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Gail Franks

Summersault Communications

Managing Director

Read more about Gail Franks

How to avoid 10 common employee communication pitfalls


Finding ways to manage employee communications effectively is essential as it helps shape the organisation’s culture and engage employees.

It is also vital to ensure that staff understand and buy into organisational change or take up benefits, for instance.
As long as communications are regular, open and tailored to the workforce, they can likewise help to ensure that individuals remain focused on company goals and work together more closely in teams, thus enhancing the working environment.
An effective internal communications strategy must be carefully managed, however, particularly in these times of financial constraint where there may be difficult news such as restructuring activity or redundancies to deliver.
In a lot of organisations, it is the HR director who is responsible for internal communications. But even if they aren’t, it is important that they understand the factors that make an internal communications programme successful or not.
To this end, here are some common pitfalls to avoid:
1. Lack of clarity
Be crystal clear about what you want to achieve from your communications and what organisational or business changes you are seeking to impart. Each message should have a purpose – don’t simply communicate for the sake of it. Without an objective, you won’t achieve anything.
2. Using only one communications channel
Each individual has their own preference about how they are communicated with. As a result, it is important to look at your communications strategy in an integrated fashion and employ the best channel for the job. This means using a variety of formats, which includes verbal, visual, written, mobile and online.
3. Employing a one-size-fits-all approach
A one-size-fits-all approach to communication does not work so tailor messages to take the composition of your audience into account. It will be made up of individuals of different levels, ages and backgrounds and your communications should reflect this.
4. Failing to take advantage of face-to face meetings
Communicating with people on a face-to-face basis is one of the most powerful ways to do it and it generally works very effectively, particularly when what has to be said is challenging or potentially controversial.
It is often less open to misinterpretation and gives employees the opportunity to ask questions and get direct feedback.
5. Top-down communication
Communication shouldn’t be a one-way process with employers simply talking to employees. Instead, there should be a free flow of information from one party to another so that people at different levels can feed in their views and respond to each other.
6. Failing to explain the context
Never assume that workers have full knowledge of the background behind each communication. This means that messages should not be passed on in isolation but put into context so that they don’t get lost.
Such a process might involve outlining where the message sits within the company’s overall strategy or planned activity over the year ahead.
7. Using jargon or dwelling on technicalities
Without being patronising, the most effective way to communicate is by using the audience’s own language, which includes employing terms that they understand.
The use of jargon and drilling down into technicalities makes things over-complicated and can inhibit understanding. Communication should be simple and concise.
8. Simply passing on information without giving the audience time to process it
To ensure that members of your audience thoroughly understand the messages being given to them, they must be given the opportunity and the tools to work out what the information means for themselves.
As a result, providing links to further information or instructions on the company intranet, for instance, can prove useful. By actively engaging in the communication, staff will absorb more of the message.
9. Delivering messages in a haphazard way
Communications should take place at regular intervals so that messages are reinforced and resonate. Key messages should likewise be conveyed clearly to all staff at the same time or mis-communication is likely to be rife and untruths will spread on the grapevine.
10. Measuring the impact of communication
All communications activity should be measured and evaluated to understand the return on investment. Measuring the impact of internal communications is crucial at a time when all expenditure has to be justified.

Gail Franks is managing director at customer and employee communications agency, Summersault Communications, a subsidiary of business services provider, Motivcom.
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Gail Franks

Managing Director

Read more from Gail Franks

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