How to Communicate With Your Employees Effectively - A Study by Artur Victoria

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Employee communications is the reciprocal giving and receiving of information by employees when necessary to carry on a job. In a small organization employee communications may occur without anyone even thinking of it as a distinct function of the organization. For example, suppose a particular task becomes too much for one person, so he hires another person to form an organization, even if an informal one. The boss on the job says: Here's what I want you to do. Let me show you how to do it. I will watch you do it a couple of times. Then, I expect you to ask me for help if you have any problems. Oh, by the way, we will knock off for lunch around noon. Afterwards, I will explain to you how and why I got into this type of operation in the first place. This is an example of simple employee communication.

After lunch, the boss explains the objectives of his organization and his plans for the future. Then, the new employee says: I appreciate your taking the time to explain your operation to me. Now I understand better where we're trying to go and what we have to do to get there. Oh, you should know that we are getting short on certain items I will need this afternoon. Will you get them, or should I do this, - This is employee communication.

No matter how complex the particular organization, management, starts right at the top, needs to remind itself over and over that the success of its operation depends upon how well it answers two questions:

I. What do my employees need to know to be as effective as possible in their jobs?

2. What do I need to know from my employees to help me?

(a) Help my employees do their jobs better and

(b ) do my own job better?

There are two stumbling blocks to building effective employee communication ns. The first is not conducting a needs analysis at all. The second is overdoing the analysis. On the whole, these problems do not apply to small organizations.

In small organizations most, if not all employee communications are oral. Management and employees seemingly without thinking about it, communicate their job needs to one another. Needs analysis is done informally on the job, with no conscious effort. If either employee or manager is not getting sufficient information, someone will beef.

Even in a small organization there may be a need for some written communication-the work in question may be detailed or employees may be located at different sites. But in this situation, the needs analysis also will tend to be informal. Information will have to be passed along, and no one will worry about the style, design, or content of the communications medium. A longhand note may work as well as or better than, an official memo.

It is in large, complex organizations waste motion and employee confusion - that a formal program of needs identification should be undertaken. In contrast to the small organization with its informal face-to-face or written communications, the large organization usually involves a multifaceted program, with heavy emphasis on written communication and, often, more stress on downward or one-way communication from management to employees.

What are the signs of a communications breakdown?

Some are readily apparent. For example, a manager knows-or better - know-when an order is not followed, when a program is misunderstood, when customer orders are not filled, and when there is conflict between two groups.

What can be done in such instances? First, and most obviously, the manager can ask employees what the problem is? Is there a knowledge or information gap? Where do employees disagree with procedure or method? Do they understand what their jobs are and why they must be done in a certain way?

Supervisory personnel may not see, or may not agree, that employees could be better informed. The manager can begin a communications analysis by asking supervisors and employees the same or similar questions. Wide variation in the answers of the two groups may indicate that the communication blockage lies at the supervisory level since it is the supervisor who is responsible for telling the employee how to perform his job in the first place. To prevent such blockage between an employee and his immediate supervisor it is best to keep the communication process simple and oral if possible. Discussion between supervisor and employee is the best job-understanding instrument on the market.

Analyses or audits can be used to check on the speed and accuracy of a unit communications, for example, when a change is to be introduced or an important announcement made. The unit head makes his announcement orally, with or without a written handout for supervisors, and indicates a random check will be made with employees 24 hours later to determine if they received the announcement at all, when they received it, how, etc. After an auditor questions selected employees about the message they received, he meets with the unit head and supervisors to discuss replies. While this process initially can be a sobering experience for all concerned, it can and should lead to faster, clearer, and more precise communication. Generally, this type of analysis will be more fruitful if the auditors are not from within the line of command.
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