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:( What is effective communication at workplace? What are the barriers to effective communication?
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Have you ever wondered how well you stack up against the best practices in internal communication? Our work and research leads us to believe that there are 6 core dimensions associated with best practice communication:

Commitment of Management

Communication Philosophy and Strategy

Methods and Processes

Management Practices

Measurement and Evaluation

Organization and Resourcing

In this article, part 1 of a 2 part series, we will look at the elements associated with the first three dimensions - Commitment of Management, Communication Philosophy and Strategy and Methods and Processes.

To find out how you stack up, consider each of the different elements associated with the dimension and then score yourself using a simple scale ranging from 0 (nonexistent) to 5 (fully meeting the criteria).

Commitment of Management

The commitment of leadership and management is a critical component establishing effective internal communication. To be among those achieving best practice in this dimension, the commitment of management is reflected through many different elements, including:

Senior management believes that the principles of honesty, truth and candor should guide everything that is communicated to employees

Senior managers are committed to searching for new and better ways to communicate and send important business information to employees.

Have strong, sustained senior management commitment and use communications as a process for managing organizational change.

Have senior managers who actively engage in regular personal face-to-face communications with their employees.

Senior Management commits funding to support the implementation of effective programs.

Communication Philosophy and Strategy

A second consistency among best practice companies and organizations are a number of factors associated with having and overall philosophy and strategy to guide communication planning, systems and processes. Core elements of this dimension to consider include:

Communications are focussed on increasing employee understanding of the company: its values, products, customers, external business environment and fostering a desired workplace culture.

A clear strategy and measurable goals, driven from senior management level and aligned to business goals and objectives are in place.

Clarity and consistency in key messages communicated to employees is achieved by focusing efforts on a few strategic issues.

Managers throughout the organization are used as key communications links with employees.

Senior management believes face-to-face communications should be the primary vehicle for discussing important business issues with staff at all levels.

Methods and Processes

The delivery and collection of information is critical to achieve success, and for many it is the tactical aspects of communication that bring the most enjoyment. Behind those tactics, however, are a number of core processes that all internal best practice companies focus on. The elements noted below outline many these key behaviors:

Management's communications responsibilities have been clearly defined in response to employee communication needs.

Internal communications is integrated across all business units to ensure alignment, timeliness, consistency and coordination.

Formal processes to surface emerging employee business improvement ideas and suggestions have been established and are being used consistently (may include surveys, speak-easy sessions, ideas programs).

Formal communications processes designed to identify and resolve employee concerns, issues and grievances are in place.

Have instituted multiple communications channels and methods that allow employees to quickly access important business information.

Create mechanisms and forums that encourage open and free exchange of information among employees and departments (for example, cross-functional teams and roundtables).

Provide management with skills training and tools on how to facilitate small group meetings and discussions with employees.

Management Practices

The day to day practices of management in the company form a critical component of the best practices index. These practices include:

Having managers who recognize and fulfill their communications responsibility.

Managers communicating individual and team responsibilities and performance standards.

Managers providing individual team performance feedback and coaching on a continuous basis.

Management listening to the needs and concerns of employees.

Managers facilitating the development of work-unit goals, clarify roles and progress.

Managers communicating company business goals and how they affect the work unit and the individual employee

Managers communicating upward about employee issues and suggestions for action to senior management.

Having reported upward about employee concerns, issues and suggestions for action, managers report back on action taken or not taken.

Measurement and Evaluation

The importance of measuring your performance against set goals and objectives cannot be understated. To achieve best practice performance your communication program will reflect the following elements:

Criteria and standards have been established for measuring the quality of employee communications initiatives and programs (relevance, influence, etc.).

Employee knowledge and understanding of the company's business strategies and goals, customers and products is measured to determine communication and development priorities.

The effectiveness of communications programs is evaluated by monitoring how successful critical messages are received and understood by the intended audiences.

Employee's attitudes about the company's information sharing and communications practices are measured and used to improve performance.

Organization and Resourcing

And finally, best practice organizations have the resources and structure in place to support the communication programs.

Extensive training and resources to support effective communications is provided.

Expert staff is in place to design and develop communication processes and programs (design is not meant to infer layout and graphics staff - rather it relates to planning and execution).

A network of internal coordinators has been established to support the implementation of communications programs within the major business units / areas.

