Effective communication is critical for any successful enterprise. Few will dispute that. However, the effectiveness of communication isn’t always easily measured, particularly where it affects employee productivity. Effectively communicating procedural updates, for example, may lead to measurable improvements in a manufacturing environment, while changes to a company’s internal email system may help – or hinder – employee productivity without a directly observable result.

While quantity of communication may be observable through measures like email traffic, that says nothing about its effectiveness. In fact, a recent survey of employers shows that fully one-quarter of them feel their own company email could be contributing to lost productivity.

Two-Way Communication

Communication isn’t simply delivering a message, that message must be understood as intended and with ownership by the recipient. Confusion or resentment on the part of the receiver makes a message ineffective. Therefore, the most effective delivery must include a feedback loop, so that the deliverer of a communication knows that the message is received, understood and supported.

It’s perhaps no surprise that a study of communication effectiveness showed that businesses with high levels of effective communication generally had lower turnover. Recruiting, hiring and training are traditional hindrances to productivity, so employee retention combats time lost to inexperience.

Employee Engagement

Polls show that many American employees feel disengaged from their work, a problem often tied to ineffective communication, such as a company that doesn’t seek out and support two-way feedback. No matter how connected your staff may be, without motivation there’s no impetus to connect with co-workers, managers and others involved with day-to-day business.

Effective communication leads to improvements in productivity of as much as 25 percent when employees feel engaged with their work and connected with their co-workers. This is the essence of employee ownership that drives productivity from the worker level.

Appreciation and Recognition

Recognizing and communicating the efforts of all staff, not just the employee of the month, promotes productivity through loyalty, when it’s demonstrated to the worker. Demanding dedication is wasted effort with today’s tuned-in worker. Individual connection between an employee and a representative of the company, whether a supervisor or executive, is increasingly necessary to assure the buy-in needed to maintain and grow productivity.

Effective Communication Measurement

Since interpreting value of communication may be difficult, most companies don’t monitor internal communications as a productivity measurement. While you can tie the introduction of communications measures to typical performance indicators, there are also clues hidden in communications systems usage.

For example, if you’re using a corporate intranet, analyzing and tracking individual logins gives a participation baseline, against which future communications initiatives may be measured. This analysis may also suggest optimal times for posting communications.

Staff surveys may also provide two-way insight, if it’s something your company needs to develop. Not only do the responses provide important feedback, rates of response to these surveys may suggest where your employee engagement stands.