These Effective Communication Practices Make a Lot of Sense


What kind of information is communicated to employees by companies that communicate well?

Towers Watson, the human-resources consulting firm, came up with a list of effective communication practices as part of their ongoing Change and Communication ROI Study. (The latest results from the study are available on their website and once again demonstrate a link between effective communication and company performance.) It’s a good list that Towers Watson developed after talking with clients, reviewing academic and other external research and looking at their own experience and research. In fact, I believe it’s such a good list that I teach it to my employee communication students at Virginia Commonwealth University.

Here is Towers Watson’s seven practices for effective communication, along with the percentage of companies in this year’s study that follow them and my commentary on why they’re important:

  1. Helping employees understand the business (58%). This is the top-ranked practice by the study’s participants, and for good reason. It’s one of the most valuable things we can communicate because employees who don’t understand their employer’s business are not likely to be engaged in helping the business succeed. Imagine if you worked in a manufacturing facility and your only duty was to come in and turn Screw No. 14 all day. It’s hard to get motivated about that. But if you understand how Screw No. 14 fits into the company’s products, and how customers use those products, and how selling more of those products helps the company make money, then turning Screw No. 14 all day seems more meaningful. People want to know how they fit into the bigger picture. They want to understand where the company plays, how various factors affect its ability to succeed and what they can do to help.
  2. Providing information on organizational performance and financial objectives to employees (57%). It’s no surprise this practice ranks a close second because of all the reasons stated above. In addition, it’s important to remember that in many companies, employees are also shareholders, so they have a double stake in the business.
  3. Educating employees about organizational culture and values (56%). Employees need to know “how things are done around here” in order to get things done. Companies in which everyone is playing by the same rules are more efficient. Think how chaotic it would be if one department operated with openness and transparency, for example, while another shielded employees from the information they needed to do their jobs. Not only would each department operate at different performance levels, but if those departments ever had to collaborate on a project, things would not go well.
  4. Integrating new employees into the organization (49%). It’s expensive to hire, train and integrate new employees. (That’s why retention should be one goal of your organization’s communication plan.) Why would a company go to the expense of bringing talented people into the organization only to turn them loose with no grounding in the company’s history, culture, values, processes, etc.? I joined my company just over a month ago. I’m only productive now because I was quickly and effectively integrated into the organization.
  5. Communicating to employees how their actions affect the customer (45%). It shocks me that fewer than half of the companies in Towers Watson’s study do this well. Customers are the reason your company is in business. If employees don’t understand how their actions affect the most important group to your company, I wish you luck in succeeding in the long run.
  6. Providing individuals with information about the true value of their total compensation package (42%). Like it or not, compensation remains a primary motivator for employees. Often, employees think only of salary, but many companies also reward them with health insurance and other benefits including retirement savings, performance bonuses and fringe perks. Having just joined a Fortune 500 company after 12 years of self-employment, I can attest to the value of the total package.
  7. Asking for rapid feedback from employees about their opinions on the company (32%). Most people possess some degree of innovation, creativity, problem-solving ability and perspective. It’s a shame only one-third of companies in this study seem to appreciate the tremendous power employees’ input can bring to the company. All you have to do is ask.
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One Response

  1. […] and openly with their employees and the degree to which employees are engaged. Companies with effective communication practices have more engaged workers, and more engaged workers create more successful […]

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