Seeking success, companies spend millions on fine-tuning their corporate message, but often fail to train the messengers who deliver it. Business Growth Consultant, Eva Jenkins explores how effective communication bridges the gap between corporate intention and employee action.You can get an education, work hard, and dress for success, but without carefully cultivated ‘people skills,’ it’s unlikely that you’ll get very far in business…or in life for that matter! Professional success depends primarily on human relations skills, including effective communications. Many times, it is a superior skill in communication that propels careers, boosts productivity and ensures customer satisfaction.Communication – the ability to be heard and understood by listeners — affects the outcome of relationships, products and systems within a corporate structure. It’s the mortar that ensures that every brick is in place as a company grows and expands…the ‘essence’ of a firm foundation. This important skill set has seismic impact on organizations, and yet the pronouncements of the bean counters – financial officers, analysts, and the people on “The Street,” — have resulted in communications training being demoted to the bottom of the balance sheet.Can You Communicate?Communication – the ability to be heard and understood by listeners — affects the outcome of relationships, products and systems within a corporate structure.In A Guide to for the Perplexed, E.F. Schumacher wrote, “We tend to see ourselves primarily in the light of our intentions, which are invisible to others, while we see others mainly in light of their actions, which are invisible to us; we have a situation in which misunderstanding and injustice are the order of day.” It’s easy to translate this thought into the world of business. Without clear communication, a corporate environment becomes a swirling vortex of “Why didn’t you do what I told you?” and “You never told me to do that.”Finger-pointing and blame-shifting break down individuals and destroy any sense of team or unity.Once Is NOT EnoughDespite the fact that communication of company goals and processes is essential to success at every level of business, ineffectual leaders allow daily activities and tasks, as well as unexpected distractions to sidetrack communications. Convinced that ‘once is enough’ when information has been conveyed, many managers allow any distraction as an excuse to put regularly scheduled communication on the back burner.However, while managers busy themselves putting out small ‘fires,’ they fail to realize that inferno misinformation and employee dissatisfaction threatens to engulf the company.Great ExpectationsA key element in leadership is the ability to give clear and accurate directions when setting expectations. This sounds easier than it is. We often think others understand us better than they do. Bad leaders believe their message has been heard and processed by employees, so they don’t bother to confirm that with the employees themselves.Communication doesn’t end when you finish delivering your message!American businesses spend hundreds of thousands of dollars sending employees to training classes and still find their companies failing miserably. The ‘students’ may learn skills and ideas, but their ability to put their knowledge to work and communicate what they’ve learned to their staff and supervisors is never addressed. How come? If communications is key, why do employers fail to foster the essential skill that can inoculate a business from a wide range of problems?Let’s talk about that!Losing FocusManagement training programs do focus on communications, exploring the different types of communications and the wide variety of communications media. Their message to the managers is a good one: “Create a climate of open communication to increase your team members’ motivation, commitment, and productivity.”Intellectually, the communication training programs that are out there…many of them are very good…have hit the nail on the head. Practically speaking, however, they fall short. Why? Because there is no follow up! The focus on communication is lost once the training session ends.In nine cases out of ten, you’ll find no real accountability built into the administration and ROI of training programs. Training is delivered to a select few in organizations large and small. There is very little follow-through from HR or Training and Development or outside Consultants to see how well the participants able to incorporate various soft skills or have they been able change their own behaviors.The answer is that H/R and training functions should include ongoing follow-up throughout the entire year. There should be a continuous effort to gather statistical information from participating departments as well as feedback and commentary from managers and workers. Reviewing the numbers and feedback one month after training, three months, six month and a year later is critical to enable the ROI of training. If managers do not want to cooperate, make them. Get it done!Without follow up, an analysis of the training and its effectiveness is impossible.The Blame GameWhen companies fail, it is likely to be because of a breakdown in communications, concern about reprisals, political silos, and a lack of accountability. All these things create a fear-based environment that inevitably leads to a lot of defensive posturing. Everyone blames someone else: managers blame staff, staffers indict managers, and everyone gets on the bandwagon to point a finger at ‘useless’ training. Since no one wants to take responsibility for a communications failure, everyone gets bogged down in their own inadequate internal processes. This is true at every level of corporate life, including the halls of senior management, management, H/R and T&D. Many of today’s leaders are so focused on positioning ‘someone else’ to take the blame for a mistake that they fail to identify the real cause. This, of course, makes it impossible for problems to be corrected and a company ends in and ruins.In large corporations, particularly Federal contractors, training is seldom included as a line item in a division’s budget because clients do not want to pay for communications training. And they shouldn’t. Companies, themselves, should budget for communications training as a cost of doing business. In the long term, this short-term investment in will pay off with improved communications throughout the company and with all clients, as well as with improved productivity and increased profitability.Despite its proven hard-dollar rewards, communications training continues to be a second-class citizen in corporate life. Instead of a self-protective stance, “I won’t get my next promotion if I spend money on training,” division heads should be thinking proactively: “A financial investment in training and good communications will ensure that my department is profitable. Managers need to realize that they are the winners if they can keep track, and show how well they are able to develop their own people, and create a more efficient and successful team.The ability to communicate effectively needs to be measured and monitored on a continuous basis. Organizations change, people come and go, and a variety of internal and external forces can affect a company’s ability to function well. To keep up with change — and hopefully stay ahead of it — internal processes, performance management reviews, reporting structures, and the like should all be consistently reviewed and monitored.Communication starts at the top. Leaders, themselves, must then have the skill to communicate clearly so that superiors and subordinates alike follow their lead. CEO’s, directors, managers, and department heads must understand its value and make it a priority in all exchanges – verbal, written, etc.A Commitment to CommunicationsEffective communications has a positive effect on employees and the corporate bottom line. CEO’s who understand the significance of having and promoting open, clear communications are better positioned to create successful organizations at every level. These CEO’s hold their direct leadership accountable to make sure the company’s DNA reflects a commitment to communication.Managers who communicate well and foster good communications in others create an environment where people enjoy their work and produce more. In turn, those happy, productive employees drive a grassroots effort where internal referrals power the recruiting processes, cutting down the time and money lost to hiring and training.A high level of production, low levels of employee churn, and bigger profits as the end result. This is a winning ‘trifecta’ for any business.
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