Communication Strategies for Companies

A lot of our focus at Holistic is geared toward communication — specifically, the nebulously defined but extremely important concept of communication between a company and its employees. Communication at work is at the bedrock and core of many issues that companies are facing. Virtually every company that we know can stand to be a better communicator, just as virtually every individual that you know can stand to be a better communicator.

Communication is not the sort of thing that you hit a certain level and say, "Okay, I'm good enough at it." It's not the sort of thing where you max out. You'll constantly be growing and evolving as a communicator and therefore always having more opportunities in the future.

The same applies to companies. Companies can always do a better job of communicating externally and internally, telling their story, understanding their value principles, organizing themselves for success, and, generally speaking, sharing information that's necessary when it's necessary. Communication is a huge challenge.

Communication and transparency are consistently some of the lowest scoring elements on our surveys. Almost nobody says, "You know what our company does really well? Communicate to us." Leaders are constantly known for not being communicative enough. As a result, company leadership and companies are plagued by employees' confusion and lack of understanding. Employees don't read emails. They don't pay attention in meetings. They don't understand the policies and procedures. They're not bought into the plan. And the overall business suffers.

Here are several strategies that company leaders can deploy immediately to foster an environment of increased communication.

Listen

This sounds obvious, but I assure you, it is not. Listening is the core component of communication. Communication is impossible without two things -- a party actually making an effort to communicate and somebody being on the other end to listen. This second element is all too often ignored. Creating a culture of listening is actually phenomenally valuable in a company, but how do you do this? Training your company leaders and your managers to listen first and talk second and arming them with specific skills, training, and resources to help them elicit communication from employees and other teammates before they communicate — these are very valuable ideas. There's a ton of training out there that's available to help leaders become better listeners. There are also a lot of different ways to measure listening on an organization-wide basis. At Holistic, we've centered on this to help folks understand what's going on.

Communicate frequently

What you really want to do is to make sure that the messages are getting out enough and that people are understanding them. It's not sufficient to say something one time. It should be, but it's just not. You know that old statement that you have to see an advertisement multiple times before it registers? It's the same concept with something that your boss or your company leader says. You have to hear the message over and over again before it sinks in. This is true for specific concepts such as a 401(K) plan and also for broader topics like a company's mission or its efforts around diversity and inclusion. Employees are going to need to hear these types of things time and time again before they resonate. Company leaders committing to use every possible vehicle, every possible channel, and every possible avenue to express things — this is absolutely essential.

Embrace the variety of channels that are available

Everybody learns differently. Everybody is active in different places. Some people choose email, some people choose Slack, and some people choose Instagram. Some people listen really well and others don't. Some people are constantly texting and some never pick up their phone. So how do you meet people where they are? The answer is that you must do everything. You have to be active on the platforms where something is taking place and where somebody is to reach them.

When it came to social media, this is something we would highlight at 1871. It wasn't okay to do something on Twitter or Facebook and not on Instagram because, if somebody only went on Instagram for that particular day, then whatever we were marketing or communicating just didn't happen. It's your obligation — not the listener’s — to make sure every base is covered.

Break things down into more manageable pieces

Companies and businesses are complex, and leaders are often in positions of leadership because they embrace the complexity. They're not afraid of it. They're willing to dive in and roll up their sleeves. They're willing to take the time that it takes to understand things and they're willing to invest the resources to make sure that they have the right message. Employees don't have any of those luxuries, obligations, opportunities, or responsibilities. They'll understand what they can understand, and that's pretty much it.

And so, when the messaging is unclear or full of misdirections, employees become confused by what a company is trying to convey. If employees are confused, then there's little to no hope of really understanding the message conveyed.

Better communication can start immediately

Literally, the only difference between being a better communicator than you are now, or having your company be a better communicator than it is now, is you or your company deciding to be a better communicator and following through on it. That's it. The single limiting factor for becoming a better communicator is just doing it. A company that wants to will itself to be a better communicator can start almost immediately.

A CEO can write a letter, managers can take the time to schedule one-on-one meetings, and a suggestion box can be put in place. You can use existing resources to solicit feedback. You can simply ask somebody how they're doing, and then actually listen to their answer. All of these things are free, easy, and make a huge impact.

Communication is free -- there is no cost for it. There's only value to be had. The question is, how much can you organize yourself and your company to take advantage of it? There's certainly no limit to the upside. We've already established that communication is one of the most important things that a company can have. The only question is, how much is it going to benefit you?