Communication means business

25 04 2011

Imagine a basketball coach who meets with his team in the beginning of the season, assigns roles to his players…and then hardly interacts with them again.

He doesn’t communicate with his team during games. He doesn’t tell the players what he likes and dislikes about their individual performances. And he certainly doesn’t share his overall plan for the team and where each player fits into that plan as the season unfolds.

Sounds absurd, right? Well, that’s essentially how many businesses today are interacting with their employees.

In his book, You Can’t NOT Communicate, corporate communications veteran David Grossman discusses how companies that actively engage their workforce are being rewarded with higher productivity and profits, and how companies that don’t are falling behind.

Grossman, the former head of communications for McDonald’s who now owns his own firm, advises business leaders to view communication as an instrument of strategy, and a strategy in itself. It’s important to remember that employees are actual human beings, and that human beings desire certain things at their job:

1. They want to know where the organization is going and the plans to get there.

2. They want to be informed of things in a timely, honest manner.

3. They want to be able to connect the dots between their day-to-day work and the overarching business strategy and goals of the organization.

4. They want to feel valued.

5. They want a feeling of community; that they are part of something larger than themselves.

6. They want a feeling of excitement.

7. They want specific feedback on their performance, whether that be recognition of a job well done, or guidance in an area where they can improve.

8. They want management that will listen to their input and make a sincere effort to follow through on that input.

By nurturing employees’ communication needs, companies create a real connection with those on “the front lines,” and good things follow:

— According to a 2006 report by The Conference Board, highly engaged employees outperform their disengaged colleagues by 20-28 percent.

— A 2006 report by Watson Wyatt Worldwide found that companies that communicate effectively have a 19.4 percent higher market premium than companies that do not.

— The Watson Wyatt report also found that shareholder returns for organizations with the most effective communication were more than 57 percent higher over a five-year period (2000-2004) than for companies with less effective communications.

Conversely, disengaged employees drain companies. A 2006 study by James Harter and Rodd Wagner titled “The Elements of Great Managing” found that:

— In a 10,000-person company, absenteeism due to disengagement results in roughly 5,000 lost days per year, which is valued at $600,000 in salary paid in which there is no work performed.

— Work groups with lower levels of engagement earn 12 percent lower customer scores than those on the higher end.

— Business units comprised of mostly disengaged employees have 31 percent more turnover than those made up of mostly engaged employees.

There are many in the business world who still view a strategic approach to internal communications as a “luxury” — something that’s nice to have, but not as essential as Accounting or IT. But, clearly, the statistics say otherwise.

“Savvy business leaders have seen firsthand the power of good employee communication and how it can drive business success from the inside out,” Grossman writes. “Quite simply, it helps people and organizations be even better.”

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