“The Reasons Why Many Change Programmes Fail”

Part 5

Poor Communication

This month I’m looking at another reason why significant change programmes fail. That is poor communication. Whatever organisation you speak with, large or small, everyone would say that “communication in our business could or should be better”

Regardless of whether it’s a “World Class” organisation or a average performing business embarking on a business improvement programme, communication could always be better.

Communication in simple terms can be put into two forms;

  1. Formal communication. Where planned meetings and briefings are conducted often coupled with communication infrastructure such as boards, newsletters etc.
  2. Informal communication. Where people are generally talking to each other either one to one or in small groups

The effect of poor communication can be devastating to organisations and their business performance.

People stay in silos and cross working is limited. Employees are more knowledgeable and feel a great part of the business and understand where they fit and where their colleagues also fit as part of their “work system” when communication is good. Communicating team working is important, but also putting individuals into teams to work on projects is a way of breaking down this silo mentality

Leaders in business and leaders of projects must be aware that they must communicate the importance of working together as a team as well as their individual contribution being paramount.

Employees get fed up. We don’t need statistics to know that when our boss isn’t communicating well or giving us good tools to communicate with, it can be frustrating. There is more misunderstanding, and less accountability and empowerment.

Things get missed, projects get delayed and someone gets blamed. That’s no way to work and it’s not going to motivate you to come to work each day and give it your all. Hence, disengagement.

Interestingly enough, companies that have excellent relationships with their customers through effective communication, also have good employee relations. This shows when communication is embedded into an organisation and that results in high morale spreading everywhere in the business

The business becomes less efficient. When communication is poor, the business becomes less productive. You only have to imagine people looking for information they can’t find, key data not at each other’s fingertips. These are some of the most basic examples of reduced productivity, but also there is the lack of proactivity. This slips when not engaged in feeling a key part of achieving team goals and targets.

New Ideas are suppressed. Something magical happens when people can communicate and collaborate effectively…innovation is sparked.

Innovation takes creativity and imagination, but it also takes teamwork. Giving employees a platform to communicate, share data and ideas, and to track their progress can only augment the innovative culture companies need to stay competitive.

It is not hard to put employee skillsets, current projects, experience and availability in one place where any co-worker can easily find it to quickly connect and see what that does for innovation.

Rumours start to become the truth. Complaining employees is nothing new. One disgruntled employee may tell five co-workers about how miserable they are. Today, social media puts a gigantic megaphone to every employee’s rants, exposing companies to a reputation crisis.

So, what is the biggest complaint employees have when it comes to their employers? The number one problem appears to be a lack of communication. This can be communication from executives to lower-ranking employees, or between employees. Communication matters and your employees want to feel like they have open doors and an effective communication platform they can access to connect with each other at any time.

People Leave. No matter the industry, turnover is always an issue. Losing employees, especially after such a short period of time, costs companies billions in lost productivity; and costs associated with recruiting, hiring and training.

According to the authority on the matter, Forbes, “Two-thirds of a company’s survey score is based on the results of the Trust Index Employee Survey…the survey asks questions related to employees’ attitudes about management’s credibility, overall job satisfaction, and camaraderie. The other third is based on responses to the Culture Audit, which includes detailed questions about pay and benefit programs and a series of open-ended questions about hiring practices, methods of internal communication, training….”

Camaraderie and internal communications are among the main topics that rank employers high in employee surveys. What is your organization doing to foster camaraderie and communication? They go hand in hand, you see. Email may help with communication, although clumsily, but it does nothing to build rapport. Employee communication software can help with both because it is purposely built to do just that – give people a platform on which to communicate, share ideas, build relationships and foster innovation.

What to do?

The photos below show; 1) “Team Development” activity board and 2) a team target performance board. Both tremendous aids for day to day communication for employee and leaders alike.

Many boards in organisations are still “Management boards”, meaning they are there to communicate down to the employees. Boards like the examples above should be owned by the team(s) and tell a story from left to right in three sections;

  1. What the team is trying to achieve
  2. The current activities to achieve (1) Photos, drawing from team members is ideal
  3. Current results

For informal communication we also ensure that leaders at every level of an organisation engage with informal discussion, even more so when embarking upon a significant change programme!

In some cases Senior Leaders think they need to know all the answers, but it is very powerful when leaders listen carefully to people and when they can’t answer a question say “I don’t know either, this is new to all of us, I’ll find out.”

All senior managers should walk the floor and talk to employees twice a day. And remember, one of Covey’s key messages…”Seek first to understand and then be understood….” This of course, means ask open questions first and listen to people to then build your comments upon.

If you would like to know more about how NewLeaf International helps organisations with improvement communication and significant change programmes, please make contact for an informal chat.

Tel: 01905 425209

Email: headoffice@newleafinter.co.uk

Martin Gummery, Managing Director, NewLeaf International Ltd