HR Insights

Business strategies are only successful if people can effectively execute them. The same discipline that is applied to business processes needs to be applied to how companies manage their people. HR Remedy takes a pragmatic and practical approach to helping companies manage their human capital. Our goal is to drive business results and create value through an organization's employees.

HR Communication Tips: Creating A Culture Of Open Communication In The Internet Age

December 24th, 2009

Poor communication is the most frequently recognized problem in organizations. In spite of this, open communication is an integral element in most successful organizations. Open communication can mean sharing not only ideas, but also the lessons learned from successes and failures. Information must flow freely, across departments, between departments, and up and down the corporation. Communicating to your employees is critical and Companies should not use a single approach to the means of open communication. Some situations may call for face-to-face discussion, while others are best suited for technology-mediated channels.

It is widely acknowledged that open communication within an organization encourages employee engagement. However, proliferation of online communication tools, social networks, the intranets of companies themselves; has made it much easier for employees, customers, competitors and even prospective employees to source information regarding a company in the public domain. The open availability of email and social networking applications make it much easier for information to be distributed outside of a company. Websites such as Vault, Glassdoor and Yahoo! Finance message boards are readily available, and employees can easily share their thoughts on working in a company, company strategy and decisions, as well as perceived and actual senior management capability and performance. Once taboo to discuss, employees even discuss their salaries with the public (and future employees) in a confidential, or not so confidential manner.

Determining how to handle this issue for a company has become even more difficult as many senior managers and executives believe that open communication can expose the company to a greater risk of information being leaked to market, which can be devastating to their brand, especially in highly competitive industries. Creating a culture of open communication can be a scary proposition for upper management, but in today’s social mediums, the sharing of ideas and content continues to grow at a rapid pace. If your organization continues to be secretive or less than forthcoming about company issues, you may see your workforce alienate you and seek better opportunities when the market turns. Don’t worry. Opening the lines of communication may seem to be a daunting task, but it can be done in a manner that benefits the entire organization.

The first step to creating open lines of communication between upper management and employees is to determine how your communication is currently taking place. Do you having open forums between company executives and employees, does all of your communication come via email, is information being disseminated directly from the executives or from the employees supervisor, how often do you keep your employees updated about the companies activities. Once the current process has been determined, the company can slowly begin making change. This can be done by bringing in an outside entity or making the conscious effort to do it internally. HR Remedy has found that using a variety of the communication tools and techniques below has helped organizations bridge the communication gap between their direct supervisors and company executives.

  • Leading vs. Managing
  • Communicating vs. Connecting
  • Conflict Resolution
  • Goal Planning and Setting
  • Effective Facilitation and Presentation Skills
  • Retaining Employees

Ultimately, the goal is to create a free flow of communication across all lines to promote an “engaged” workforce. Open communication is more an issue of trust – in leadership, in decision making and treatment of employees. When that trust in leadership is compromised, employees have choices to extract their revenge in a public domain.

This openness in the public domain has some companies restricting or eliminating information sharing within their organizations. Some have gone as far as to block internal access to social networking websites, and to those websites that may contain non-flattering reviews of company leadership, strategies or decision making. The result of these strategies is often an unengaged employee base which feels disenchanted, is a non-vital cog in the corporate machine, and is looking for a new opportunity elsewhere.

Creating a culture of open communication and earning an implicit trust throughout the company is vital and when the market turns, you can count on an open line of communication to help improve employee retention.