler, you’re not doing enough to trust your employees and keep them informed. There are of course times when secrets will need to be kept and not everyone can know the whole story of everything going on in the company. However, keeping your values, goals, and channels of communication open and available will go a long way to helping your employees feel valued and involved.