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Jun 11, 2020

Approx. 14 min. read

Organizational Communication: 9 Steps to Create a Successful Strategy

Organizational communication is one of the essential prerequisites for building a successful business. Its impact on employee engagement,...

the importance of organizational communication in the workplace

Organizational communication is one of the essential prerequisites for building a successful business. Its impact on employee engagement, collaboration, workplace trust and employee experience makes it an important part of every workplace strategy. 

📚Download our eBook "10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications" and learn how to communicate with the modern employee in today's digital age.

In this blog, we will go over some of the most important benefits of building an effective organizational communication as well as the steps needed to implement a successful organizational communication strategy

What Is Organizational Communication?

Organizational communication includes formal and informal communication throughout an organization, including communication among employees and employee-manager communication. 

We can divide organizational communication into 4 main types:

1. Formal communication

 Being formal, clear and specific is a great way to ensure a proper flow of information in the workplace. With formal communication, everyone is informed about and aligned with the business goals.

This type of communication is also required to meet legal requirements. For example, work arrangements as well as safety rules and guidelines have to be communicated to the employees in a formal way (emails, printed documents).

2. Informal communication

As you might have guessed, this type of communication is the opposite of formal communication. It is also known as "grapevine communication". In essence, it includes dialogues, chats, phone conversations as well as the "water cooler talks" that usually take place near the coffee maker that don't rely on any formalities.

One of the top advantages of informal communication is the fact that it is a faster way of sharing information in the workplace. It also helps share and develop new ideas to improve products as well as internal or external processes. You would be surprise to know how many innovation ideas started with a chat next to the coffee machine! 

3. Horizontal communication 

This type of organizational communication occur amongst teams, groups or individuals who are at the same hierarchical level. Horizontal communication plays an important role in breaking down silos and improving cross-departmental collaboration in the workplace. It plays a critical role in aligning tech, marketing and sales teams and making sure that everyone is on the same page. 

4. Vertical communication 

The most common form of communication within structured organizations follows an up-and-down vertical pattern. It includes communication between business leaders, team leaders and employees. This type of communication is essential in the workplace. Without vertical communication, it wouldn't be possible to share guidelines, feedback, or ideas.

No matter what type of communication we are talking about, communication in the workplace is a vital management component to any organization.

Some of the main purposes of organizational communication is to update employees on new policies, crisis communication, ensuring safety throughout the organization, managing change management, digital transformation, mergers and acquisitions as well as giving and receiving feedback from employees. 

📚Read on: Change Management: Definition, Best Practices & Examples

To be successful, organizations should have comprehensive organizational communication strategies in which employees feel informed about the important company updates and are engaged in daily organizational conversations. 

15 Goals of Effective Organizational Communication

Effective organizational communication impacts organizational success in many ways. Some of them include:

  1. Creating a positive employee experience, increasing employee morale, satisfaction and engagement.
  2. Helping employees understand terms and conditions of their employment and driving their commitment and loyalty.
  3. Encouraging employees’ share of voice which significantly improves employees' satisfaction with their employer.
  4. Helping to decrease the chances for misunderstandings and spread of misinformation in the workplace.
  5. Improving cross-departmental communication and collaboration among employees. 
  6. Helping employees align with the company’s mission, vision and core values. 
  7. Driving a higher employees engagement by keeping employees informed at all times. 
  8. Making it easy for employees to find important and relevant information whenever they need it. 
  9. Streamlining the flow of information within the organization
  10. Improving employee productivity by eliminating waste of time spent on information search and communication on irrelevant topics. 
  11. Improving processes and procedures and ultimately creating greater efficiencies and cost reductions.
  12. Building better relationships between employees and their managers. 
  13. Improving trust in the workplace
  14. Making communication more fun
  15. Improving communication with non-wired, remote and deskless employees

Check out the infographic below where we share some of the most important benefits of communication in the workplace 👇

benefits-of-organizational-communication-infographic

Organizational Communication in COVID-19 Times

Organizational communication has played a critical role during the coronavirus pandemic. More than ever, employees needed to be supported and heard during the outbreak. Indeed, they suddenly had to change their work habits and adapt on the fly.

organizational-communication-and-remote-work

While some of them were used to work from home before the pandemic, this work arrangement was completely new to others. 

📚Read on: Remote Work: 20 Ways to Engage and Connect with Your Remote Employees

Not only did organizational communication play a key role in supporting employees during the pandemic, but it also played a critical role in keeping businesses running as smoothly as possible.

