From the legendary leaders of the past to today’s best-known executives, great business leaders have always held closely to the philosophy that effective communication is essential to business success. The key for managers is to understand why communication is so important to the performance of any business and how to do it effectively.
According to Workplace-Communication.com, “Business communication is defined as the imparting or exchanging of information and the sharing of ideas or feelings. It entails the process of creating meaning.” Business communication, or organizational communication, is effective when it reflects the “7 Cs” of good communication: completeness, conciseness, consideration, concreteness, clearness, courteousness, and correctness.
Beyond its practical function of serving as the exchange of information, viewpoints and feedback, communication also serves a strategic purpose. Human resources and communication managers subscribe to the philosophy that effective business communication can increase employee engagement in, or commitment to, their jobs and the success of the company. Good communication by the organization and its leaders can foster a sense of transparency in the workplace, trust and respect between employees and senior management, and a culture of open dialog that helps employees feel they have a voice in the business and an important role in its success.
Philosophy in Practice
Putting this philosophy of effective communication into practice requires having a well-thought-out plan for how the organization will communicate with employees. The plan should include a mix of communications channels to reach employees in multiple ways, from face-to-face to email and web. Good communications practices also mean providing employees with the opportunity to hear directly from senior managers and ask questions and provide feedback. It requires clear, consistent and honest communication across the board. An employee’s direct manager is also a key source of information for him, so ensuring that managers are informed and comfortable communicating about company messages is critical.
As former General Electric CEO Jack Welch once said, "No company, large or small, can succeed over the long run without energized employees who believe in the mission and understand how to achieve it." And the data on the results of good communication support his statement. The Society for Human Resource Management Foundation’s Employee Engagement and Commitment study showed that “employees who are committed to the company and engaged in their work provide organizations with crucial competitive advantage, such as higher productivity and lower employee turnover.” Watson Wyatt’s 2007-2008 Communication ROI Study found that firms that communicate effectively are four times as likely to report high levels of engagement. And consulting firm Towers Watson’s 2009-2010 Communication ROI Study Report: Capitalizing on Effective Communication points to the financial results of improved employee engagement: companies that communicate effectively had 47 percent higher total returns to shareholders over the last five years than firms that are the least effective communicators.
- Workplace-Communication.com: Business Communication Definition -- Improving Staff Understanding With Effective Communication
- "Effective Business Communications"; Herta Murphy, et al.; 1997
- "HR Magazine"; Effective Organizational Communication: A Competitive Advantage; Society for Human Resource Management; December 2008
- "2009/2010 Communication ROI Study Report: Capitalizing on Effective Communication"; Towers Watson; December 2009
Katherine Tomasco has been a communications professional for more than 12 years and is currently principal of Tomasco Communications, a freelance writing service. She has written for companies large and small in the IT, retail, pharmaceutical and financial services industries. Tomasco holds a B.A. in English and an M.B.A. degree.