Profitable organizations rely on formal and informal business communication patterns. Formal communication channels provide structure toward productive outcomes. Informal interactions allow authentic relationships to be built and alternative methods to create meaning in the organization. Formal and informal business communication complement each other and can strengthen the company when effectively applied. Each can be planned, but informal communication is usually spontaneous.
Purpose of Formal Business Communication
Formal business communication is a strategic exchange of information that supports a clear agenda. This information is traditionally considered as in-house method of communication, but can include structured interactions with people and entities outside the organization.
Formal communication can also trigger informal interactions. For example, a chief officer may schedule a tour or town hall meeting where a free flow of comments on topics of discussion are encouraged. However, these can lead to personal interactions, stories and ideas that were not on the original agenda.
Types of Formal Business Communication
Organizations may communicate to their internal team through written or verbal communication. Managers may use formal written tools such as emails, blog entries, orientation training materials or newsletters. Speech presentations, meetings and scheduled conferences are examples of verbal interactions as a formal communication strategy. Formal communication can also include strategic placement of office signage, employee reviews and collaboration with non-profit organizations. News briefs and executive appearances are also creative ways to enhance business relationships through formal communication.
Spontaneous Interactions and Informal Communication
Spontaneous interactions spark a grapevine of information shared through informal communication networks. Informal business communication should complement formal networks. It can bridge gaps and create a sense of belonging among colleagues. Authentic and profitable relationships are solidified through this method.
On the down side, sometimes the informal atmosphere can lead to gossiping and could result in casual and careless distribution of information and the sharing of private or confidential details. Misinformation may also spread this way.
For this reason, all personnel should be especially careful about sharing sensitive information while communicating informally. Although written communication can also be informal, it should be appropriate to avoid legal and ethical issues.
Types of Informal Communication in the Workplace
Examples of informal communication can include the verbal communication among employees during lunch breaks, hallway interactions and phone calls. They might talk about what they did on the weekend, plans for upcoming holidays and what happened at last night's game. They might share what happened with a customer and how they solved a problem. Creative business communicators may deliberately include handwritten notes, text messages and anniversary recognitions and birthday cards to build rapport with their coworkers.
Benefits of an Open Communication Network
Information can be delivered from management to employee, or vice versa. Companies that are founded primarily in formal networks rarely deviate from the rules and protocols. On the other hand, informal corporate cultures encourage spontaneity and casual networks.
Regardless of the company culture, organizations grow through a strategic balance of formal and informal networks. Organizations benefit from establishing an open communication network that includes feedback from employees and managers alike.
Since 1999, Christina Callaway has written and developed marketing communications programs for a range of small businesses, start-up ventures and Fortune 500 companies. She is also a speaker and trainer specializing in integrated communications.