As most operations got disrupted, IC experts did an amazing job at rethinking their communication strategies so employees could maintain their morale and productivity levels high. 

Key Statistics on Organizational Communication During the Outbreak

The following statistics highlight the importance of having an effective organizational communication strategy in place in times if crisis such as the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Overall, 93% of employees surveyed by The Institute for Public Relations and Peppercomm said their company was handling the COVID-19 crisis effectively (Peppercomm & The Institute for Public Relations)
  • 85% of employees say they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news (Trade Press Services)
  • 81% of respondents said the communication function was VERY involved in communicating internally (Peppercomm & The Institute for Public Relations)
  • Personal touchpoints were favored to be the best channels for communicating to employees during the outbreak. Direct communication through supervisors/ managers (61%) and one-on-one checkins (76%) were noted to be “very effective” channels (Peppercomm & The Institute for Public Relations)
  • Only 42% of employees strongly agree that leadership is effectively leading their organization through the crisis (Perceptyx)
  • 54% of HR leaders indicated that poor technology and/or infrastructure for remote working is the biggest barrier to effective remote working in their organization (Gartner)
  • 15% of the firms surveyed by Willis Towers Watson said that the pandemic had a negative effect on productivity (Corporate Adviser)
  • A UK survey run during the pandemic showed that 73% of the respondents believed they were more efficient when working from home (Statistica)
  • Return-to-work preparations were in the early stages as only 10% of communication executives have done “extensive” planning. Specific changes to the physical work environment are included in this report (Peppercomm & The Institute for Public Relations)

📚Read on: The Ultimate COVID-19 Crisis Management Checklist for Employers

9 Steps to Create a Successful Organizational Communication Strategy

Let’s now go over the 9 crucial steps for creating a successful organizational communication strategy at your organization. 

If you're in a hurry, check out the video bellow 👇

video-on-organizational-communication

 

1. Link your organizational communication plan to your business strategy

Most HR, internal communication strategists and organizational leaders agree that linking organizational communication to their business strategy is essential to effective and consistent business operations. 

Yet, many organizations still don’t have an internal communication plan and strategy in place

statistics-on-organizational-communication

To develop an effective organizational communication strategy, employers should begin by linking communication to their overall strategic plan, including the organization's mission, vision and core company values.

📚Read on: Company Values: Definition, Importance and Examples

For example, your business strategy may be to improve performance by increasing employee retention or employee engagement. 

As employee communication plays a crucial role here, your organizational communication strategy should be directly linked to your business strategy. 

2. Understand your audience/s

Identifying your audience is an important step for ensuring effectiveness of your organizational communication strategy. 

One of the main causes of ineffective organizational communication is the fact that employers don’t segment their audiences based on their job roles, departments, locations, interests and preferences.

As a consequence, most employees get similar type of information even though that information may not be relevant to them at all. 

What happens then?

Very low engagement and consumption rates with your internal communication content. 

As this is something all communicators are trying to eliminate and avoid, defining and understanding your internal audiences is a crucial step for developing a good organizational communication strategy. 

3. Engage all employees

Organizational communication is the process in which all employees should be involved and participate in. 

The mindset in which communication mainly includes delivering messages to employees about business issues, policies and procedures, and company updates is the wrong mindset.  

Communication in the workplace should never be one-way. Two-way conversations, on the other hand, have a great power to create and support a healthy workplace culture. Listening to employee issues, questions, comments, ideas and concerns builds loyalty and drives employee productivity

At the end of the day, everyone in the organization has a role in building an organizational communication strategy that works well:

  1. CEOs and senior managers are ultimately responsible for setting the tone and establishing a great organizational culture. One of the main responsibilities these leaders have is ensuring effective company-wide communication.
  2. The HR professionals and other people strategists also play critical roles in organizational communications, especially in today's workplace where employees’ expectations, preferences and needs have changed significantly.
  3. Managers and team leaders are responsible for daily communication with their employees. 
  4. All employees have a responsibility to share their voice, their concerns and issues, provide feedback and collaborate with their teammates. 

📚Read on: 8 Employee Engagement Statistics You Need to Know in 2020 [INFOGRAPHIC]

4. Create engaging and relevant content

Unfortunately, many employees don’t engage with their company’s internal content. Moreover, many employees ignore messages being delivered to them through a company’s intranet or email. 

organizational-communication-and-intranet

This happens mostly because the content delivered to them is not relevant to what they do. Sending out a mass newsletter to all employees hoping that they will read it is not realistic at all today. 

