The Effectiveness of Communication in U.S. Organizations
"Where does your organization stand on the effectiveness of communication?"
Dictionary.com defines communication as "the imparting or interchange of thoughts, opinions, or information by speech, writing, or signs." In the context of communication within an organization, a better definition may be "the imparting or exchanging of meaningful information."
Insightlink 2012 benchmark norms indicate that just less than 40% of employees in the U.S. are satisfied with the overall effectiveness of communications within their organizations. That means, of course, that a shocking 60% of employees in the U.S. are not satisfied with the overall effectiveness of communications within their organizations. We often see this low level of satisfaction come to light in the work that we do: ineffective communications is frequently identified as one of the most important sources of organizational problems and is a key barrier to achieving a fully engaged workforce.
But what can be done to improve communications within an organization?
To help answer this question, we can start by categorizing communication as either 1) interpersonal or 2) organizational.
Interpersonal communication refers to the interactions that occur between individuals. Effective communication between immediate supervisors and their employees in a workforce is a necessity to reaching organizational goals. Our benchmark norms indicate that just less than 60% of employees in the U.S. are satisfied with the effectiveness of communication between them and their immediate supervisors. While this score connotes less need for change, it's very important to ensure the quality of interpersonal communications within U.S. organizations is maintained and improved wherever possible.
Organizational communication is the communication that flows within the organizational structure. Organizational communication systems can be categorized as downward, upward, lateral, and horizontal. For senior management to maintain close ties with employees and to encourage maximum performance, the top-down flow of communications must be both clear and personal. It has been suggested that the most effective downward flow of communication should start with top management relaying information to direct line supervisors, followed by direct line supervisors relaying the information to their direct reports, with top management then following up, communicating directly to employees in instances of very important issues. However, the most effective downward communication rule is possibly: "Communicate orally and then follow up in writing" (Gibson and Hodgetts 1991).
Upward communications are the messages that travel to the top of an organization from employees. Often, an emphasis on top-down communications, at the sacrifice of communications flowing up, can leave many employees feeling they are not heard. This upward channel of communication can help management analyze the effectiveness of their communications to employees and can also bring problems to their attention.
Looking further at flows of communication, our benchmark norms provide scores for communications from senior management to employees (downward) and from employees to senior management (upward). There are employee concerns with both flows of communication: less than 4 in 10 employees are satisfied with the effectiveness of communications from senior management to employees, while ; less than 3 in 10 employees are satisfied with the effectiveness of communications from employees to senior management.
To further highlight the importance of effective communication in an organization our current list of the most important drivers of job satisfaction among American employees includes:
The following benchmark norms, both very important measures of the effectiveness of communication in an organization, show a fairly small measure of satisfaction is in the current state of organizational communication and clearly indicated that improvement is required:
- The opportunity to make suggestions and be involved in their work.
- Satisfaction with the effectiveness of communications.
The deficiencies in these areas lead employees to believe that important decisions are made without their input or that senior management asks for feedback but doesn't take that feedback into consideration when making decisions that affect employees directly.
Employees themselves offer a number of suggestions for improving organizational communications. These were gathered from several of our recent 4Cs Employee Surveys and include:
- Less than 4 in 10 employees in the U.S. are satisfied with the effectiveness of the feedback process
- Less than 6 out of 10 employees believe that senior management communicates decisions that affect employees effectively and efficiently
As one of the key drivers of employee satisfaction in the U.S. - that is, the effectiveness of communications overall within the organization and effectiveness of communications from employees to senior management - an improvement in the quality of communications within an organization can result in improved employee morale, productivity, and job satisfaction. Where does your organization stand on the effectiveness of communication?
- Holding regular department and town hall meetings,
- Planning informal employee social events to improve understanding between departments,
- Increasing opportunities for employees to interact with senior management,
- Developing listening and feedback skills at all levels in the organization, and
- Creating a system to share solutions to common challenges faced by employees.
Insightlink offers a variety of professional services that can help organizations both improve employee satisfaction and evaluate their reasons for leaving. Our services include:
- Insightlink's 4Cs Employee Survey - a comprehensive diagnostic tool to determine how your employees feel on all 4Cs of employee satisfaction: Communications, Culture, Commitment and Compensation.
- Insightlink's Exit Survey System - a powerful online exit survey management tool that provides survey results in real time and the ability to create aggregate summaries as needed.
5 Things to Do Now
Demonstrate to employees that the company cares about them, wants them to advance in their careers and will help them satisfy their need for personal growth.
"Walk the talk" by not only communicating the corporate strategy but by also ensuring that it is applied consistently throughout the organization, including making the rewards system consistent with strategic goals.
Watch for and eliminate all inconsistencies between promoting a belief in employees and managerial behavior or policies that undermines that commitment.
Fight attrition with smart training that is not only relevant but helps broaden employee experiences and provides development opportunities.
Weed out poor managers because many employees leave their jobs because they are unhappy with their bosses - remember the adage that "people don't leave their jobs, they leave their managers."