Business Communication – The Good, the Bad, & the Ugly


If you’ve spent any time with consultants from large firms (especially in the ’90’s), then you heard some of the buzz words and phrases heard in offices across the U.S.; phrases such as get our arms around this, paradigm shift, reinvent the wheel, and any verbing of a noun (such as “incent“) was typically heard in many conference rooms.

Many of these phrases were not meaningful to those who heard them. Employees need to understand the phrases of management before they believe it. And they need to believe it before they will do something about it.

In coaching, a basic question is, “What’s important?” Employees who don’t hear or understand what is really important will decide for themselves what’s important and will act and work accordingly.

The management of a large department store thought they communicated to their employees that the most important part of their job was customer service. However, upon surveying the salespeople, they found that a majority of the employees believed their most important task was protecting the inventory. Why did they think so? Because they received many memos from management regarding loss of inventory and security. Communications about customer service were not nearly as numerous.

Is there a system in place at your business (for the company or the department) in which employees are informed about the goals of the business and how their job helps the company reach those goals?

Do they know how they will be rewarded for their contribution?

Do they understand it?

Do they believe it?

Will they take action?

Clear communication is a must and a key to that action. It involves knowing your audience, having a strategy, clarifying steps, and measuring the results.

Know your Audience

Who are your people? What will they respond to positively? Find out what they consider to be relevant. If it doesn’t match what you consider to be relevant, then take time to re-shape relevancy and the company. Whom do they believe is credible when that person communicates? How do they respond to various types of communication?

Have a Strategy

Strategize a communications plan to emphasize “what’s important”. Rather than simply send out memos, brochures, and fliers to tell people stuff, plan your strategy first. Does it make sense? Does it clearly emphasize what you’re wanting to communicate?

Clarify the Steps

Is there some action that you want employees to take? Make certain that within your strategy there are places where action steps are clearly defined. Keep the level of English at a grade level that makes sense for the audience. For example, for a general audience that has a wide-range, a 7th grade to 8th grade level is good. (Most newspapers are written at this level. Microsoft Word will tell you the grade level of your writing in “Readability Statistics” at the end of the spell check routine as “Flesch-Kincaid Grade Level”, if you turn on “readability statistics”.)

Communicate the benefits of the actions you want the employees to take. This includes both the benefits to the company or department and the benefits to the individual employee.

Measure the Results

How did you do in your communications effort? Have someone create a survey that draws out the results (the raw truth).

Did employees understand it?

Did they believe it?

Do they still believe it?

Did they take action?

Was it appropriate action?

The responses will measure how your communications helped to change behavior and, in some circumstances, if performance improved (if that was a goal).

In conclusion, following this outline of knowing your audience, having a communication strategy, clarifying the steps with your audience, and measuring the results, will ensure that your communications plan gives you the results you want.


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