An effective organizational communication strategy requires much more than that. As IC practitioners are now seen as important strategic business partners, their new role is to step up their game by ensuring that the internal content actually gets consumed by employees. 

However, content and audience segmentation, especially in large organizations, is impossible without the right employee communication tools that enable communicators to create and distribute more engaging content to the employees. 

5. Distribute your content through the right channels

Now even if you have the right content ready and you know who should receive it, there is another important factor to consider: the communication channels you're going to use to distribute your content.

As the number of different communication channels we use in the workplace is continuously increasing, choosing the right channels becomes a big challenge to communicators. 

📚Read on: Top Communication Channels to Consider for Your Business

Intranets, emails, internal social media, private messaging apps such as Slack, document sharing and project management tools are all means of internal communication in organizations. 

Therefore, this communication ecosystem has become very complex and hard to manage efficiently. 

For this reason, many organizations are now turning to modern employee communication solutions that enable them to connect all their organizational communication channels into a single place where all the important information is available to all the employees at all times. 

6. Implement the right communication technology

Choosing the right employee communication technology can really bring your organizational communication strategy to the next level. 

If you know that engagement levels through your current solutions, such as intranets, are low, that is probably the sign that something needs to be changed

Many intranets are still outdated and they don’t match employees’ preferences regarding the way they communicate even in their private lives. 

organizational-communication-challenges

Therefore, the implementation of mobile-first employee communication solutions is not an option any more, it’s a must-have!

If we know that the majority of our workplaces is made by Gen Z and millennial workers, we also know how much time they spend and communicate via their smartphones. 

Therefore, switching to mobile-first internal communication solutions like Smarp is guaranteed to transform the way your workplace communicates

7. Measure the outcomes

While most organizations agree that measuring and quantifying results of communication plans is necessary, this goal is difficult to accomplish

Moreover,  60% of IC practitioners are still not measuring their internal communication efforts.

Tracking and measuring internal communication efforts is extremely important to understand what is working well and what needs to be improved. 

Collecting this data can help you answer questions such as:

  • How engaged your employees are with your internal content?
  • How do they respond to your messages?
  • What communication channels are the best to deliver information?
  • What type of content employees engage the most with?
  • Which employees engage the most (likes, shares, comments)?

8. Use your data to improve your organizational communication strategy

Once you collect and analyze data, it is easier to make improvements and better decisions in the future. 

For example, if you realize that your employees engage most with video content, this is the sign to produce more of such content. 

Moreover, video truly is the type of content younger generations love to consume because of its simplicity and fun. 

how-to-use-videos-for-organizational-communication

Another great way to leverage data is to understand who your internal influencers are in order to reward them and make them your brand ambassadors

📚Read on: Top 5 Communication Skills and How to Improve Them

With Smarp, companies across the world have managed to transform their organizational communication efforts with the help of data available through our employee communications solution. 

9. Watch your workplace transform

This the best step of your newly implemented organizational communication strategy! 

If you can successfully implement all the above steps, your whole workplace culture will transform. Your employees will be much more satisfied with their jobs and the company overall which will result in higher employee engagement and productivity levels. 

Even though this process may not seem easy to implement, the hard work will pay off and your return on investment will be obvious. 

The Cost of Poor Organizational Communication

As seen earlier in this blog post, organizational communication is a topic that businesses should concentrate more on. However, according to the research from the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), many companies are losing money due to poor communication.

One survey of 400 companies with 100,000 employees cited an average loss per company of $62.4 million per year from inadequate communication to and between employees. 

In addition, miscommunication cost smaller companies of 100 employees an average of $420,000 per year.

what is the cost of poor organizational communication?

Moreover, ineffective communication may increase misunderstandings, damage relationships, break trust, lower employee productivity and increase frustration in the workplace. 

Boost Your Organizational Communication Strategy with Smarp

Smarp is a mobile-first employee communications platform designed to help organizations improve communication in the workplace and better connect with their employees, no matter where  they are located. 

As employees spend too much time searching for relevant information, employers need to make this process more streamlined and effective

what are the benefits of organizational communication?

With internal communications technology like Smarp, employers can now deliver personalized content to their employees, communicate in a more authentic way and improve relationships among employees. 

What's next? Download the eBook “10 Principles of Modern Employee Communications” where we share tips & best practices for successfully communicating with your employees in today's digital age.

10_principles_cta

Written by

Valène Jouany & Kristina Martic

Valène Jouany & Kristina Martic

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