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Blog : Communication Spaghetti? Or small meatballs of clarity?


Communication Spaghetti? Or small meatballs of clarity?

By Jo Harley, Director

One thing that is a sure fire guarantee in any interview for any job in management is that the interviewer will ask the interviewee 'why should you get the job?' and the response will, at some point allude to the fact that the interviewee is a 'people person', 'loves working with people' and is a 'great communicator.' Yet communication is, in my experience at least, the aspect most organisations struggle with.

World of technology

Our talent toolbox (on-line talent management tool) has a module that facilitates review and appraisal - therefore making sure that communication between a manager and an employee happens regularly. That wouldn't have happened just a few years ago. The world of technology is so advanced now that we can be in touch with, and communicate with anyone in the world at a touch of a button. More people than ever are using the internet as a way of keeping in touch with each other and organisations are realising the importance of two way and even 360 communication with their people.

Web 3.0

The third decade of the Web is apparently coming in 2010 whereby communication will become even more advanced and reach new levels of maturity as internet-based services collectively comprise what might be called 'the intelligent Web'...

I work both with executives, HR experts, managers and a technology product, and I manage operational and technical teams. Communication in all its forms is an integral part of what I do, all day every day. And it's the same for most of my colleagues and many of my clients. The organisations that we work with are all market leaders with top teams that are at the top of their game.

Improved communication skills

These are truly enlightened people that 'get what we do' in terms of engaging, retaining and developing their talented people and managers. So, why oh why I ask myself, is it that in 2008 our benchmarking report (which collates the talent toolbox results of over 30 top service industry brands), shows that after pay and benefits (if you ask people what they would improve they'll always say pay no matter what salaries they are earning), communication is the thing that they would most like to improve.

Company communication

When I think about this I wonder how this can be? In this millennium with all our technology and all our switched on, caring, sharing enlightened management and HR practices? And perhaps the cynics amongst you will think I am naive but I am not sure if the reason for this is any longer the fact that there is a lack of communication within an organisation, more that it's the wrong type of communication for that individual. Or even lack of clarity - too much communication, much of which we filter out and therefore forget.

People view company communication and communication from their line manager very differently. If either of these are not successfully fulfilled then it's going to be an issue. However, as I mentioned, I think there is another aspect at play here too, and that's too much communication. We are bombarded with hundreds of pieces of information every day; phone calls, texts, the internet and email and its not always clear what's important and what's not.

People can find out about what is going on in their organisations through intranet, internet, reading company newsletters, or having 'coffee chats' with line managers and increased accessibility (the door is always open, please come and see me whenever you like, as an organisation we like the onus to be on the employee).

Communication tools

This doesn't mean though that people are actually going to do it. Unless information appears right in front of someone with a big, red, flashing 'look at this now' sticker, much well intentioned communication is ignored. And even if noticed, it is soon forgotten. It follows that when (using a communication tool) people are asked what things in the company could be improved, communication will come up. Is this because people will not take the initiative to ask the question or find out for themselves or have they just, forgotten what they have been told unless it's relevant to them? It's like a big plate of tangled spaghetti where the meatballs are lost in the middle somewhere.

Spaghetti organisation?

We do lots of work around helping organisations to improve its communication. Of course without knowing exactly what the issues are was its hard to come up with a definitive answer. Like an individual, every company is very different and one person's great communication is another's annoyance at having to read yet another internal memo. It's a tough one, which even the most enlightened organisations struggle with. As an overview though, it's down to clarity, to unscrambling the communication spaghetti into small easily digestible simple messages. Great leaders are adept at this. It must be down to people knowing what information is important, and when it's relevant to pass it on and what they should do with it.

Keep communication simple

As someone that works in the facilitation of communication, my advice would be to keep it simple and keep it relevant and most importantly to listen to what people have to say. Communication is only great if it's a two way thing, and all the emails and intranet sites in the world are never going to take the place of taking the time to ask people how they would like to be communicated with and make that happen, in the way that they want it.

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