Perspective The role of communications in business success
The importance of effective communication
Rudyard Kipling once described words as “the most powerful drug used by mankind.” It is a sentiment with which staff of Levi Strauss can sympathize. Many of them have become members of Toastmasters, a nonproﬁt organization dedicated to improving communication and public-speaking skills. Levi Stauss is one of a growing band of companies which recognize the importance of effective communication. KPMG Accountants has developed a telephone-skills course for administrative employees. It includes a humorous videotape entitled “Telephone Behavior: the Power and the Perils,” and role playing ...view middle of the document...
Two-thirds of the average ﬁrm’s resources are human resources – that is, people. Most business problems – and opportunities – have a human element. A manager’s communication skills can have a major impact on his or her subordinates. Research and experience show that employees are most highly motivated and make their greatest contribution to the business when there is full and open communication at the workplace. Communications are often easier in small companies than in larger ones. Employees in 100
Management Development Review Volume 10 · Number 1/2/3 · 1997 · pp. 100–102 © MCB University Press · ISSN 0962-2519
The role of communications in business success
Management Development Review Volume 10 · Number 1/2/3 · 1997 · 100–102
small ﬁrms tend to see more of each other, so that information often more quickly reaches the people who need to take account of it. Decisions can be made more rapidly. Changes in a situation can be more quickly translated into changes of plan, and acted on. Good communications therefore facilitate high quality, innovative solutions to complex problems. No idea is worth anything until it is articulated so that others can respond to it.
But new technology can be a double-edged sword. The Internet opens up unparalleled opportunities for communication between workers on different sites. However, the term “surﬁng the Net” conjures up more the image of a leisure pursuit than the exchange of serious information.
Guiding principles for effective communication
Among the principles which should guide effective internal communications are: (1) Deﬁne the message before launching the program. If the message leaving the boardroom is unclear, no amount of new technology will put an end to confusion among the workforce. (2) Communicate continuously, not as a one-off event. Communication involves much more than the chief executive making an annual visit to the “troops.” Managers must be given a clear plan of campaign, and training in how to conduct it. Supervisors, too, must be trained in how to impart information and receive feedback. (3) Recognize that there will be costs, as well as beneﬁts. Senior executives must be seen to endorse the program. The workforce must spend some time away from the ofﬁce or shopﬂoor to debate the issues. Managers and supervisors must spend time tracking the progress of the communication program, and feeding back the results. Feedback should not stop at the group session. It should continue over time and be communicated up the company hierarchy until it produces a convincing response.
Good communications in a large company
However, technological developments mean that large companies which have a commitment to communicate can increasingly enjoy the same advantages as the small organization. Electronic mail, faxes and satellitedelivered...