Workplace Communication – Key to Productivity

Communication surfaces almost every time an organization surveys its members and yet, what is done to address the issue of poor communication? The impact communication has on the bottom line is phenomenal and an easy fix in many instances. Let’s look at the losses incurred by poor communication and areas where simple communication strategies can raise the bar at your organization.

Research by SIS International found that 70% of small to mid-size businesses found ineffective communication as their top problem. According to them, a business with 100 employees spend an average of 17 hours a week clarifying communication which translates to an annual amount of $528,443 a year! Problems with communication increase as an organization grows. An organization with 100,000 employees loses $62 million dollars a year or an average of $624 per employee. Much of these problems occur between leadership at all levels and their direct reports. Areas where communication can influence productivity start with the top.

Vision: A leader utilizes communication to transport the vision they hold in their head to the rest of the organization. This starts with their leadership team and their ability to help them see and buy in to the vision. It is helpful if leadership communicates what is in it for the organization if the people support the vision. Leadership needs to identify the behaviors which they need to exhibit to create the desired culture. Once identified, leaders throughout the organization need to be held accountable for displaying these behaviors and mentoring their direct reports. When a leaders words and behaviors are in alignment trust is positively impacted. Leaders need to talk the talk, and walk the talk as well. If an organization says they are in partnership with their employees but do not involve their workers in the operation of the business at some level then the words become meaningless, and trust is negatively impacted. Clear communication and behaviors consistently displayed by leadership will have a dramatic effect on the culture.

Leadership Development: Individuals put in leadership positions need to be given the skills to excel and a huge amount of training needs to revolve around communication. Employees do not leave organizations, they leave their direct supervisors and turnover costs organizations big bucks. An article by Karlyn Borysenko in Talent Management and HR found the following costs of turnover:

  • For entry-level employees, it costs between 30-50 percent of their annual salary to replace them.
  • For mid-level employees, it costs upwards of 150 percent of their annual salary to replace them.
  • For high-level or highly specialized employees, you’re looking at 400 percent of their annual salary.

New leaders need to understand how to communicate clear expectations, have difficult conversations, how to give clear feedback or how to confront individuals in a respectful manner. Without these skills employees leave and cost you in terms of productivity and profitability.

Two-way communication: Organization on Fortune’s Great Place to Work list have developed opportunities for two-way communication with their employees. A huge part of the communication comes in the form of listening. No one knows the job better than the person doing it and yet decisions are often made without input from people doing the job. This has a negative effect on morale and tends to disengage the workers. When employees do not feel heard, they disengage and just put in their time. Supervisors and employees need to have two-way communication to understand the problems and collaborate on the best resolution. This not only engages your people but helps them feel an integral part of the business.

By finding ways in which to communicate in a clear manner, your organization can excel while reducing stress, and minimizing turnover. The key is to uncover how communication currently takes place in your facility then identify areas to boost productivity. Although an org chart shows the structure of the organization it does not identify how communication takes place. A social network analysis can uncover blind spots in your current communication practices and help you to implement communication practices that engage your workforce.

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