Corporate culture and strategy follow the truisms of plumbing. Like water, communication always runs downhill. In other words, business success begins at the top and flows down through the ranks to the people who actually do the work of carrying out the business. All too often, the folks sitting in the leather chairs in the C-suites forget that their businesses rise and fall on the bottom-rung receptionists who answer the phones, counter clerks who face customers all day long, and waiters who take and deliver the orders in dining establishments.
If the workers with whom your customers interact don’t understand the corporate goals, don’t have the training to support those goals, or don’t trust in the managers who impose those goals upon them, then two things can happen: customers stop buying your products or services and at the same time good employees quit. Either consequence results in a cascade of poor morale, poor performance, and eventually business closure.
Once you (and your executive committee, if you have one) have determined the vision and mission for the business and plotted out the organization-wide strategies for accomplishing those grand ambitions, it’s time to inform every single employee. If the size of the corporation prohibits direct communication of executives to front-line employees, then more work may be required to phrase or explain the goals and strategies so that directors, managers, and supervisors can convey the information and expectations clearly to those employees who report to them, as well as answer their questions.
Writing for Business Performance, Leslie Allan AIMM, MAITD, recommends that executives use all the tools available within the company to communicate with all employees. Effective communication requires a strategy, as well as methods, for delivery. Allan also emphasizes the importance of direct, personal communication:
[T]he most crucial communication about objectives comes from each employee’s direct supervisor or manager. Without this conversation, the employee’s efforts will weaken, as they perceive their immediate manager to be driven by other priorities.
How communication takes place affects comprehension. Although one should never assume that the rank-and-file workers are stupid, executives must remember that those same workers are not privy to the discussions leading up to the finalized vision, mission, and strategies. Writing for Harvard Business Review, Georgia Everse suggests keeping the message simple. Simple means neither shallow nor easy. Simple effectively carries deep meaning and that meaning must be made relevant to employees “in a way that makes them care more about the company and about the job they do.” Every message must imbue that deeper meaning to keep workers connected to the overarching objectives of the company–the company’s purpose and how to achieve it. Employees who do not understand the information conveyed cannot be expected to carry it out.
Corporate messages exist for three purposes: to inspire, to educate or inform, and to reinforce. Content and tone convey the purpose of each message, so executives and managers must take care to exert all effort to avoid misunderstanding and misinterpretation, which can ruin the message and sow discontent and confusion. Be sincere and make a genuine effort to open a dialogue with employees. The “fake it ’til you make it” mantra doesn’t apply here.
The process of communication requires that you keep in mind the following: the audience, the purpose of the message, the timing of delivery, and the method of delivery. Creativity, relevance, and sincerity will improve understanding, acceptance, and execution.