So, how did you stack up? Too help you move forward with your communication efforts, develop a management plan that outlines how you will continue to develop your efforts in the different dimensions. Keep in mind that installing best practices in your company takes time, effort and commitment. But the reward of getting there is worth it. Be realistic in your planning and enjoy the ride.


The more you know about who you are communicating with the more effective you will be.

A critical step in the communication planning process is to determine your target audiences. The more you know about them, their issues and their needs, the better. Begin developing your understanding of the audiences you need to communicate with by:

first identifying the different groups and individuals (yes individuals!) with whom you need to communicate

and then analyzing them until all you can learn about them is captured.

When studying the people or groups you need to influence, involve and hear from, it may be helpful to think about the many different ways you can describe them.

For example, your target audience might be male service representatives, aged 30 to 35. But, it would be more helpful to know also that they spend an average of 4 days out of the office, meeting with clients, each week and do not have a regular work station assigned to them when they are in the office.

The more clearly you define your audience, the easier it will be to make choices about your messages and the communications vehicles you will employ to reach them. When analyzing each audience, consider:

What do they already know about your company, the marketplace in which you operate, your specific initiative and so on.

How are they likely to react to your message and why?

What are some factors influencing the audience that receives your message? Examples of what to look for include:

literacy levels or multicultural differences

access to intranets, e-mail and so forth

preferred communication vehicles

Also ask yourself "Are there any difficulties we might have in communicating with each group?"

And most importantly, be sure to consider what they need to know, who they need to hear it from and what action you need them to take as a result of the communication you are doing with them.

If you do this audience analysis well, you will be rewarded once you start communicating!

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CLADE™ - A 5 Part Model to Maximize Manager Based Communication

We all understand the importance of having managers as the key link in the communication process. But, we often struggle when trying to turn the ideal into reality. As I have explained in other articles, our role as communicators is to ensure that managers are well supported so that they can succeed with what it is they are being asked to do. From that standpoint, there are some critical areas we must focus our attention on.

Firstly, we need to understand what it is we are seeking from our managers and supervisors. While on the surface it is easy to say we want them to be effective communicators, I feel we are setting them up, and ourselves for failure if we don't look beyond that role. More importantly, we want them to do all they can to 'engage' those who work for and with them in the business.

With that in mind, our task then becomes one of helping managers understand the role they must fulfil and then provide them with specific skills and tools and a depth of understanding to do the job. Our five step CLADE™ model outlines where you should focus your attention:

CLADE™ - Champion, Listen, Align, Demonstrate and Engage

Champion. A key role of managers is to understand the organizational vision and do whatever they can to help others understand what it is and why it is so important. As communicators, we must ensure we help managers and leaders develop a clear sense of understanding of the direction the company is going and ensure they are able to champion that direction through simple, everyday messages that are understood by employees.

Listen. Managers have to be able to grasp what it is employees are concerned with. And the key to that is having and using well-developed listening skills. For communicators, the challenge is to find ways to help managers understand the importance of listening as a tool and identifying and providing effective programs to ensure managers develop and continuously enhance those skills.

Align. To be effective, managers must be able to help employees clearly understand the critical issues facing the business in general and the department or work group in particular and they must be able establish a set of related priorities. Once they achieve that task, they must work to ensure that the efforts of employees are fully and consistently aligned to those priorities. For communicators, it is important that our efforts help managers understand the issues and interpret them for employees.

Demonstrate. Walking the talk is one of the great mysteries of business communications, but it needn't be. Critical to getting employees on board is ensuring that managers and supervisors clearly demonstrate the desired behaviours each and every moment of every day. And this means that the role of communicators becomes one of helping others understand the corporate values and their importance, including the associated behaviours that need to be lived. Furthermore, it means we have to help others know what to look for and learn how to challenge those behaviours that are out of line with the intended. And finally it means we have to be aware of what the systems and processes of our company communicate.

Engage. And finally, Managers, leaders and supervisors everywhere must understand that their primary role is one of engaging those who work for them. Engagement is all about connecting people, strategy and the day to day work experience - and for communicators this means a great deal! In particular it means we must help develop a broad based contextual understanding of the context within which the business operates and ensure that managers are supported in developing the full skill set they need to succeed: active listening, facilitation, coaching, effective questioning, dealing with different personalities and dispute resolution.

If you focus your attention on each of these five areas you will be well on your way to ensuring your managers can deliver what is expected…an engaged workforce delivering higher performance.

Note: CLADE is a term drawn from biology and relates to a group of organisms considered as having evolved from a common ancestor.


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