Two of the biggest communication errors companies make are assuming communication has taken place, and assuming the message has gotten through. Saying something once does not qualify as communicating. Burying a critical message in a lengthy memo is equally ineffective. Communication in the workplace can be informal or formal, and the more important the message, the more formal the method of delivering it -- at least that's what some companies often assume to be the best approach. In reality, the most important messages should be delivered through a combination of methods.
Formal and Informal Methods
Meetings, presentations and corporate memos are formal communication methods. Email, instant messaging and hallway conversations are informal methods. Key corporate directives are often communicated through corporate memos. Unfortunately, not everyone reads them. And when the past several memos have communicated information about fundraisers, parking lot closures and volunteer activities, the next memo is even more likely to be ignored – even if the message is critical to employee goals and objectives. Such memos should be followed up with meetings and other approaches.
Communicating information based on a single perspective -- that of the sender -- will only be successful if the receivers are like-minded. Engineers and information technology professionals tend to use technical language. Finance professionals talk numbers. Production planners focus on schedules. Communications targeting all three receivers should be structured to get through to all of them. This requires planning. Organizations that address communication planning strategically will see more successful communications generated.
Fitting the Content to the Audience
It is important to fit the content of a message to its intended audience. Communications intended for an executive should be concise and on-point, while those intended for engineers require details no executive has time to weed through. Information being directed in English to non-native English speakers should use simple sentence structures and common words -- not quite what an English professor would want to see. In the workplace, the tone of communications should always be professional.
Email is an effective tool for keeping colleagues updated. But workplace email can pile up, and one message can easily get lost in the middle of a hundred others. It helps to construct a clear subject line, especially when responding to a long email chain through which the content has evolved. Following up the email with a phone call or walking to the colleague's desk are also keys to making sure the message has been received, read and understood. Important team updates are better transmitted if they are posted to a static online site easily accessed by leaders and teammates.
A careers content writer, Debra Kraft is a former English teacher whose 25-plus year corporate career includes training and mentoring. She holds a senior management position with a global automotive supplier and is a senior member of the American Society for Quality. Her areas of expertise include quality auditing, corporate compliance, Lean, ERP and IT business analysis.