As a child, you may have played a game where you sat in a circle with your class and waited as one person after another whispered a secret phrase into the next person’s ear. The fun in the game was to see how different the last person’s interpretation of the phrase compared to the first person’s. Often, the final phrase was so different that it was unrecognizable. While this is fun in a game, it is no fun at all in the workplace. Yet, it seems that every office is in a constant state of “so-and-so said such-and-such” with the truth somewhere in the middle. How can you communicate to an organization – large or small – in such a way that the information is clear and unchanging? The following ten strategies will help.
1. Create a go-to information hub
Imagine playing a board game for the first time with a group of people, only to find that the rulebook was not included. You can still play, but most likely it will never be the same way twice. Some may be familiar with the basic rules, some will not. Those that are familiar with the rules will disagree amongst each other on certain aspects (think: Free Parking). Those that are unfamiliar with the game will begin to create their own ideas based on what they have heard and what they want to see happen. This can lead to fights and gameplay that is entirely no fun. Why do this in your workplace? Include the rules!
Many businesses have created their own internal wiki sites as a hub for company policies, procedures, and other important information. Everyone can access it 24/7 to look something up and get a clear, specific answer. Having that go-to hub where all the information is uniform and freely available is invaluable in training situations and in dispelling myths throughout the organization. No one has to rely on, “… but we’ve always done it this way …” or “so-and-so told me …” from multiple sources who never agree.
For beginning speakers, the tried-and-true format of an informational speech is the following:
Tell them what you’re going to tell them.
Tell them what you told them.
While this sounds repetitive, it has been proven effective for the types of speeches and programs where you must deliver important information that you want your audience to retain. This tactic may be used in your memos and emails to make it crystal clear what is being said. The most important thing to remember when using this tactic is to make sure that all three segments are perfectly congruent. While the middle part will have more detail, it must completely support the first part. The last part must be a summation of what they have just heard.
3. Always offer three levels of detail
You work with different personality types, and each of these types has a different communication style. The most important thing to remember about these styles is how they can receive and digest information.
First, offer SHORT bullet points. Your busy, go-getters do not like a lot of details up front and will tend to ignore lengthy explanations. They invented the term TL; DR (too long; did not read). Save them and yourself the hassle and give a brief outline of what they need to know. If they want to read further, they will.
Next, offer a brief synopsis of each point. These should be no more than three (short) sentences long. One of the sentences MUST include how the new information will directly affect them.
Finally, include the full, in-depth explanation with all the details clearly laid out. Think of all the questions and concerns your most methodical and detail-oriented teammate will have, then answer them up front.
4. Meet gossip head-on and right away
Often, when new information is presented, the rumor mills fire up and reality gets distorted. Many will ignore it and hope it goes away. This tactic highly underestimates the creativity of your fellow teammates. No news is never good news, and if there is nothing to tell, they will make it up.
Instead, tackle the rumors right away. Clearly explain the truth and answer the questions on everyone’s minds. People, by nature, do not like change. They especially do not like change that they do not understand or cannot predict. Ease their minds by dispelling myths right away and letting them know how they (and their jobs) will be affected.
Be honest and forthcoming, build relationships, and encourage questions. Treat each person as an individual and be respectful of their feelings. Tune in and pay attention to subtle shifts in attitudes and output. When misunderstandings arise, help those involved find and use the proper resources. Do not let feelings fester – it will never get better. If you are transparent and proactive, you will find your team members will follow.
5. Create an open forum for questions
Simply allowing people to ask questions – and answering them – will clarify any weak spots in your communications. Post both the questions and answers in a place that others can view. Much like any FAQ on a forum or web site, this will become a valuable tool for newcomers. It will shed light on where your instructions may need clarification. It will also ensure that everyone gets the same answer to the same question.
For small projects, post this in a common area. For larger projects, set up an intranet site or a shared file that all may access whenever needed. Add to it as questions arise.
6. Use the WWH approach
When introducing and new policy or procedure, use the What / Why / How approach to make it personal and memorable – and to help get your audience on board.
What : Define / describe briefly and clearly what the new element is.
Why : Succinctly explain why the choice was made.
How : Clearly explain how the new policy / procedure will directly benefit their day-to-day lives.
7. Automate common tasks
Something as simple as a drop-down box on a check request form can clear up hours of confusion and craziness. Whenever possible, create easy-to-use forms with limited capabilities that get those day-to-day job requests, office supply orders, and / or IT questions lined up smoothly. Drop-down boxes and data verification with protection in an Excel form is one example. Many email clients offer forms creation, as well. It may take a short time of refining as you work out the kinks and ensure everyone’s needs are met, but in the long run, it will save you hours of explaining, researching, and re-doing.
8. Set up regular Q&A sessions with upper management
Often those within the organization – and doing most of the work – feel completely out of touch with those making the decisions. By simply opening up a forum where teammates from all levels and areas of the organization can speak directly to the decision makers, it will create a decidedly less “us vs. them” environment and clear up worries or confusion over changes. Both will benefit, as management will be more aware of what is really going on beneath the policies and teammates will be more aware of why polices are made at all. Transparency is the most useful tool in your communications kit. Use it.
9. Always post meeting notes right away and leave them posted
It is rare that you will be able to conduct a meeting with every soul present. Even if they are physically present, at least one person’s mind is somewhere else and they may miss vital information that was shared in the meeting. Don’t treat your meetings like Las Vegas! What happens in your budget meeting should not stay there. Share it as soon as possible (same day) in a place that everyone can access it. By the time you are reading last week’s meeting minutes in the current meeting, it is too late.
10. Ensure that there is only one version of anything
From memo forms to check requests to instructions on how to use the copier, there should be only one version available in an easy-to-find location. If you are missing a form or instructional sheet for something, create one – only one – and post it. If you need to refine an existing form, destroy all other versions. The idea is to literally keep everyone on the same page.
Combine and publishinate
While just one of these strategies will greatly reduce the amount of miscommunication within your organization, combining several of them will drastically improve overall efficiency and employee retention.[ad_2]