Communication affects everything that works or doesn’t in an organization. In my book Finding the Fork in the Road, I use one of my favorite quotes.
Between what I think I want to say, what I believe I’m saying, what I say, what you want to hear, what you believe you understood, and what you actually understood, there are at least nine possibilities for misunderstanding. ~Francis Garagnon
I think this sums up the challenges with communication.
Workplace Communication Affects Everything
Communication affects everything in an organization from interviewing to employee performance to retention to sales and more. I suspect you are thinking, well of course it can impact sales or employee performance (ok, maybe you are even questioning employee performance), but how can it affect successful interviewing or retention, corporate culture, and more?
Let’s start with interviewing. One of the keys to successful interviewing is getting to really know someone, not just what they want you to know about them. How they think, deal with adversity, handle not knowing and the challenges they have faced are key to determining if they will work well in your organization. Asking probing questions and listening are two communication skills that will help you uncover these and other factors critical for success in your company.
How can communication have any impact on retention though? Statistics indicate that people leave companies because of perceived lack of opportunity for advancement, challenges with the leadership, feeling like they aren’t heard or can’t make an impact, not because of compensation. While these are not the only reasons employees leave, each of these relates to communication in some way. If communication is more robust, retention is improved.
It’s More Than Telling
In sales, we teach people not to tell (don’t tell about your product or service), but to identify needs and then sell to those needs. The same is true with all aspects of workplace communication in an organization.
How often have you made an offer to a candidate they turned down? How often have you hired someone and later wondered what you were thinking? Do you think that you’ve given crystal clear instructions only to find that the delivered results are just not what you were looking for? Or how often do you hear…”It’s not my fault”, “I thought you meant…”, “I was waiting on…”, and wonder if anyone accepts accountability?
You can’t simply tell someone you want them to perform better or accept responsibility, you have to share the why, what, and how. When you interview you have to ‘sell’ your company, not simply tell them about the benefits or describe the job responsibilities. If you want to retain the talent you have worked so hard to identify, take the time to communicate, and over communicate, and listen to them. It’s all about communicating deeply, with passion, so people can understand and make the appropriate decisions.
Look at Every Aspect of Your Organization
As you consider what’s working brilliantly in your organization, or what’s not working so well, look at communication and see where it fits in. From planning to hiring, to leadership to marketing to sales…communication has an impact. Retention, sales, succession planning, quality control, employee performance, customer service…you name it, communication can smooth the way or become a barrier.
We often attribute the problems we see in our organization to something besides communication. Poor performing employees to not hiring the right people. Turnover to compensation. Offers for employment not accepted to compensation. Lack of accountability because we have too many Gen Xers or Yers in the company. You get the point.
I’m not suggesting that these may not be contributing factors. What I am say, though, is that it starts with communication. If you are not hiring the right people is it because you don’t interview successfully (communication), don’t know the people that will fit your corporate culture and/or communicate your culture to them (communication), or sell what your company has to offer (communication)?
When you have performance issues are you clear about your expectations, what needs to be changed and by when (communication)? Are you listening to determine if there is a resource issue you weren’t aware of or something that needs to be adjusted in terms of scope to meet a deadline (communication)?
I could go on, but I’m sure you see where I’m heading with this. Communication is underneath everything that works or doesn’t work in an organization. Take the time to consider where you need to strengthen communication in your company. I’m betting when you focus on improving communication you will see major improvements throughout the organization.
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